The Salt Lake City-County Board of Health's food inspection fee for restaurants and grocery stores is legal, the Utah Court of Appeals has ruled in overturning a 3rd District judge's decision.

The appeals court, in a 3-0 ruling released Tuesday, said Judge Richard Moffat erred by finding in favor of the Utah Restaurant Association, Utah Retail Grocers Association and 29 businesses on arguments raised challenging the fee.The groups filed suit against the health board, protesting its Oct. 2, 1986, action in imposing a food inspection fee. The fee, ranging from $40 to $100 yearly for each grocery store or restaurant, was expected to generate $156,000 annually to defray the $453,000 cost of the county's food inspection program.

"The trial court held the fee regulation invalid and void . . . on each of the asserted grounds," the court said.

Those arguments were that the board illegally adopted the fees because they failed to present evidence at a public hearing in support of the charges, that the "fee" was actually an illegal tax, and, even if it was not a tax, the board had no authority to impose such a fee.

But Appeals Judge Norman Jackson, joined by Judges Richard Davidson and Russell Bench, said Moffat erred on each of the three points, and reversed his decision voiding the fee.

The judges said it was obvious the plaintiffs "had a full and fair opportunity to present evidence to the board supporting their claims that the fee is unnecessary and burdensome and that the fee schedule is unreasonable in the way it categorized food establishments."