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GUINEA-PIG COOKS GET SKEWERED

By ANGELA MONTEFINISE and LORENA MONGELLI
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October 17, 2004 -- Cooked guinea pigs are causing a stink in Queens.

The New York City Parks Department cracked down on vendors serving skewered guinea pigs at an Ecuadorian festival in Flushing Meadows, leaving festival organizers feeling burned.

"We believe this dish should be allowed," said Tony Toral, president of the Ecuadorian Civic Committee, which runs the festival.

According to an internal Parks Department memo, the agency gave out three summonses and closed down two vendor booths at the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park festival on Aug. 9 because vendors were selling cuy, an Ecuadorian delicacy.

Costing $40 per plate, the dish featured salad, potatoes, rice and skewered cuy — a type of guinea pig slightly larger than ones kept as pets.

The memo, written by Parks and Recreation Manager Gabriel Echevarria, noted that "Parks Enforcement Police confiscated the guinea pigs."

Although the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets allows cuy to be purchased as food, New York City does not, based on a vague clause in the Health Code.

Vendor Rosa Calle, who was issued a $1,000 summons and had her booth closed for selling cuy, said she spent $2,020 for a permit and $12,000 for food to attend the festival.

She is considering suing the city for the loss.



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