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 Health.com, 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:

License

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.

Gloves

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

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Renaming the Cuts of Meat…

After 40 years, the names for cuts of meat are being revamped to make it easier for consumers to understand what they’re buying and how to cook it. The labels are shorter and less anatomically based than the names used today for cuts of meats. Pork cuts are now more in sync with the beef cuts consumers are familiar with. The new names and labels should start appearing this summer, just in time for grilling season.

Loin (Pork):

Old

New

Pork Loin Top Loin Chop

Porterhouse Chop

Top Loin Pork Chops

New York Chops

A Pork Loin Rib Chop

Ribeye Chop

Bone-In Pork Loin Chop

T-Bone Chop

Chuck (Beef):

Old

New

Beef Chuck Eye Edge

Pot Roast, Boneless

Denver Roast

Beef Shoulder Top Blade Steak

Boneless Flat Iron

Flat Iron Steak

Sirloin (Beef):

Old

New

Beef Loin Top Sirloin Steak,

Boneless, Cap Off

Top Sirloin Steak

Beef Loin Top Sirloin Cubes

For Kabobs

Kabobs

 

With the new names come new labels for meat. They’ll now identify the species (at this point just beef or pork), whether it’s from the chuck, rib, loin or round, the retail cut name and provide cooking instructions.

The purpose of the naming system is help customers identify cuts with familiar cooking methods. When customers see the word “Porterhouse”, they might think- hey I could put this on the grill…

Most names consumers know and love won’t be changing, but after two years of research it became apparent that Americans needed more clarity when they inspected the meat case, said the director of market intelligence for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in Denver.

The new pork names go with a shift in how pork is cooked, compared to the terms used in the 1970’s when these names were first implemented. Because trichinosis is no longer a problem in U.S. hogs, in 2011 the Department of Agriculture changed the recommended cooking temperature for pork from 160 degrees F to 145 degrees F. Once pork could be pink, a pork chop could be cooked just like a steak.

Although the pork producers “love their friends in the beef world” they want to remind grillers that while beef prices are at an all-time high because of the drought and resulting spikes in feed costs, pork is now inexpensive “and will be through summer.”

Chop, Chop! article

cutscuts 1cuts 2cuts 3cuts 4

Shingles and Nutrition

shinglesShingles and Your Diet

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that causes a rash that can be painful. According to MayoClinic.com, shingles typically resolves on its own, but medications can help hustle up the healing process and relieve pain. Certain nutrients have displayed pain-relieving assets, and incorporating these into your diet can help with shingles or painful difficulties.

First

Add foods to your diet that are rich in lysine. Or you can take a lysine supplement. Lysine is an amino acid that may prevent herpes virus outbreaks, says the University of Maryland Medical Center. Dietary sources of this amino acid include meat, cheese, sardines, eggs, soybeans, beans and legumes. Fenugreek seed is also a good source of lysine.

Second

Eat shellfish, eggs, beef and dairy products, all of which contain vitamin B-12.

Third

Take a vitamin E supplement. Mount Auburn Hospital recommends taking 1,200 to 1,600 international units per day of vitamin E for postherpetic neuralgia. Dietary sources of vitamin E include almonds, spinach, broccoli, mangoes, tomatoes, peanuts and peanut butter.

Fourth

Stock up on foods high in vitamin C and zinc. MayoClinic.com states that shingles outbreaks can occur due to an impaired immune system, and vitamin C and zinc are essential in promoting a healthy immune system. Good sources of vitamin C include oranges, strawberries, broccoli, leafy greens, peppers and potatoes. Oysters, red meats, chicken, legumes and whole grains are also good sources of zinc.

What to Avoid when you have Shingles

Shingles

According to the Mayo Clinic, shingles are red, raw and very painful blisters that can appear anywhere on your body but typically appear as blisters that wrap around your torso. If you have previously had chicken pox, are over 50 and have a weakened immune system, you are most at risk for contracting shingles. The CDC advises you to stay away from infants, pregnant women and others who have compromised immune systems until your shingles outbreak has passed.

Foods to Avoid

Avoiding certain foods can help alleviate symptoms of shingles. Arginine is an amino acid that your body produces naturally, but you should avoid foods that contain it. Arginine helps the herpes zoster virus to replicate. Chocolate, nuts and gelatin contain high levels of arginine. Also, don’t consume foods such as saturated fats or refined carbohydrates, because those might cause further inflammation. In addition, avoid alcohol and caffeine because these can weaken the immune system.