By Contributor | Niagara This Week
If some members of the Region’s public health committee had their way, every town and city in Niagara would be knocking on the door of food trucks inside their borders, asking to inspect their fuel sources.
On Tuesday, as the committee received a staff report on annual food safety inspections of restaurants, banquet halls and variety stores in Niagara, talk turned to how all those food trucks now common at special events and festivals and along roadways and in mall parking lots fit into the inspection picture.
Regional Chair Gary Burroughs, noting restaurants who pay property taxes already resent the fact that food trucks don’t have to, said they’ll want to know that mobile operations have to meet the same safety standards as restaurants and banquet halls.
“Most of them I’ve seen are excellent,” said Burroughs, himself a former restaurateur. “I’m not complaining about them.”
Bill Hunter, manager of environmental health with the Region, said food trucks must undergo the same public health inspections as other food servers. That means having at least three inspections a year for operations considered ‘high risk’ because they serve a variety of food types, at least two inspections a year for those considered ‘medium risk’ because of the type of food they serve, and at least one inspection for ‘low risk’ establishments such as variety stores serving pre-packaged food.
The results of those inspections are also posted on the Region’s inspection website, InfoDine, the way restaurants and banquet hall results are, said Hunter
But he pointed out not all cities and towns in Niagara licence food trucks, meaning some of the trucks aren’t undergoing fire inspections that fall under the jurisdiction of local municipalities.
Port Colborne Mayor Vance Badawey said it’s not uncommon for “MacGyvering” of fuel sources such as propane used to cook food in food trucks, referring to a TV show in the 1980s and 1990s in which the lead character often jury-rigged materials to get himself out of tight spots.
Because they may not be licensed, fire inspections may not be conducted that could spot dangerous fuel setups, said Badawey.
“They can be somewhat of a fireball waiting to explode, a time bomb” he said. “Some of these can be very dangerous.”
Burroughs said the Region should be encouraging the local towns and cities, “without appearing to be Big Brother,” to ensure they’re licensing food trucks so fire safety inspections are carried out.