Here’s How To Tell If You’re At A Bad Food Truck

Here’s How To Tell If You’re At A Bad Food Truck

If you want to keep living your best food
truck foodie life, all you really need to do is be observant. The next time you get in line at a mobile
eatery, look for the following signs of a subpar food truck situation. First things first — if you have a bad feeling
about a food truck when you approach it, there’s a super-simple way to tell if they’ve got
their stuff together — ask to see their license. According to CNN, all food trucks are required
by law to have one of those bad boys in hand before hitting the road. Chances are if they don’t have one — and
are therefore operating illegally — they’re not going to stress over things like food
safety regulations either. And while asking to see a food truck’s license
probably isn’t common practice, it’s a right you shouldn’t be ashamed to exercise. A food safety expert at the Center for the
Science in Public Interest told CNN in 2013, “You can actually ask to see the license. If they can’t produce it, find another place
to eat and call the local health department.” Would it be unfortunate if your favorite local
food truck couldn’t come up with anything but excuses when asked for a license? Sure. But you know what would be even more unfortunate? Winding up with food poisoning after scarfing
down a dish prepared in unsanitary conditions. Because meat comes from animals that carry
bacteria, the proper handling and storage of meats on a food truck is especially important. Food trucks that fail to take a few precautions
are setting themselves up for cross-contamination and, worse, sending customers away with foodborne
illness. During a routine food truck inspection in
Butler County Ohio in 2016, the inspector found an area food truck had committed a critical
violation — storing raw chicken above raw beef. According to the Journal-News, the inspector
explained that when stored in a cooling unit, “[The food truck should have stored] raw animal
products in order of their required cooking temperatures to prevent contamination.” What does this mean for you? Well, if you’re planning to indulge your carnivorous
tendencies at a local food truck, you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled. If you notice raw chicken stored above raw
beef — or any raw meat mingling with anything else, for that matter — do your stomach
a favor and grab lunch from another mobile eatery. “You don’t want to get food poisoning.” Temperature has a ton to do with food safety
— this can’t be underscored enough. The CDC mandates very specific temperature
monitoring requirements for some foods, due to the fact that these foods are more associated
with foodborne illnesses and incidences of food poisoning than other foods. Mobile-Cuisine, the digital food-truck bible,
describes monitoring proper food temperature in a food truck as a “constant process.” Accordingly, they recommend that food trucks
have several good thermometers on hand for staff to use while preparing food. So, there’s something you, the consumer, can
look for. As you’re waiting in line for your food truck
order, even one glimpse of a food thermometer should help put your mind at ease. Aside from that, though, determining if food
temperature monitoring protocol has been followed could be more tangible — even if it’s less
exact. You’ll be able to tell simply by touching
your food. The director of public health for Los Angeles
County told CNN in 2013, “Temperature problems are one of the most
common violations in food trucks.” Besides, food that isn’t served at its correct
temperature isn’t going to taste as good. A cold grilled cheese? No thank you. In 2016, the Journal-News launched an investigation. After combing over food truck inspection reports
for a year, they found, quote, “no serious, chronic violations or illnesses” that health
officials could trace back to food truck fare. However, they did turn up isolated incidents
of undesirable conditions inside food trucks. One of the repeat issues that turned up? Temperature regulation. This is problematic for a few reasons. Some foods are more prone to causing foodborne
illnesses than others and, per the Center for Disease Control, need to be refrigerated
at 40-degrees or colder to minimize the risk of issues with salmonella and other bacteria. Plus, food trucks are basically big metal
boxes, often parked on hot blacktop. If it’s hot outside, you can bet that truck’s
A/C is working overtime to keep the truck cool — and there’s a good chance it’s losing
the battle. So, if you decide to eat at a food truck on
a sweltering day, glance inside at the countertops to make sure food isn’t sitting out and overheating. The fact that any food service workers should
wear gloves seems self-explanatory. Yet, even food truck operators have admitted
to not using gloves while preparing food — one such food truck owner told Mobile-Cuisine
that they had received health inspection violations because his line cook was seen buttering a
sandwich and preparing other food with bare hands. Not surprisingly, Mobile-Cuisine lays out
a solid argument for why food truck employees should be trained in proper glove use. The LA Times looked into health truck safety
in 2016, pointing to specific issues involving gloves — or the lack thereof. In March, they revealed, a popular food truck
by the name of Tacos Ariza had earned a less-than-stellar “C” on their health inspection. Why? Health inspectors cited 16 violations, including
three major infractions — with at least one related to employees not using gloves
properly. It’s worth noting, though, that the FDA apparently
only requires a “barrier” between food truck workers and the food they are preparing. Sure, this could be gloves. But it could also be baking paper or even
utensils — so a lack of gloves doesn’t automatically mean rules are being broken. But the bottom line is: there shouldn’t be
