You’re at a music festival, a street fair or maybe in the parking lot of your favorite brewery. You’re hungry and the menu looks good. Before you place your order there are are a few things you might want to be aware of.
Food Truck Quality Counts
Lots of food trucks have great reputations for innovative, quality food that’s hot and made to order. As a result, customers at some of the best food trucks are treated to a food experience they’d get in a regular restaurant without the hassle of reservations, white-tablecloth fuss, and expense. Sounds like a dream come true for everyone, right?
Not so fast. While some food trucks are great, others aren’t run as well. They may not even keep up with the basics, such as storing their food properly. While food truck owners are well-meaning and enthusiastic, it may not be as easy as you’d think to keep even this basic detail straight. For example, in New York City, health codes mandate that cold food is stored below 40 degrees and hot food kept at a temperature above 140. When a chef and other food truck staff are in the bustle of serving time, its not that easy to remember to put things away or keep them at temp. In addition, if they not maintained well or bought at a cost-savings, mechanical equipment may not run properly.
What can you do to be sure you’re eating safely: Chances are that things are just fine with storage processes and equipment in the food truck. How can you be sure? One thing that you can do is to look around. Does everything look clean, organized, and well-maintained? Do the staff seem organized, calm, and in control? This is a good sign that other things are working properly too.
Sometimes There’s Not Nutritional Information Available
Unlike many mainstream restaurants, food trucks aren’t always required to post nutritional information on their food. They might use more oil, salt, or sugar in their cooking process so that the food tastes as good as possible. They might be cooking in close proximity to allergens such as peanuts. In some rarer cases, they may even make substitutions for one ingredient over another because the old ingredient isn’t available or is cheaper. Hopefully, a food truck will be forthcoming about any of these situations, but it is not required that they do so.
What can you do to know what you’re eating: Consider using a food tracking app so that you can know, generally, what the average nutritional content is for food that looks good. Then, feel free to ask about anything you’re not sure of. Sure, the staff may be busy but if they have a problem with your questions or seem overly defensive it might be a sign to move on.
Food Trucks Can Harbor Bacteria And Dirt
Just like in your own house or office space, sometimes smaller spaces are more challenging to keep clean. Sure, there’s less area to manage but there’s a ton of tiny cracks where mold and bacteria can flourish. Adding to this is the fact that food prep can be an incredibly bacteria-laden process and staff also has to pay attention to their own personal hygiene, keeping things sanitary can be a nightmare. Some food truck owners are great at this process but others–not so much.
How to be sure your food isn’t contaminated: As you approach the food truck do a gut check about how clean the space is. If you’re seeing an unkempt area or lots of spills, stains, and dirty equipment you might want to get your food from somewhere else.
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