By Lisa Rodgers
BOONE COUNTY – According to Webster’s Dictionary and Daily Writing Tips (www.dailywriting, the word rhubarb may be used in the context of a vegetable, controversy, murmurous background noise, and in baseball.
Quotes provided from the Boone County Health Department (BCHD) were obtained from a public meeting of the Boone County Board of Health (BCBH) on Aug. 31 and from a meeting held Sept. 2 at the BCHD where the Belvidere Daily Republican was invited discuss rhubarb.
In attendance Sept. 2 was 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.
Rhubarb (the vegetable) is the rhubarb (the controversy) in Boone County. And with this rhubarb (controversy) comes a rhubarb (murmurous background noise).
Where is the confusion originating? Is rhubarb pie permitted or prohibited? Recently at a NFP fundraiser, the rhubarb (vegetable and controversy) emerged once again.
Credible sources from the Boone County Community have complained, expressed anger, frustration as well as mistrust with the BCHD.
Members of the not-for-profit’s (NFP’s) who have been issued a food permit said, “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’.
“No information has been provided by the BCHD when the permit was issued in regards to what is permissible at our event. We were informed of the rhubarb restriction at the time of the event and inspection,” said anonymous NFP sources.
On Aug. 31, an explanation was provided to the board/public 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,” Hatfield said.
On Sept. 2, when different NFP’s were discussed as to having experienced similar problems over rhubarb it was explained.
“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 in his explanation.
“For the two years I served on the Boone County Board, Hatfield claimed he had no complaints in regards to rhubarb or other issues. Nothing was documented in the reports, but fines could be verified.
Hatfield and I had numerous conflicts over the inappropriate and conflicting actions of the Health Department personnel. This can be verified by the minuets of Health and Human Service Committee meetings and County Board meetings,” said Marion L. Thornberry, former Boone County Board Member District 3 and Legislative Director, Illinois State Grange.
“Based on my conversations I am going to request a line item be added to the agenda of the next BCBH meeting to request a public meeting between the BCHD and the NFP’s in attempt to establish trust and remove any confusion of what is permissible,” Newhouse said on Sept. 2.
Despite all the rhubarb over rhubarb over the existing law there is exciting news for those who wish to have bake sales in Boone County.
While conducting research on Sept. 3, the following provided information on an amendment effective Jan. 1, 2016 to the current Food Handling Regulation Enforcement Act that currently profit and NFP are subject too.
Unfortunately, the State of Illinois still considers rhubarb to be a Potentially Hazardous Food due to low acidity.
“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,” according….
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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