With cheap, chic fare, like arugula pizza, squash empanadas and fish tacos, the country's 15,000-plus food trucks are rolling into virtually every big city and many small towns across the United States.
The burning question: Is it safe to grab a bite to eat from a truck that cooks for hundreds in a space that's a fraction of the size of your kitchen?
For the most part, yes.
"Many of the health inspectors in our office buy lunch from food trucks," says Christie Sweitz, interim supervisor for inspection in Portland, Oregon. "Trucks are required to follow strict guidelines and they are inspected as often as restaurants."
Just as with the fare from their brick-and-mortar peers, though, some meals on wheels are better bets, food safety-wise, than others. Before you line up for that lobster roll, here's what you need to check for:
Read - Are food trucks safe?
It's a great question, and as you've pointed out, it's easier for the prospective customer to judge the cleanliness of a food truck's kitchen vs. that of a restaurant. Still, there are variances in health requirements depending on where a food truck is operating. Our group builds food trucks themselves, and we know that California and New York have some of the strictest health codes that we need to abide by when building the trucks/trailers themselves. The question then becomes, how well has the owner maintained the food truck since business has commenced? Because it's such a booming industry, inevitably there will be those who jump into the business to earn some quick cash an end up neglecting some of the safety requirements. My suggestion is to rely on reviews if you are ever questioning patronizing a particular food truck.
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Some of the best food i've had has come from a food truck. They can easily rival brick and mortar restaurants for quality, and it's hard to beat them for value.
Anyone who has grazed the food trucks in Portland Oregon has to agree with McHammerpants ♫♫.
Think of it this way. There are fewer places for vermin to hide on a roach coach than in a restaurant :) In many cities restaurants view these trucks as customer pirates. With their business clout at city hall, they have lobbied and won more strict health guidelines and regulations for operating a food truck than for their own kitchens.
These trucks depend on repeat business to survive. That said, at least on a food truck you can take a quick look for your self to see how organized and clean it is and if you want to risk the food.
Who cares? The tastes are worth the risk. Just like eating at any taco stand in Mexico. You know there's a chance you'll be on the john all day, but man is it good.
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