SAN ANTONIO – Despite their ability to move on at moment, food trucks are a food fad that looks to be here to stay.
While they provide easily accessible food options for customers, it is not so easy to make sure they meet safety standards.
“One of the biggest challenges is just finding them to do an inspection,” said Stephen Barscewski, sanitarian services manager with San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.
Food truck operators make an appointment to have their rolling restaurants inspected once a year in the parking lot of the city’s Business and Development Services office on South Alamo.
In comparison, inspectors show up at brick-and-mortar restaurants unannounced.
“They do have the advantage that they know they’re having the inspection, where brick-and-mortar doesn’t,” Barscewski said.
“Some units may only operate during the summer, some may be year-round. And they may not always be at the same location,” adds Metro Health inspector Kerzell Ramos.
Trucks must meet safety standards similar to restaurants.
“Facilities to maintain hot and cold, make sure they’re rodent proof and insect proof, make sure they have the correct paperwork,” said Ramos.
The San Antonio Fire Department also annually inspects food trucks to make sure they have proper fire safety and extinguishers.
Look for a sticker on the trucks to signify that it has been inspected
“One thing you should look for is any truck that we inspect has a sticker in the window or somewhere visible on it that it was licensed and acceptable to the department,” Barscewski said.
Barscewski adds that Metro Health tries to visit food trucks at random, but truck operators in San Antonio are not required to tell inspectors their routes.
Metro Health is currently examining city ordinance to possibly try to change that, Barscewski said.
Because food trucks can be hard to find, they are cited on the spot for any health and safety violations rather than given warnings and a chance to make corrections, like brick and mortar restaurants.
Also unlike brick-and-mortars, food truck inspection reports are not available online.