County Environmental Health to Enforce No-Free Spork Law

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

February 23, 2023

The County has designated an enforcement agency for a State Law banning restaurants from giving out chopsticks and other throwaway eating utensils.

County Supervisors designated the Public Health Department’s Environmental Health Services Division as the enforcement agency for Assembly Bill 1276, the so-called “Single-Use Foodware Accessories and Condiments” law that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed in October 2021. 

In a state becoming known for dipping into the minutia of regulations, AB 1276 is a doozy. 

“AB 1276,” reads a County report, “restricts restaurants and other food facilities from providing single-use foodware accessories and condiments, such as utensils, straws, stirrers, and condiment cups and packets, unless requested by a consumer. The new requirements are intended to reduce the amount of waste generated from single-use items common in the retail food industry.”

According to an AB 1276 Fact Sheet, “Single-use foodware accessory” means all of the following single-use items provided alongside ready-to-eat food:

• Utensils, which is defined as forks, knives, spoons, and sporks;

• Chopsticks;

• Condiment cups and packets;

• Straws;

• Stirrers;

• Splash sticks; and,

• Cocktail sticks.

“Standard condiment” refers to “relishes, spices, sauces, confections, or seasoning that require no additional preparation and that are usually used on a food item after preparation, including ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, soy sauce, hot sauce, salsa, salt & pepper, sugar, and sugar substitutes.”

It isn’t an out-right ban on stuff that helps make some foods more palatable, as restaurants can still provide these items upon request.

Requirements include only providing single-use accessories required to eat the ready-to-eat food; no “bundling” of single-use accessories or condiments; and restaurants can only offer those single-use items “needed to eat or prevent spillage of the ready-to-eat food at a drive-through as well as in a public use airport.”

And if you like your meals delivered, the delivery companies can give these items if you ask for them and restaurants that work with delivery services must “customize their menu with a list of available single-use accessories or condiment. Only those items chosen by the consumer will be delivered. If no single-use accessories or condiments are requested none will be provided.”

And of course these items are OK to be provided if they are “self-serve,” such as a soda machine with lids and straws, and plastic knives, spoons, forks and sporks that don’t come pre-packaged.

The County chose EHS to be the plastic fork police because they already do restaurant inspections and thus have an existing working relationship with eateries.

Like other such laws, it will be enforced on a complaint basis. “EHS intends to respond to complaints within the County unincorporated area,” the report said, “by sending a letter notifying a retail food facility operator of the AB 1276 requirements. The letter will indicate that any subsequent follow up visits may result in an inspection fee equivalent to EHS’ hourly rate to recover costs of verifying compliance. The fee will not be issued if a complaint is not justified.”

The law doesn’t apply to all eateries. Jails, licensed health care facilities, residential care facilities and public and private school cafeterias are exempt.

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