eTo food truck owners, local health department inspections may seem like a nuisance. Getting a report with multiple health violations can lead to unexpected costs for repairs, new equipment or other improvements. And with inspection results increasingly visible, the damage to your truck’s reputation and revenue can happen overnight.
Try to remember that health inspections are conducted with the best intention. Health inspections aim is to protect the public from foodborne illness. They do this by helping vendors understand how well they are doing to promote safe food handling, storage and preparation in their truck, and areas they need to improve.
Common Food Truck Health Violations
Infrequent or improper handwashing
Handwashing is one of the most critical components for preventing foodborne illness. Employees should wash their hands after completing tasks that could have contaminated their hands, such as taking out the garbage and handling money. This also includes if they touch their face or hair. In addition, handwashing should be done before putting on a new pair of gloves.
Make sure your truck’s water supply is continuously monitored and keep it from running dry. This will prevent staffers from adequately washing produce, food-encrusted utensils, or their dirty hands.
Are your sinks accessible and stocked with hand cleaner and drying options? Is handwashing signage posted? Reduce the chance of this infraction by providing handwashing sinks that are clean, well-stocked, easy to access and free of clutter.
Temperature abuse of time/temperature control for safety (TCS) foods
TCS foods require either time or temperature control in order to limit the amount of pathogens on the food. If foods are allowed to be in the temperature danger zone (40F to 140F) for too long, then pathogens can grow to harmful levels and can cause foodborne illness. To prevent this from happening, keep hot-held foods hot (above 140F) and cold-held foods cold (below 40F).
When thawing foods, be sure to use approved methods, such as in the refrigerator or under cool running water. When cooling foods using the two-stage cooling process, use the correct time and temperature controls to ensure the food is safe.
Improper storage or use of chemicals
Keep your chemicals stored properly to help avoid health violations. If chemicals get into food, it can be very harmful to the consumer. Make sure that they are used and stored away from food and food-contact surfaces, this is the best way to prevent chemicals from getting into food. In addition, it is important to clearly label all chemicals so they are not confused for other chemicals or even food items.
Poor cleaning and sanitizing
Cleaning and sanitizing utensils, equipment, and machines routinely is critical in preventing foodborne illness. Clean utensils, such as cutting boards and knives, at least once every four hours if in constant use. Also, clean and sanitize utensils between tasks, such as cutting raw chicken and then slicing raw vegetables.
Employees should regularly clean and sanitize machines, such as ice and fountain drink dispensers, as directed in the manufacturer’s instructions to prevent pathogen growth. Steer clear of a violation by paying close attention to these areas, being alert to potential soil buildup and cleaning the surfaces effectively with products formulated for each type of surface.
Having sick employees performing normal duties
Sick employees working their normal duties can cause foodborne illness outbreaks. Even though you may need the employee to work due to high demand, it is important to restrict or exclude the employee based on the symptoms or diagnoses they have.
The Bottom Line
Correcting these problem areas can help keep you, your employees, and your customers safe. Take steps to avoid the most frequent health violations and translate specific findings from your report into improvements. Do this to be well prepared for your next inspection. More important, your food truck will be a safer and healthier for consumers and better for business.
How does your food truck measure up on these frequently cited health violations? Conducting an honest evaluation is a good step toward earning great inspection reports. But don’t stop there. Learn from your inspections, paying special attention to repeated violations and correcting all trouble spots as soon as possible. Most health department have resources that can help.