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Food Handling Best Practices for Food Trucks

April 23, 2024
Food Handling Best Practices for Food Trucks
Food Truck Food Handling

While food trucks have been around for several decades, they’ve risen greatly in popularity in the past 20 years. What many once thought was a trend is clearly here to stay, as the “food truck industry has grown an average of 9.9% annually between 2018 and 2023,” according to IBISWorld. In fact, the same report indicates that there are more than 36,000 food truck businesses that operate in the United States alone.

However, just because they serve food on wheels doesn’t mean handling food properly isn’t important. With food trucks firmly established as a trusted dining option for many people, it's important to ensure handling best practices are firmly in place.

That’s the topic of today’s article. Let’s cover some best practices for food trucks when it comes to food handling and mobile food safety.

Start with Hygiene

Personal hygiene is important in any foodservice role, but this is especially true for food trucks, where space is limited and employees often find themselves in close contact with one another. Food truck staff should wash their hands regularly with soap and warm water, especially after using raw ingredients or the restroom. Clean uniforms, haircuts and hats can also prevent contamination. (A little deodorant goes a long way as well.)

Get Storage Right

If there’s one thing food trucks always have, it’s limited space. As a mobile food solution, a food truck is smaller than nearly every brick-and-mortar restaurant out there. These small spaces make food storage a challenge (but no less important). It’s essential to store foods at proper temps to prevent bacterial growth. Raw meats and ingredients should be kept separate from ready-to-eat foods and perishable items should be kept in coolers or refrigerators. Make sure your storage areas also have accurate temperature controls, or you’re putting your customers at risk even if you think you aren’t.

Control Temps on the Go

Speaking of temperatures, it’s also important to invest in high-quality thermometers that can quickly and accurately measure whether a food is cooked to a proper internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Make sure you and your staff know proper temps that meat, poultry and other ingredients must reach to be consumed safely. Hot foods should also be kept hot (above 140°F) and cold foods cold (below 40°F) to prevent bacterial growth.

Clean and Sanitize

Again, since food trucks have limited space, surfaces and equipment is often used more frequently than it is in a permanent space. This makes cleaning and sanitizing a priority. Use EPA-approved sanitizers and follow manufacturer instructions for dilution and contact time. Some of the areas on a food truck that must be cleaned most often include countertops, handles, serving utensils and cutting boards.

Establish a Safe Water Supply

Make sure the water you’re using for cooking, cleaning or handwashing is safe. Use a water filtration system if necessary and regularly test water quality. Some trucks use a portable water tank, which should also be cleaned and sanitized regularly to prevent bacterial growth. If you serve water to customers, bottled water is often the safest and best option for food trucks.

Dispose Waste Properly

It’s even more important to dispose of waste quickly on a food truck than a restaurant, due to the close proximity it has to employees and ingredients. Dispose food waste and garbage promptly to prevent pests and odors, and use leak-proof trash containers with tight-fitting lids. It’s also a good idea to designate specific areas for waste storage and disposal. The last thing you want to do is risk contamination due to something in your control.

Be Aware of Allergens

Food allergies are a rising concern—and they’re rising almost faster than the popularity of food trucks. This is why it’s essential to be knowledgeable about common allergens and prevent cross-contact. Clearly label menu items containing allergens and communicate with customers about their specific dietary needs. (You might also want to consider eliminating certain ingredients that tend to be allergens from your menu entirely.) If you do use common allergens on your menu, take precautions to prevent cross-contact—use separate utensils and cooking surfaces and follow other cross-contamination best practices.

Train Employees

Of course, all of these best practices won’t do any good if you don’t train your employees properly to follow them. Provide comprehensive training and demonstrate proper food handling best practices for all staff who work on the food truck. This includes everything from proper handwashing and temperature control to cleaning procedures and allergen awareness. Regularly refresh them as well and keep them informed about updates to food safety regulations. The better prepared you are, the fewer risks you will face.

These are just a few best practices for handling food safely on your food truck. For deeper food safety knowledge, consider enrolling in a food handler course with American Course Academy.

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