By Darrell Todd Maurina
Jon Goldstein, communications director for the New Mexico Environment Department, said the Lighthouse Mission’s current quandary happened because of a change in state law.
Until 2000, Lighthouse Mission was legally allowed to use “homestyle” kitchen facilities for its cooking. That’s no longer allowed for new food service operations, but those that had legal “homestyle” kitchen equipment when the new law passed were given five years to upgrade their equipment.
“The food regulations are there to protect people from getting sick,” Goldstein said. “There is no reason people who eat at a mission should have less food safety than those who eat at a Dairy Queen.”
The key difference between “homestyle” and commercial equipment is that commercial equipment is designed to keep larger amounts of food at safe temperatures, Goldstein said.
“Basically, homestyle equipment is the kind of stuff you or I could go to Sears and use for our house,” Goldstein said. “The commercial grade equipment is built to keep food to 41 degrees or less for cold food, or above the required temperature for different types of hot food.”
Goldstein said he didn’t have immediate access to records of food safety or health problems at Lighthouse Mission but the fact the mission is still able to use its grandfathered equipment means there’s probably not a problem.
“If it had been inspected and wasn’t keeping food at the right temperature, they would have had to replace the kitchen equipment immediately,” Goldstein said.