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PEPPERELL — Changes in the state certification rules for food handlers, and a shortage of health department staff, will lead to some Pepperell eateries being temporarily out of compliance.

However, the Board of Health has given businesses until March 1 to correct the problem.

Food handler certifications, once good indefinitely, are now only good for five years, following a change in state law.

While it isn’t really the fault of restaurant owners, the BOH and health agent Edward Wirtanen agreed they must still remain in compliance. Renewal notices weren’t sent out until Dec. 26 because a new health secretary had not been quickly selected following the resignation of former secretary Lynda Pozerski.

Asked by BOH member Virginia Malouin if he felt most of the town’s restaurants would be in non-compliance, Wirtanen said “We’ll have our share.”

He suggested the board could send out information about where certification courses are being held so food handlers could attend them.

“We can only facilitate. We haven’t the capital to bring someone in to teach,” Wirtanen said. “Again, where do we (as town officials) stop holding people’s hand? If you operate a business you’d think you’d watch it.”

BOH member Holly Bradman said the question before the board was whether to sign certificates now or wait until the board is notified by restaurants that their food handlers have had the training.

Malouin said she preferred giving owners time to have employees take certification courses at Nashoba Valley Regional Technical High School, available through February. — Don Eriksson

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