I work in downtown St. Paul and over the last couple of years the number of food trucks has increased throughout the area at lunchtime. I see the number of people waiting in line to get food. I look at the menu boards and think that the prices are reasonable, but I often times wonder, how clean and safe is the food that is being prepared.
Large corporations have jumped on the band wagon and are using food trucks for catering to their employees in their parking lots. This new style of catering is cheaper than paying a catering business within the company. This also keeps their employees on-site which means fewer employees are traveling to restaurants for lunch. The only drawback is that corporations may need to work with the cities they reside in because of city ordinances. Some cities such as St. Louis Park, Bloomington, Burnsville and Lakeville have changed ordnances to resolve this issue in order for food trucks to sell in the suburbs.
I found that the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has a process that is quite extensive and you really have to a strategy and plan if you want to run a food truck at least 30 days in advance of construction of a truck. You also have to purchase licenses, meet NSF standards for equipment, dishwashing and hand washing facilities, water supply and liquid waste disposal plans that are not hazardous to public health.
In 2012, CBS investigated food truck safety and noted that legitimate food trucks should have a license displayed where people can see it and they need to have an inspection a minimum of one time per year. Inspectors found food temperatures to be the most common problem, but other issues could be heating lamps not working properly, melted ice cube tubs holding soft drinks spreading germs from hands onto the counter, and chemicals used for cleaning that did not have proper labeling and could potentially be mixed with food bottles. In all, even though there were minor issues, they say that none of these issues would be life threatening and that food trucks are relatively safe.
I’m not saying that there aren’t salmonella or other bacterial issues, but after researching food safety on the food trucks, I am now more inclined to purchase food on the streets next time a see a food truck.