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Tulsa State Fair Keeps Health Inspectors Busy

Matt Trotter

A team of 25 sanitarians from the Tulsa Health Department is responsible for inspecting more than 250 individual vendors over the course of the fair.

They perform initial inspections before the vendors can serve their first customer, and routine inspections will follow throughout the fair.

The sanitarians look at several aspects of each vendor's operations, all of which are state regulations.

"First of all, that the food comes from an approved source, and that the food coming in is held at the proper temperature," said Kendra Wise, the health department's special events coordinator. "We also look at their food processes, that they're handling the food properly. We want to make sure that the food stays out of the danger zone, which is where bacteria can survive and grow.

"We also want to make sure that we focus on personal hygiene."

The health department estimates its team will put in nearly 600 combined hours from now until Oct. 6, conducting approximately 750 inspections. The fair is the health department's biggest single event of the year.

While the health department does its part to keep fairgoers from getting sick, Wise says there's one thing those in attendance need to do for themselves.

"They really should wash their hands — or at least use hand sanitizer — so they don't get sick from anything that they might have picked up off of a doorknob, or the handle of a ride, or the animal fencing or petting the animals," she said.

Most cases of foodborne illness Wise has seen at previous fairs were traced back to a customer's failure to wash his or her hands before eating. Hand sanitizer stations are located throughout the Tulsa State Fair midway.