Health officials plan changes after fair vendors shutdown


MISSOULA, Mont. - Missoula City Health Department said the three vendors shut down last night at the fair in Missoula will have to prove they can provide safe food to the public before they're allowed back next year.

In the six years Alisha Johnson's worked for the Missoula County Health Department, she says she's never seen a food vendor at the fair get shut down until this week.

Now Johnson says the health department will make some changes.

"In order for those vendors to come back to Missoula next year, they are going to need to contact us and let us know how they are going to be able to do it safely next year," explained Missoula City-County Environmental Health Specialist Alisha Johnson.

During a regular inspection earlier in the week the health department spoke with three food vendors about health code violations they were breaking. With each inspection, health officials told the vendors what they would need to do to stay open but Friday night was the last straw.

"They just couldn't quite meet those requirements and we realized that it was irresponsible to continue to let them operate," explained Johnson.

Missoula County Fair Director tells us he was shocked when he heard the news, but glad the health department caught this in time.

"We are thankful for the diligent efforts of the Missoula County Health Department out here keeping fair goers safe," said Missoula County Fair Director Todd Garrett.

NBC Montana spoke with the owner of North Star Amusements, which oversaw the shuttered vendors.

In 24 years, he says this was the first time a food vendor has been shut down under his watch.

Health officials tell NBC Montana that North Star vendors are licensed out of Yellowstone County, so Missoula Health officials didn't get to touch base with them prior to the vendors coming to the fair.

Health officials say they'll change that next year so they can work more closely to prevent another closure and another potential health risk.

"We are all about public health and we are all about working with vendors to make sure they provide a safe business and a safe product for the people," explained Johnson.

The Montana Health Department urges anyone who thinks they may have got sick from tainted meat at the fair to contact them at: 258-3896.