BROOKSIDE - Brookside and other Belmont County residents beware: Buying meat from the back of a pickup truck could be hazardous to your health if the seller isn't licensed.
A few months ago, Ohio County residents were calling their health department to complain about men driving around neighborhoods trying to peddle meat. Now the same is occurring in Belmont County. During the past month - most recently last Sunday - such a meat truck was spotted in Brookside.
Rob Sproul, deputy health commissioner with the Belmont County Health Department, said if a seller has a license from either the U.S. Department of Agriculture or his or her health department and has been inspected, then they legally can sell the frozen meat. However, if they do not, it's ''buyer beware.''
Sproul noted the health department has received ''sporadic'' reports of meat dealers in various locations across the county.
He said illegal dealers often work on weekends and after regular business hours to avoid health department sanitarians.
''They are not working from a central commissary. They could be working from anywhere. They come from all different directions. They are familiar with the limitations of the law. They know to keep one step ahead of us,'' Sproul said of meat dealers who may violate the law. ''If you're buying meat from the back of a truck, you don't know what you're getting.''
Sanitarian Deanna Dulesky said in Belmont County reputable meat sellers receive a mobile retail food establishment license. This is the same type of license given to ice cream trucks.
Dulesky said she wanted to encourage people to call the health department with any questions about a dealer in their neighborhood. Much like a driver's license, their food license can be looked up to see if it is valid, Dulesky said.
''Before they make a purchase, call in and we'll follow up. It's public information,'' she said.