Edmonton, CAN: Edmonton Food trucks safe, but inspections hard to come by

By Ryan Tumilty  |  Metro News

KEVIN TUONG / METRO Health inspections on Edmonton food trucks are difficult to obtain.
Health inspections on Edmonton food trucks are difficult to obtain.

Finding health inspection information about Edmonton’s increasingly popular food trucks still remains an uphill battle, though the happy result of some digging is that our food trucks are relatively safe.

On Monday, Metro called the Alberta Health Services’ public health unit looking for the health inspection reports for the top 10 food trucks currently listed on the Street Food Edmonton smartphone app.

The call came following Metro’s report two weeks ago, which found health inspection reports are still not available online, despite assurances from AHS they would be by this spring. The organization now has no firm timetable for the reports, citing an ongoing upgrade.

While it took several days for Metro to get the requested reports, AHS spokesperson Tahneen Luedee said the delay wouldn’t exist for the public at large.
“If we receive a call from the public, a call is returned within 24 hours by public health inspector, who will go through the inspection report with the individual,” Luedee said, in an email.

Consumer confidence enhanced by transparency: Official

When it comes to food, Rob Colvin, food safety manger with Toronto Public Health, said consumer confidence is important.

Like Edmonton, Toronto does not have an online, searchable database of food truck health inspections (like Edmonton, it does for regular restaurants).

Colvin said their online system is addressed based, which has led to some problems posting food truck reports online, but added anyone who calls can have a report emailed to them.

But unlike Edmonton, Toronto requires health information be prominent for consumers.

Toronto colour codes its health inspections at food establishments, including food trucks, and these are required to be posted prominently. The reports are green when there are no problems, yellow if an operator has minor violations and red for major violations that close an establishment.

“Public disclosure helps everyone make better decisions about where they are going to dine, and the same thing applies to whether it’s a hot dog cart or a food truck,” Colvin said.

Alberta currently has no such placement rules or easily-understandable system for health reports.

Missing but wanted incentives

Colvin said knowing health ratings will be publicly displayed is an incentive for food operators to keep their facilities clean.

“Our compliance rates have gone up significantly since we have had the disclosure program in place,” he said.

Mack Male, an organizer of Edmonton’s What the Truck events, said they ask all food truck operators to show food handling permits before taking part.

He said no one has ever expressed concerns about health safety but said his organization would like to see health reports online nonetheless.

“We definitely support that. We would love to have them available,” he said. “There should be no difference, we think, between the food truck and the restaurant.”

What they looked for

Based on the 10 reports Metro received here’s what AHS inspectors appear to be looking for:

1) Hand washing sinks: All of the reports were sure to note that there was a sink specifically for hand washing

2) Aprons: Inspectors noted workers had aprons and hair nets

3) Minimum temperatures: All of the inspection reports noted the temperatures of freezers and fridges.

4) Lightcovers and screens: Food trucks all had to have covers over any overhead lighting and insect screens between the truck and the serving window.