a bunch of bare-hand-on-food action going on in any given food truck. If there is, find another place for lunch. Let’s be real; no one wants to stroll up to
a food truck with a funky odor. “Hey your food stinks, people don’t want it!” If the food truck smells like anything other
than food, it should make you wonder why. A spoiled milk smell probably means that the
food truck has refrigeration issues, or that they aren’t taking the proper measures to
store dairy products in the refrigerator between uses. As for a garbage odor, look around. Do you see a trash can near the food truck? Is it overflowing? A food truck should be able to stay on top
of solid waste to a degree that garbage doesn’t become a smelly issue. If you approach a food truck with an overflowing
bin, you should ask yourself if they’re really taking it out as often as they should be. And if they’re not doing that, what else are
they slacking on? It’s easy to take for granted the comfort
that comes with seeing a big, shiny “A” plastered on the wall or in the window of a brick-and-mortar
restaurant. That single letter lets us know that the restaurant
is doing everything it needs to do to impress health officials. And while it would be a logical way to gauge
food truck safety too, not all states require food trucks to display health inspection grades. CNN claims that, quote, “only a handful of
places” mandate as much. Still, this practice seems to be trending
upward in the food truck world. New York rolled out food truck grades in January
2019, explaining to ABC 7, “Now customers will be able to see, before
deciding to eat at a food cart, how it performed at its health inspection.” “I know I never ate from a cart because I
didn’t know the cleanliness of the cart.” Wondering what grade you should shoot for
when choosing a food truck? If you ask one food-safety expert at the Center
for the Science in the Public Interest, anything less than an A isn’t good enough. She explained to CNN in 2016, “I’d feel uneasy about eating at a truck with
a B grade because it could have violations like not keeping food at the right temperature
or having no soap. And I would never eat at a truck with a C
because that’s close to being shut down.” Since not all states require food trucks to
display their health inspection grades, sometimes you have to slide into the role of health
inspector. And one red flag to look for is uncontained
hair. One food inspector and restaurant trainer
told ABC 7 some questions to ask when sizing up a food truck, including, “What is the hygiene of the employees like? Are they wearing a hair net?” If you see long hair that’s dangling down
— scope out a different lunch spot. In fact, per the New York City health department,
food truck employees should always keep their hair kempt and covered. The rules state, “You must wear a hair cover that hides your
hair completely, for example: a hat, scarf or hairnet.” Employees should also wash their hands anytime
they touch their hair. All it takes is one hair in your food to ruin
your perspective of a particular food truck altogether. If you avoid trucks that seem to ignore the
rules of hair protocol, you should be able to also avoid pulling a long hair out of your
mouth. As a general rule of thumb, you don’t want
to see bugs inside of any establishment serving you food. There’s a caveat when it comes to food trucks,
though, since edible insects are apparently growing in popularity. In 2011, a Denver Post contributor described
a food truck in San Francisco called “Don Bugito” that serves things like tacos made
with fried wax-moth larvae. In 2015, NBC News chronicled the plight of
a food truck on UConn’s campus selling crispy roasted crickets for 99 cents. “Every aspect of owning a food truck is fun. Fun, fun, fun!” But unless they’re being served up as part
of the menu, bugs have no place in a food truck. Mobile-Cuisine files the presence of creepy
crawlers under situations that could close a food truck. The online bible for mobile eateries says, “Nothing can get people talking negatively
about your food truck more quickly than the presence of bugs. The mention of a roach in an online review
can prevent people from taking the time to track your vehicle to your next stop and quickly
alert local public health officials. This could result in a potential closure.” Mobile-Cuisine urges food truck owners to
have a pest control company inspect their truck semi-annually to prevent any potential
infestations. So, if you happen to be – paranoid about insects
winding up in your food, you could always go the extra mile and ask a food truck when
their last inspection took place. Plain and simple, bad food is a pretty solid
indicator of a bad food truck. That’s not to say that everyone doesn’t have
off days. Food trucks, like restaurants, operate under
high-stress conditions. “That was the most stressful thing I’ve ever
gone through. And I was wrongfully imprisoned last year.” But unlike brick-and-mortar restaurants, the
people cooking your food in a food truck are often churning out meals left and right from
a super-tight space. Mistakes are bound to happen on occasion. And, yes, taste is subjective. You might think a dish tastes totally off
while the person next to you thinks your taste buds are off. There’s certainly room for both error and
interpretation when it comes to the quality of food truck fare. But if a food truck has an abundance of bad
reviews, bad word-of-mouth, or you go with a group and the food leaves a bad taste in
everyone’s mouth, it’s probably better just to move right along. “I have a confession to make. The food truck is kind of stressing me out.” Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Mashed videos about your favorite
stuff are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
bell so you don’t miss a single one.


