Food Trucks- Safe or Risky?

With an economical and attractive price, like arugula pizza or fish tacos, America’s 15,000+ food trucks are rolling into virtually every big city and a lot of small towns across the US.

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?

According to, yes, yes it is…

Just as the prices from their peers, though, some food trucks are better bets, food safety-wise, than others. Before you line up for your favorite lunchtime hoagie, here’s what you need to check for:


By law, food trucks need a license to operate so the local health department can track them for inspections. Why does this matter to you? Well, illegal operators tend to not worry as much about temperature and proper storage as an owner who knows an inspector could drop by at any time.

In many towns across the country, food-truck operators are required to post their license on the window, in a place where customers can see it.

Good grades

A number of cities require that food trucks place their latest inspection grade on the window that they serve food from. The worse the grade you see at your favorite food truck, the greater your chances are of getting a food-borne illness (FBI). If your city doesn’t post grades, they’re likely available on your local health department’s website.


You might think your biggest worry is that the chicken or beef is undercooked, but you’re actually more likely to get sick because a food truck employee has bad hygiene. In fact, one of the leading causes of FBI is contamination from someone’s dirty hands.

Employees should be wearing gloves when handling your food, and changing them often, to avoid transferring bacteria from their hands to your food.

Gloves aren’t legally required everywhere, and an employee without them can handle food safely with utensils and regular hand-washing.  This is a good sign that food safety is taken seriously at a restaurant/food truck.

Dangling hair

If employees don’t pull back their hair, they’ll be constantly moving it out of their eyes, then touching your food, which could get contaminated with bacteria from their face. Messy hair can also be a sign that a business isn’t following the food safety rules.

Lukewarm food

“Temperature problems are one of the most common violations in food trucks,” says Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of public health for Los Angeles County. Salads and deli sandwiches should feel like they’re straight out of the fridge, while soup and burgers should be piping hot.

Messy sink

If you have a chance to peer inside the truck, try to find the sink. Look for soap, towels and a clear place for hand-washing. If the area is stacked up with dishes or there’s no soap in sight, where are employees going to wash their hands after coughing, sneezing or touching raw meat?

Food Trucks in my hometown of Harrisburg, PA to look out for:

MAD Sandwiches

          The Must-Try:  The Cuban sandwich stacked with pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and mayo on a crusty 12-in. Italian roll.

          Location: Forster St. and Commonwealth Ave. in front of the Keystone Building Tuesday-Wednesday and Walnut and Third streets in Harrisburg Thursday-Friday.

          MAD Sandwiches

A Moveable Feast

          The Must-Try:  Fish tacos with avocado and a honey wasabi and cilantro dressing are healthy and out of this world.

          Location: N. 2nd and Pine St. in Harrisburg on Friday and Saturday nights.

          A Moveable Feast 

Chef Ed’s Lunch MOB

          The Must-Try: Fish tacos are a signature item and worth ordering. The Asian hot pot with its noodles, flavorful broth and vegetables is pleasantly unexpected for food truck fare.

          Location: Near 400 block of Walnut Street in Harrisburg

          PA Lunch MOB

CNN: Are Food Trucks Safe?

HBG food trucks

A Taste Around the World: A Mountaineer Mexican Fiesta

A Taste Around the World: A Mountaineer Mexican Fiesta

ISPP Dietetic Interns made the front page of the DA newspaper!

ISPP Dietetic Interns made the front page of the DA newspaper!

On Wednesday January 30th, 2013, WELLWVU partnered with our Didactic Program in Dietetics at and we launched our first of four healthy food culture cooking classes on campus. This program planning started in the Fall 2012 semester. At that point, the program was initially a graduate student’s responsibility to plan, organize, and delegate but with hiccups in the way- WVU’s ISPP Dietetic Internship came to the rescue!

When we originally found out that Kaylyn Crosier and myself were going to be running the series of education programs that entailed nutrition and culinary skill-building, we though- why not incorporate food culture? Everyone loves learning about different food cultures but, this will make the series even more interesting, with the added culinary and nutrition components.

So, for our launch event- we decided on Mexico as our theme. In fact, A Mountaineer Mexican Fiesta. There was an estimated 25 students who were going to participate. WELLWVU purchased our groceries the day of the event. A created packet was given to each participant.

In each packet consisted:

  • Cover page: menu
  • Hand-washing visual guide
  • A PowerPoint presentation (printed) that Kaylyn created on knife skills
  • Mexican culture and diet handout
  • Nutritional benefits of tomatoes handout
  • Chile pepper handout

The set-up for the event entailed the aid from 2 undergraduate interns from our Human Nutrition & Foods department. We were responsible for setting chairs out for participants, hanging signage for each kitchen unit, setting out all kitchen utensils/tools at each unit, hanging decorations.

I created signs for students to pronounce menu items correctly, the program packets, the food guide pyramid signs, and delivered decorations for the Ag Sciences Annex Test Kitchen. I arrived at the kitchen at 3pm, the program lasted 6pm-8pm, and I eventually exited the kitchen at approximately 9:45pm.

mexico menu

Page 2 in participant's packet

Page 2 in participant’s packet

mexico table

mexico group signs

mexico pepper

Front page article!

Front page article!

mexico article_1

Students were educated on proper knife skills

Students were educated on proper knife skills

Students learned the importance of washing all produce before using in the kitchen...

Students learned the importance of washing all produce before using in the kitchen…

Chiles Rellenos!!

Chiles Rellenos!!

Chilaquiles... Mmmmm

Chilaquiles… Mmmmm

Pico de Gallo!

Pico de Gallo!

Signs were placed near students on cutting board safety

Signs were placed near students on cutting board safety

One of the signs used in our presentation on nutrition. This was utilized/created to increase student's culture awareness and pronunciation.

One of the signs used in our presentation on nutrition. This was utilized/created to increase student’s culture awareness and pronunciation.

The class's cooking experience was complete! Time to eat!! Ole'!!

The class’s cooking experience was complete! Time to eat!! Ole’!!