Whenever you are in the food business, whether you have a cart, a truck or a restaurant, you have to abide by some local rules and regulations. There are no ways around this. So, even before you can get behind the wheel of your food truck and head out to your favorite location, you need some kind of approval from the authorities.
So, you might have all the meals ready, and all that’s left is for you to start selling your food. But without an inspection, you cannot start selling your food to the customers. In particular, your truck has to pass initial health and safety tests.
Therefore, just because you sell your food on a truck, it does not mean you are exempted from these broad industry requirements. You also have to brace yourself for surprise health inspections, and they come when you least expect them. Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant understands how inconvenient the timing of these inspections can get.
Usually, news that an inspector is coming puts a lot of pressure on everyone in the establishment. So, if you were having a particularly tough day, it will get even tougher. But it’s important to take it with the right attitude. It might seem that you are being singled out, but these kinds of inspections are experienced by everyone, not just you. The best solution is to always be prepared so that you will not be under any pressure when a surprise inspection happens.
Besides, many mandatory inspections can happen throughout the year. What you have to do at every moment is to ensure that you are not in violation of any health codes. Imagine this – the U.S. has more than 2,000 organizations that keep an eye on food trucks. Some of them are state bodies, but others are local institutions.
One of the most basic requirements you will meet is that you need to have both hot and cold running water. There should also be a temperature controlled refrigerator as well. Also, you should have the means to dispose of solid waste and wastewater.
However, there are no general standards that food trucks have to abide by, and you have to see what your local and state laws say about this business to be on the safe side. However, among industry leaders, it is believed that in the not-too-distant future, there will likely be laws that will govern all food trucks regardless of where they are located.
How to Prepare for a Self-Inspection
In anticipation of the inspections that health inspectors do, you can do an inspection of your food truck from time to time. You should be ready all the time because health inspectors rarely inform you of an upcoming inspection.
As you inspect your food truck, here are the things to consider:
Food and Supplies
Generally, this will include raw ingredients, food preparation areas, and the food storage systems in your truck. The food should be clean and safe for human consumption. Additionally, the inspector will want to know if the food is stored at the appropriate temperature, particularly for foods that have to remain cool.
You also have to ensure that raw meat does not get into contact with cooked foods or raw ingredients. This is to avoid cross-contamination. Foods in containers should be labeled and their expiry dates indicated. There should also not be any unclean containers in your food truck. You should clean them up and sanitize them and store them in that state until they can be used again.
Similarly, the cleaning supplies should be away from your foods to avoid any contamination. Additionally, any food preparation that is not allowed on your truck should be handled elsewhere, such as by a commercial kitchen.
Cooling and Refrigeration Equipment
All cooling units like refrigerators and freezers should be kept at the right temperatures. Therefore, they need temperature display units or thermometers to make this possible. An inspector will not usually leave this part out as the safety of some foods can be affected by the temperature at which you keep them.
In general, you should have fresh water tanks. They should also be sanitized regularly to avoid any contamination issues, especially from diseases that can spread through food. The tanks should also have water that is used briefly before it runs out so that they do not have any still water that would encourage bacterial growth.
On top of this, you should have a sink dedicated for washing hands, as well as soap. Additionally, you have to ensure that the water you use to do the dishes is at the right temperature. Generally, commercial sinks have 3 compartments, whereby the first sink has the detergent and it needs to be at 110 degrees. If the third compartment, which is used for sanitizing, has only water, then its temperature needs to be at least 180 degrees. That said, it is worth checking what the local laws say about these things.
Additionally, whenever the water or solution levels in your sinks run low, they must be refilled and the detergents added once more to reach the required concentrations. You should also ensure that the sinks are not filled with food residue. Also, dirty dishes should be kept away from clean dishes.
The food truck also needs to have good ventilation so that there is fresh air within the truck.
First of all, all food preparation surfaces should be clean and hygienic. Therefore, you should sanitize them, and there should definitely be no pests in your truck. You should also clean up your floors and countertops on a regular basis so that dirt does not build up.
All kinds of garbage in your truck should be disposed of properly.
During inspections, you can be asked to provide necessary paperwork showing that you are authorized to operate a food truck business. For this reason, you should have all the licenses handy as well as the required permits to operate your business. This should even include the truck’s registration.
You might also have to present the inspector with a document showing your cleaning routines, and he/she might do a visual inspection of the products you use to clean up in your truck. There should also be a hand washing poster above the hand washing sink.
Yes, there is. If you have employees, the inspector will want to know if they are washing their hands as required and whether they are conversant with various food handling and cleaning procedures. It’s also upon you to ensure the employees have the right gear as they go about their job.
Otherwise, as long as you do a self-inspection once or twice every week, you should have nothing to worry about when the health inspector comes knocking. Keep in mind that they can find you wherever you are, even though you can keep moving around, just as your customers usually find you.
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