Zealous Health Inspector Busts Ore. Girl For Unlicensed Lemonade Stand

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One girl's entrepreneurial dream is a health inspector's poison.

Citing health concerns, an inspector in Oregon shut down a little girl's lemonade stand at an art fair. A week later, a county official told the health department to lighten up on the rules.

Drinking lemonade from a little girl's unlicensed stand is a health risk we'll take any day of the week.

But we would have been out of luck last week in Portland, Ore. Some knuckle-headed health inspectors shut down the entrepreneurial dream of 7-year-old Julie Murphy.

The little girl was selling glasses of lemonade for 50 cents a pop at a local art fair. Her crime? She didn't have a $120 temporary restaurant license, the Oregonian reports. A clipboard-toting health inspector told the girl and her mom that they'd have to shut down the stand or get nailed with a $500 fine.

"I understand the reason behind what they're doing and it's a neighborhood event, and they're trying to generate revenue," Jon Kawaguchi, environmental health supervisor for the Multnomah County Health Department, told the paper. "But we still need to put the public's health first."

How big a risk was Julie's rogue lemonade concession? Well, there was a reported outbreak of stomach flu at a Florida shrimp festival in 2007, when at least 48 people got sick after drinking lemonade sold at stand run by a bunch of high school cheerleaders.

And further back, in 2003, we found a mention of a bunch of people getting sick to their stomachs at a family reunion in a report by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tests found a type of E. coli bacteria that's nothing but trouble. Investigators cited lemonade made with untreated water as the culprit, but there were some other foods and beverages that might have involved.

Overall, though, we can't say we found evidence of a rampant lemonade-borne epidemic.

This week Julie and her would-be lemonade rivals got some good news. A county official told the health department to lay off its "by the book" interpretation of health regulations. "A lemonade stand is a classic, iconic American kid thing to do," he told the Oregonian. "I don't want to be in the business of shutting that down."

Kids selling lukewarm egg salad, undercooked chicken or suspicious raw oysters might be another story. We'd want to see their paperwork first.

Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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