Food trucks have a huge fan following on social media, and you can even witness long lineups of people waiting to grab food. Eating at a food truck is cheap and convenient. They serve delicacies that you can grab on the go, and you don’t even have to compromise on taste. The United States has more than 15,000 food trucks. After the recent E. coli outbreak involving The Chicken & Rice Guys food truck, some might doubt the safety and hygiene levels of these mobile food vehicles.
How safe is the food cooked in a truck? It might be safe if the food cooked is for a person or two, but what if food prepared inside is for hundreds of people? The employees have to work in a small, restricted area, and they lack the equipment of a full-sized restaurant.
This past Friday, 15 people were found to be infected with E. coli after they consumed meals at The Chicken & Rice Guys in Boston. Out of the 15 people, 10 are hospitalized. Four food trucks in the Greater Boston area have stopped their services.
The latest E. coli outbreak of 2017 has led to the suspension of the company’s operating license. Public health officials are trying to determine the specific source of the outbreak.
Tips to Avoid E. Coli at Food Trucks
Most diseases spread as a result of bad hygiene practices from employees. To prevent being a victim of infections due to E. coli or other bacteria, consider the following aspects when eating out at a food truck.
The food truck should have a valid license. The license should be visible, and if it isn’t, you can ask for it. They must have a proper record of everything including the ingredients used and cleaning schedules, which should be maintained daily.
Jonathan Fielding (MD), Director of Public Health and Health Officer for Los Angeles County says, “Temperature problems are one of the most common violations in food trucks.” Deli sandwiches and salads should come directly from the fridge.
Burgers and soups should be piping hot and not lukewarm. It is essential to store refrigerated foods at a proper temperature to avoid the growth of bacteria. It is also important to cook foods well to kill the bacteria in it.
Look for a Sink
You should look inside the food truck for soap, clean towels, and a place for washing hands. Employees cooking the food should also ensure that they wash their hands with soap before they start cooking, as well as after coughing, sneezing, or handling raw meat.
Bacteria on our hands is the leading cause of foodborne illnesses. Employees should wear gloves while handling food or wash their hands frequently. Not following these practices could lead to bacterial contamination.
When the food truck isn’t in use, rodents may enter and dine on the leftovers. Also, since food trucks are mobile, there are more flies and pests.
Food trucks should visibly display their latest inspection grade. Your chance of getting a foodborne illness can increase with lower grades.
If you feel that a food truck isn’t following sanitation guidelines, you should contact public health officials immediately.
If all food truck owners and staff follow proper health procedures, the chances of bacterial contamination will decrease, resulting in a reduced risk of contracting foodborne illnesses.
Marler, B., “Boston’s Chicken and Rice Guys Sicken 15 with E. coli,” Food Poison Journal, April 16, 2017;
“Are Food Trucks Worth the Risk?” Consumer Safety, August 10, 2016; https://www.consumersafety.org/news/food/are-food-trucks-worth-the-risk/