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Allentown restaurants will soon be ticketed for food safety violations

Allentown dining establishments that fail to meet food safety regulations soon will be getting violation tickets from the city health bureau.

“It’s another arrow in our enforcement quiver,” said Jeff Stout, the city’s acting health director. “I look forward to getting food service operators’ attention more frequently.”

The new tickets, which carry $25 and $50 fines this year — and higher fines in future years — unanimously were approved by City Council Wednesday night, in an updated food facility safety ordinance.

The first tickets may be issued in 10 days.

Those tickets will give owners and operators of restaurants and other “food service facilities” the ability to to settle a violation by paying a fine rather than being issued a citation, which means going to magisterial district court.

“Up until now, we had to issue citations through the district court in order to prosecute a non-compliant food service operator,” explained Stout.

He said the health bureau issues 60 to 75 such citations every year.

But he added the city often has difficulty prosecuting those district court cases.

“Issuing a citation quite often results in a summons that somebody ignores.”

Stout predicted the health bureau will issue more of the new violation tickets, at least in the next two years.

He said those tickets are like civil penalties the city already has in a number of other ordinances.

For example, Allentown issues so-called SWEEP tickets for minor violations involving litter, noise, animal control, snow removal and more.

“They can pay that fine in lieu of prosecution at the district court level,” said Stout.

“If they choose not to pay the fine or appeal the fine, the appeal will be heard in-house. If they choose to ignore it or not to pay it, we do have the ability to proceed to citation.”

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