Public health issue: Food trucks

Courtesy of University of Carolina
Courtesy of University of Carolina

Food trucks are a growing commodity in metropolitan cities and they service a lot of people. While individuals appreciate food trucks for being affordable and accessible, there is a growing problem of health safety within the food truck industry. Food trucks need to be subject to stricter regulations because they have massive potential to poison large quantities of people if their food and workplace are dirty and unsanitary. Also, stricter regulations would increase trust amongst the general public toward food trucks and contribute to business success.

Furthermore, stricter regulations for food trucks are essential because of the high risk that comes with the food service industry. Some examples of risks within food trucks are improper food storage temperatures or cross-contamination of hands that deal with money and food, which can directly lead to customers acquiring illnesses. According to an LA Times review of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s data, since May 2014, 27 percent of food trucks have earned lower than A grades over the last two years. On the contrary, slightly less than 5 percent of brick-and-mortar restaurants and about 18 percent of food carts fell below that mark. Twenty-seven percent represents a significant lack of attention paid to the cleanliness and upkeep of almost three out of every 10 food trucks in Los Angeles. This statistic is extremely worrisome because it suggests that food trucks are trying to cut corners by compromising the upkeep of their cooking environment in order to increase profits.

Food trucks shouldn’t get a pass: They should be mandated to increase their health standards. If they want to do business like street vendors or restaurants, they need to be able to satisfy all of the same health safety requirements as restaurants and street vendors. Some supporters of food trucks point out the difficulty of maintaining sanitary conditions in food trucks compared to restaurants. One of these supporters is Bob Kramer, a registered sanitarian and director of food safety and food services for the Economic and Community Development Institute, who explained, “Unlike with a restaurant, a truck owner has to think about filling up the water tank, emptying waste water, finding power sources, and working within the limited time and space there is to sell.” While Kramer’s reasoning is valid, this does not excuse the owners of food trucks for their inability to keep their trucks sanitary and clean. Despite the added challenges of running a successful food truck, the owners are still responsible for their customers’ health and safety.

It is also important to consider how negatively impacted working-class people are by eating food from filthy food trucks. Most food trucks are in popular business areas that have a plethora of foot traffic (especially during lunch hour). They are seen as ideal places to eat because they have affordable prices and are usually relatively close to customers’ place of work. These people rely on food trucks on a daily basis to provide them affordable and filling food that won’t make them sick. If food trucks can’t stay clean, quite frankly they should not be awarded the business opportunity because the working-class people of Los Angeles (and other major cities across America) shouldn’t be susceptible to foodborne illnesses at any cost.

Although there are difficulties for food truck owners to maintain excellent health safety, there is a larger concern about the immense danger of customers potentially acquiring illnesses from their food prepared in unsanitary areas. Essentially, this cooking quote holds true: “If you can’t handle the heat, then get out of the kitchen.” Because public health is extremely salient and can’t afford for hazardous food trucks to continue serving people, food trucks must satisfy all health requirements and should face stricter regulations. Public health is more important than profits.

 

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