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Hosting Food Trucks? Check Out This Food Truck Safety Guide

at 11:30AM, Friday- May 24th, 2019 by Food Truck Spaces

The food truck industry has grown year over year with popular demand. With the increase of food trucks on the road, regulations have also ramped up to ensure the safety of both food truck operators and the audience they’re serving.

Food trucks are highly regulated and subject to many guidelines because they’re often classified as restaurants and vehicles simultaneously. It often falls to the food truck coordinator or event planner to understand all of the regulations involving food trucks and organization of food truck events.

This post isn’t a comprehensive list of all regulations that need to be maintained — that would be impossible because of differences in State, City/Town, and County regulations across the country. It will, however, give you a general idea of what you need to research and be aware of to maintain food truck safety and avoid problems with food trucks during events, catering, and more.

Understand Both National and Local Food Truck Safety Regulations

Each guideline, regulation, and requirement is going to vary and change based on what state you’re in along with what city, town, county or property the food truck/event is in as well.

Parameters to consider include business regulations, local food truck regulations, and private versus public property regulations. Perhaps the most important for safety are the county, state and federal health departments as well as parking, fuel, and fire safety standards.

Let’s look at these health and safety regulations a bit more closely:

Food Sanitation and Handling Regulations

First and foremost, you need to ensure that the food trucks you work with have all of their health regulations in order. Again, this will vary on the exact location you’re working on, but the following are some of the most common issues:

Health Department Medallion/Permit. Food trucks typically have to go through an annual renewal for their health medallion/permit from the governing Health Department.

This means their entire truck goes through the local Health and Human Services Department for review. Every aspect of the truck is inspected, including floor plans, refrigeration temperatures, ventilation, grease traps, storage areas, and more. The department will also analyze the truck for both cleanliness and buildout code.

Everything must be clean, working in proper conditions, built to the current regulatory codes, and outfitted for the specific food prepared and served in the truck. (More on this last point in a bit.)

You want to ensure that once the food trucks you’re working with have received their permits that they have them displayed on their truck.

It’s advisable to not work with food trucks that don’t have these permits yet. This can add an extra layer to coordination responsibility that should fall to the food truck owners themselves.

Ensuring trucks display their health permits showcases to potential patrons that the truck has passed health inspections and indicates to inspectors the truck is up to code as they walk by to inspect. This will help people identify that the truck is OK to eat from and food truck safety is a priority.

Food Handling Certification. Some counties and regions may require that at least one employee has an official food handling certification. This ensures that food trucks understand hygienic food handling techniques, understand allergens and cross-contamination risks, and more.

Menu Approvals, Food Source, and Support Facilities Regulations. We mentioned that health certifications often rely on the food being prepared. The food types and preparation techniques will affect certification and requirements.

For example, let’s say you have a food truck you’re working with serves cupcakes but doesn’t have an oven to cook those cupcakes. The Health Department may need to know and approve how and where those cupcakes are made before they’re served in your truck.

So, if the truck decides to serve a new product or add a menu item, permits and certifications may need to be reapproved.

If a food truck has a storage facility, a commissary, and/or a restaurant where these food products are made, those areas must also pass inspections and receive permits, even though they aren’t a physical part of the food truck.

Other Safety Regulations

In tandem with the health department renewals and regulations, fire marshal reviews must also be done annually.

Fire prevention and propane regulations. Food truck fire prevention is overseen by multiple departments for the safety of the public and the food truck operators.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides guidance and offers standard language for municipalities when it comes to writing code regulating the food truck industry. Which ones are considered will depend on the town, city or state.

And the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which falls under the Department of Transportation, regulates the transfer of propane cylinders. You can view the general guidelines dictated by the NFPA here and some of the propane guidelines here.

Every year, food trucks must bring their truck to a fire marshal for inspection of wiring, buildout, propane, and fire code review. If they pass, they receive their propane permit with a project number. However, which department inspects the truck can vary from state to state and city to city, so make sure to speak with the marshal to see if you need to get approval from any other governing body in your area.

Public events. Each state and city has its own rules on proximity to other food trucks and for events in general. For example, Boston requires you to apply to hold a public event.

In these cases, you may need extra permits to regulate how many trucks can be present, the safety of each individual truck, and more. You can see a lot of the city-by-city regulations on this guide.

Some cities require analysis of the event and food trucks by a fire marshal who will decide whether the event is approved, whether they need more permits, whether they will require fire marshals to be present at the event, and more.

A fire marshal standby permit, for example, allows an event to have a fire marshal on standby to further inspect trucks on the day of the event.

Furthermore, propane tanks are usually limited to 60 pounds during these events to minimize the risk of fire.

Parking. Following parking regulations is important for pedestrian safety and the safety of other vehicles. This minimizes the risk of vehicular crashes and allows pedestrians/patrons to access the food truck without being in danger.

Keeping Track of Everything

With all the permits and regulations in place, food trucks are considered quite safe to eat from and be around. However, it takes a skilled and organized food truck coordinator in order to keep track of everything that goes into food truck safety.

Having a first-class software to use that can help you book trucks, keep track of payments and more can help give you time to ensure you’re putting on a safe event. Make efficiencies everywhere possible and next thing you know, you’ll have a packed event with everyone having a great time!

 

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