Monday, February 20, 2012

Will California’s food trucks soon be illegal?

Will California’s food trucks soon be illegal?

Your help is urgently needed to make sure that food trucks are not outlawed in California.

On Tuesday Feb 14, State Assemblyman Bill Monning introduced AB 1678, which would require that all mobile food vendors park at least 1,500 feet away from a public school. That sounds reasonable, until we look at a map – for example, of Sacramento:
Everyone cares about the food and nutrition opportunities for young people. Assemblyman Monning, unfortunately, doesn't seem to realize that many schools are already serving food less healthy than many of the items sold by trucks (especially since the bill does nothing to keep unhealthy food from being sold at brick & mortar restaurants that are within that 1,500 foot limit). His legislative energy could be much better served by bringing healthier food closer to the campus, rather than driving these mobile kitchens out of business.

If you want to keep mobile vendors from being effectively outlawed in California, you need to write Assemblyman Monning today, and you need to make sure everyone you know who operates a truck or appreciates these small businesses - or who cares about fairness and competition - does as well.

Click here to read the full article

Monday, February 13, 2012

"CA Food Truck Safety Varies by County"

Momentum builds in county to provide more information to public about health status of mobile food operations
Written by Lori Weisberg

"The explosion of San Diego’s gourmet food trucks, serving everything from seared ahi and grass-fed sliders to New England lobster rolls, has brought them a level of acclaim once reserved for their brick-and-mortar rivals.

Their growing popularity, though, has yet to make them the equal of restaurants in the eyes of county health officials.

Where restaurant patrons can easily confirm the safety of the chicken, steaks and salads they’re eating by glancing at the letter-grade placard posted in the window or by going online, no such system exists for mobile food operations.

Like restaurants, the county’s 1,100 food trucks and coffee carts are regularly inspected each year by the county’s Department of Environmental Health to ensure foods are stored at the proper temperatures, there are adequate hand-washing facilities and all surfaces are properly sanitized.

Half of the trucks and carts operating in the last two years were written up for one or more violations, according to The Watchdog’s review of an inspections spreadsheet compiled by the department for internal use.

As with full-service restaurants, the food-truck infractions covered a wide range of findings, including refrigerated foods that were not kept cold enough, improper hand-washing facilities, inadequate food handler training and potentially contaminated food surfaces. In a few instances, vermin was found by inspectors.

The county does not track food truck and food cart inspections electronically, as it does with restaurant inspections. Instead, it uses paper forms to document vendors’ violations, and inspectors record some of the details electronically for departmental use. Short of asking operators to provide their latest handwritten inspection reports, there is no handy way to identify the vehicles’ level of adherence to food safety standards.

Health inspection practices vary across the state. In Orange County, even full-service restaurants are not assigned letter grades.

Los Angeles County in 2010 expanded its restaurant letter-grading system to the more than 6,000 mobile food operations there. The goal is to help the public easily distinguish between legal trucks and those that are operating illegally.

“The real difference is the illegal operations have one characteristic: They have unsafe food conditions, everything from the lack of employee sanitation to improper food temperatures to food that comes from an unapproved source that has not been inspected,” said Terrance Powell, director of Los Angeles County’s bureau of specialized surveillance and enforcement.

The department’s biggest challenge has not been issuing the letter grades but tracking down the thousands of food trucks roaming a huge, sprawling county. It still hasn’t fully transitioned to letter grades for all of the trucks.

“It’s far more important to find them now that we’re doing the grading,” Powell added. “L.A. has always had a dedicated vehicle inspection program, so it was a logical extension to do the grading, which is one more tool for the consumers to make informed decisions on who to patronize.”"

Click here to read the rest of the article