Food trucks have become increasingly popular with their ability to bring trendy and diversified meals to any street at an affordable price. However, food truck food safety can be questionable.
Its convenience comes with the costs of standard kitchen space, organization, and sanitary procedures that traditional brick and mortar restaurants can easily regulate. Therefore, food truck owners have a large role in enforcing proper food safety management to ensure that their vehicle and food items maintain high-quality standards.
A Look at Food Truck Food Safety
Food truck businesses have been an attractive venture for those in the food industry for several years. In 2017 alone, the food truck industry brought in $1.2 billion in revenue.
However, as the trend continues to gain popularity it becomes increasingly more important for food truck operators to ensure that safety standards are being met.
To stand out among the crowd, not only do mobile food facilities need to serve high quality meals, but food truck operators also have to make sure that their products are safe to eat.
There are specific requirements mandated by government agencies, in which owners must have permits and licenses to own and operate a mobile eatery. Additionally, with proper certification, there are specific codes they must meet to receive proper food truck licensing.
For example, in California, the American National Standards Institute must certify all food truck equipment that is being used in order to allow the truck to begin its operation. Health Department personnel are also required to review business plans before a truck can be purchased. These requirements help to ensure that all equipment and plans coincide with proper health regulations.
Additionally, food trucks undergo health inspections and depending on local laws, it generally occurs once a year. For instance, in Los Angeles county, mobile food spaces are routinely graded based on the operator’s compliance with the California Retail Food Code, such as certified kitchen appliances and utensils, and adequate food handling training for all employees.
Despite these requirements, owners of food trucks may still face challenges in guaranteeing food safety. For instance, due to limited working space and personnel, employees may be required to multi-task, as they prepare food, serve customers, and handle money at the cash register. This situation can lead to cross-contamination of bacteria and food particles onto other surfaces and products which come into contact with food items.
Since food trucks are always on the road, it can be difficult to find access to safe water to wash hands and kitchen equipment, as well as to rinse produce and vegetables. This can further harbor a space where bacteria can grow and spread onto food, resulting in an increased chance of a foodborne illness outbreak. On top of access to available water, mobile food operations require extra sanitation due to their confined spaces, as well as an increased focus on pest control.
Outside temperatures can also pose a challenge for food truck operators when trying to serve food at appropriate temperatures. For example, winter days can quickly cool down hot foods, which can lead to disease-causing germs to grow.
Although risks can appear for food truck vendors, there are several ways to mitigate these challenges. By addressing and properly implementing thorough standards and procedures for food safety, mobile eateries can optimize their food production and overall quality of the products they serve.
Tips to Ensure Food Safety on Your Truck
Food truck management can be simplified and standardized to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses, as well as encourage the production of high-quality foods. By following these approaches to food safety, food truck operators will be more able to uphold safety standards:
Always have access to clean water
Food trucks should always be located near a clean water source or have enough potable water on hand. This is especially important because employees need to wash and eliminate any illness-causing germs from their hands. Access to clean water will also allow vendors to sanitize their utensils, equipment, and surfaces.
Keep clean and use gloves
High-quality foods begin with good hygiene. All personnel in the food truck have a responsibility to wash their hands before and after handling all types of food, equipment, and money. If using gloves, employees should frequently change into a new pair after coming into contact with products or items which can spread unwanted bacteria.
Properly store foods at the correct temperature
If a food item needs to be refrigerated, it must be stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to reduce the likelihood of bacteria growth. However, it is crucial to keep in mind that certain foods can only be kept in the refrigerator for a limited amount of time. Food truck vendors must continuously monitor their stored foods and their expiration dates.
Serve food at the correct temperature
Food, especially meat products, must be cooked at the correct internal temperature to ensure that the heat has killed any potentially harmful bacteria. The best way to approach this is to keep a working kitchen thermometer inside the truck. Employees should use it each time they cook and serve food to ensure it is safe for customers to consume.
Sanitize all areas and equipment in the truck
Kitchen equipment like utensils, cutting boards, pans, grills, and any other surfaces that come into contact with food and employees, should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. This will help prevent cross-contamination, which in turn will help vendors avoid food poisoning and allergy outbreaks.
Wash all produce and vegetables
Along with hands and surfaces, fruits and vegetables should also be thoroughly rinsed before they are prepared or cooked. Dirt and bacteria from these products can be harmful to consumers; therefore, washing it will minimize the chance of health risks.
Organize and keep foods separate
Although a truck may have limited space, food truck owners need to prioritize having designated areas or equipment for certain ingredients. For example, there should be multiple cutting boards specifically for produce and others for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Vendors should also have separate containers for different types of meat. By separating the food items into their own containers, the likelihood of cross-contamination is significantly reduced.
Be educated on the various local, state, and federal health codes
While there are national standards, counties and states have additional requirements and variations in food laws. Food truck operators have an important responsibility to educate themselves and their employees about all health codes, and actively implement food safety standards into their business. Not only will this help prevent food truck owners from being fined or having their permit suspended but their enterprise will have a better reputation and rating from inspectors and consumers.
- Running a mobile food operation can be challenging when it comes to ensuring the quality and safety of food products
- Implementing food safety guidelines are not impossible and can be efficiently practiced in a food truck
- Food truck vendors should always be updated and educated about food truck codes, and ensure that cleanliness and proper food preparation are prioritized above all else