Food Trucks: Are They Safe?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Food Truck
By Stephanie Perruzza MS, RD, Contributing Blogger

The food truck movement has rolled into every major city the past few years offering chic and reasonable fare. From European to Asian to dessert-themed trucks, there is certainly something for everyone. The lines fill up as quickly as the food is sold, which leaves the burning question: Is it safe to eat from a truck with a kitchen that’s literally the size of an office cubicle? For the most part, yes.

A recent study by the Institute of Justice reviewed more than 260,000 food-safety inspection reports in seven major cities, finding food trucks are safe, if not safer, than restaurants. The cities included Boston, Washington D.C., Miami, Las Vegas, Louisville and Seattle. The report also found that food trucks, which abide to the same health codes and inspection procedures as restaurants, received fewer violations than restaurants. So should you grab your cash and head to the street corner? Well, with all street food dining options, there are still some food safety tips to keep in mind.

Street Food Safety

#1 Look for a License
All food trucks must be licensed and in certain towns, like New York City, trucks are required to display their license in a spot that customers can see it. A licensed truck is inspected by their local health department, ensuring proper food safety techniques are in place. If you don’t see a license certificate displayed or they can’t produce one, step away from the food truck and look elsewhere.

#2 Hand & Hair Hygiene
All employees handling food should be wearing gloves and have their hair tied back, some may even be wearing hairnets. Many trucks also have hand washing stations built in. Employees also should be changing gloves and utensils frequently when handling cooked and raw food items. This helps to prevent cross contamination.

#3 ServSafe Sign
Certain food trucks train their workers in safe food handling with ServSafe, a safety training certification program administered by the National Restaurant Association. The certificate will be posted in the truck window, which confirms employees have had proper training in food safety techniques and standards.

#4 Cleanliness
While waiting in line, take a peek inside the truck. Is it well kept and clean? Do you see gloves and clean towels? If the sink looks dirty with no clean towels or soap then how can you be certain employees are properly washing their hands or utensils?

#5 Ask Questions
When in doubt, it’s appropriate to ask questions. If you don’t see an inspection sign or health department compliance paperwork displayed, then ask to see them. You can also ask how often the food temperatures are checked and what type of safety precautions are being used by employees. Better to be safe than sorry!

SO TELL ME: How was your recent food truck experience?

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