By EMILY ANNE EPSTEIN & ALISON BOWEN | Metro.us
Restaurant owners want food cart vendors to learn their ABCs — and to post letter grades from the Health Department too.
“I think it’s only fair that they be graded like restaurants,” said George Constantinou, 35, co-owner of Bogata Latin Bistro in Park Slope. “The public can get sick if they eat at a restaurant, a food cart or even a convenience store.”
Vinnie Mazzone, who owns Chicken Masters, a longtime eatery in Sheepshead Bay, agrees.
“Why are they not being embarrassed like we are with these stupid letter grades?” he asked. “If you are cooking, preparing and storing perishable items, there should be a letter grade on your cart. No question about it.”
Food trucks are regularly inspected by the Health Department, but city restaurateurs are backing a bill that they say would level the playing field. Queens state Sen. Jose Peralta plans to introduce a bill this week that would require the Health Department assign letter grades to food carts, letting New Yorkers know where the cleanest carts are — and which to avoid.
Cart owners are split on the idea.
“It’s not fair for vendors,” said Bangladeshi native Mohammad Pasha, 40, of the proposed grades. Applying the same standards for five-star restaurants, which have larger staff and space, to vendors,”makes no sense,” he said.
But Rex Velasquez who runs a food cart downtown, called it a good idea. “At least you know if the cart is clean or not,” he said.
“I always keep my cart clean, so it doesn’t matter to me.”
What goes on inside a cart?
Making food in a small cart can be dirty, said Lisa Boymann, an instructor in food safety at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts.
Food vendors are required to complete an eight-hour food-handling course with the Department of Health and are required to have both a food vendor license and a food cart permit.
Vendors must wash hands between touching raw meat and other foods, and must never put raw food near fresh food, according to city rules. They are also supposed to have sinks with hot and cold running water if they’re cooking hot food, along with a wastewater tank and proper ventilation.