  1. From my experience living in Los Angeles, one way to tell if you're at a bad food truck is if nobody speaks English there.

  2. You can ask for a food trucks 🚌 license all day but, don't be surprised if you offend them so much that you piss them off, and still end up with tainted food .

    I guess it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't kind of situation 😟😟😟.

  3. Anyone who thinks ppl use gloves in kitchens is dumb, that 50 dollar steak at that fancy steak house is man handled and then poked multiple times with a bare finger to see what temp its cooked to

  4. Ask to see their license and they will F with your food. They should display their license for all to see like at brick n mortors. And I got news for ya 99% of the time these workers could give a rats ass about food safety. They may be wearing gloves but they will handle money scratch their butts do whatever and won't think about it. Food poisoning happens way more frequently than is mentioned. This carelessness doesn't just happen with food trucks it happens everywhere they serve food. Under reported.

  5. Dude, as a fan of taco trucks, I must say not having a license does not equal bad food truck. More than half of the authentic taco trucks would be "bad" then lmao.

    Asking to see a truck's license is so cringey and entitled lmao just go eat at a chipotle.

  6. This is really good advice for "foodies" who have never cooked anything in their lives and have no clue about food safety. Anyone who has worked in food service can take a 15 sec glance and tell if they got their shit together or not….

  7. They should also, for convenience, be able to accept credit or debit card payments.

    Cash is notorious for being also a major source of pathogens, some actually unknown species to us, so who knows which one can land you in the hospital or straight to the mortuary.

  8. What’s that movie they keep using for B footage? The one with the dad and kid and friend? I barely remember watching it and can’t think of the name

  9. Duh. This is why many people wanted to restrict food trucks to selling items that did not need to be cooked, just heated or cooled.

  10. Gloves!

    Didn't address the single most common mistake
    when wearing gloves.

    You have gloves on. You cook a burger patty,
    putting it on the grill, with your gloved hand.
    Now, you go and make a salad, WEARING THE

    I see this ALL THE TIME!


  11. 3:23 Sorry but the whole cloves thing is pretty stupid considering that chefs have never worn cloves and NO ONE in a five star kitchen is wearing gloves. That said, who is to say the gloves aren't dirty? It sounds like crap made up by bureaucrats in need of justifying their salary.

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