By Lisa Rodgers


BOONE COUNTY-The rhubarb over rhubarb in Boone County continued at the Boone County Board meeting on Sept. 16.  A large group of non-for-profits (NFP’s) were in attendance to oppose a fee for food permits for NFP’s.  The request was originated by the Boone County Health Department (BCHD).

During the public comment portion of the fees, information was presented that Illinois State Legislators have introduced and approved legislation effective Jan. 1, 2016 to amend the Food Handling Regulation Enforcement Act 410 ILCS 625 and offer NFP’s exemption from the law.

“A home kitchen operation does not include a person who produces or packages non-potentially hazardous baked goods for sale by a religious, charitable, or nonprofit organization for fundraising purposes; the production or packaging of non-potentially hazardous baked goods for these purposes is exempt from the requirements of this Act…”

While conducting research on Sept. 3, the following website provided information for articles previously published in the Belvidere Daily Republican,   (

NFP’s in Boone County have consistently stated that the BCHD inspectors as well as other department personnel have informed them that rhubarb is prohibited.

“We have been informed that any type of rhubarb is prohibited due to ‘rhubarb being poisonous’ and that‘the restriction is being mandated by the State of Illinois,’” anonymous NFP sources said.

At the Sept. 16 Boone County Board meeting the following response was given in regards to the new law.

“Yes, that is correct there is a new law coming as of Jan. 1 that we (BCHD) have chosen not to make public to avoid any further confusion,” Boone County Health Administrator Cynthia Frank said.  “You will be able to have bake sales, but only non-potentially hazardous foods will be permitted.  No permit will be required.  No cream pies and no rhubarb.”

This statement sparked a boisterous outburst of anger from the audience.

“Bill Hatfield is not here tonight as he is attending a meeting to learn about the new law,” Frank added.

The following quotes from the BCHD were obtained from public meetings held on Aug. 31, Sept. 3, and Sept. 16.

Quotes also provided from the BCHD were also obtained from a meeting held Sept. 2 at the BCHD where the Belvidere Daily Republican was invited to discuss rhubarb.  In attendance were Public Health Administrator Cynthia Frank, Director of Environmental Health Bill Hatfield, Boone County Board of Health Member Marshall Newhouse, and Ellen Genrich who was required to attend as they were informed they were on the record.

On Aug. 31 an explanation was provided by BCHD when the rhubarb issue was raised in public comment about a recent NFP event.

“I received a phone call about the confusion and in about an hour the matter was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.  This was an isolated occurrence and it has been resolved,” Hatfield said.

On Sept. 2 when asked if he stood by his comment that this was an “isolated occurrence” Hatfield responded, “There was no occurrence.  We have spoken to them and the matter was resolved in about an hour.”

Also, on Sept. 2, Several NFP’s were discussed as to having experienced similar problems over rhubarb.  “I have no written documentation in any of my paperwork from my inspectors in regards to an issue with rhubarb and have not received any phone calls/emails or complaints.  I am unaware of any problems,” Hatfield said.

“Rhubarb pie, jams, and jellies are permitted in Boone County if produced in a properly permitted commercial kitchen and may be served at a NFP event or sold at a farmers market,” Hatfield continued.    Frank verbally reiterated Hatfield’s statement in regards to rhubarb being permissible.

“When the law was originally adopted I am sure I read that rhubarb was completely prohibited.  Somewhere along the way the law changed.  It’s up to us to keep current on any changes,”Hatfield explained.

Documentation provided by an anonymous legal source from Westlaw 41 ILCS 625/4 on Sept. 9, 2015 shows the original law was adopted Jan. 1, 2012 and was effective until June 22, 2014.

An amendment was made and the new law went into effect June 23, 2014 until present.  In the original law, rhubarb was not mentioned specifically as being prohibited nor found in the amendment.

The next Boone County Board of Health public meeting is Monday, Sept. 28 at noon at 1204 Logan Ave. in Belvidere in the BCHD Conference Room.

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