More food trucks hitting Triangle area streets means more options for anyone looking for meals on the go, but they could also mean more chances of eating unsafe food.
There are more than 200 food trucks and mobile food carts permitted to operate in the area, and all of them are required to undergo health and safety inspections.
James Smith, a team leader with Wake County Environmental Services, is one of 25 field inspectors on his team. "All of our inspections are unannounced. We want to get an idea of how establishments are doing on a normal day, the only way we would get that is by showing up unannounced," Smith said.
According to Smith, food trucks and push carts are held to the same standards as brick and mortar restaurants. Some food truck lovers we talked to said they expect nothing less.
"Normally I look inside to see if the counters are clean, the grill to see where they cook the meat and then just the cleanliness of the guy's hands to see if he wears gloves," said Hendri Piscaer.
Piscaer said he loves eating at food trucks, and he always looks for the posted sanitation rating.
Food trucks and carts are required to post their grades in a clearly visible area, and anything under a score of 70 means the health department will pull the truck's permit. Smith said that's not something that happens often.
"Fortunately we're seeing that less and less as food truck operators get more and more professional. With any restaurants, there are certain violations that we need to see corrected while we're there during the inspection. Because of the unique nature of the food trucks there are some items that they may not be able to correct while we're there and if it's a serious item like refrigeration not working, or hot water not working or no power, then we would require them to close," Smith said.
Health inspectors check food and water temperatures, food storage, cleanliness of food preparation and cooking surfaces and utensils, and they also make sure trucks have proper serving and cleaning supplies on board.
Tony Hudson, owner of Flattz Signature Flatbreads, said following health code rules is a number one priority.
"It's really simple, just do what the health department asks you to do, make sure everything is labeled, dated, rotated, keep your product fresh, clean and neat and you shouldn't have any problem," said Hudson.
Smith said the ultimate goal is to keep everyone safe. "Food-borne illnesses are something that we hope to minimize as much as possible. A food-borne illness can ruin a day out at the park or a day at work as quickly as anything and we want to prevent that from happening."
Anyone who is concerned about something you see at a food truck can call your county health department to file a report.
You can also look up any registered food truck to see a history of inspections online at the links below: