Do you run a food truck business and want to be FDA compliant? If YES, here are 17 tips on how to prepare your food truck and pass health inspections in USA.
Food truck business is a business that has survived different eras not just in the United States of America but in most countries of the world which is why you would find loads of entrepreneurs pitching their business tents in this industry.
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Why Start a Food Truck Business?
Statistics shows that the annual food truck revenue in the united states is about ,200,000,000 and the industry revenue increased by 12.4 percent over the past five years. The total number of food trucks in the U.S. is put at 4,130. Food truck Industry revenue increased over the past five years at the rate of 12.4 percent.
The average revenue generated per food truck in the United States is about $290,556 and the average spending per order at a food truck is $12.40. The average amount required to own a food truck is about $85,000.
Despite the fact that the food truck business may not be new in the food service and restaurant industry, it is a known fact that the food truck industry is still growing in leaps and bounds and there are still more room for growth within the industry. Despite the introduction of some unfavorable laws and regulations by many cities across the United States, the food truck business is still flourishing.
As a matter of fact, if you are planning to start your food truck business in the United States of America, then you should be ready to subject your business to regulations under the regulatory agency mandated to regulate the industry.
For example, there are cases where food trucks were shut down until all employees were healthy again and the truck sterilized. Keeping written records of your employee’s sick days helps to avoid this from happening and preserves your brand’s reputation.
The truth is that in order to pass a food truck health inspection, you must continue to maintain high standards and follow these guidelines.
Please note that one of the major hurdles you should be prepared to cross is the Health Inspection for food trucks and unfortunately, it is not a one off thing. Health inspection for food trucks is carried out at regular intervals to ensure that contaminated foods are not sold to the public via food truck operators.
For you to be able to prepare and pass health inspection, then you must first understand how they work and how you can prepare to pass the inspection.
Why Are Food Trucks Subjected to Health Inspection?
The reason why food trucks are subjected to regular health inspections is basically to protect consumers from contacting food related infections that can result if foods are not handled or prepared properly.
In the United States of America, the regulating body responsible for carrying out health inspection for food trucks is The Food and Drug Administration (FDA); they are mandated by law to handle any food related regulations in the United States of America. The FDA Food Code outlines specific rules on which state and county health departments model their retail food regulations.
Who Conducts Food Truck Health Inspection?
Food truck health inspections are conducted by qualified Health Inspectors and they are under the employment of The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at either the federal, state or local level. In order to work as a health inspector, you are expected to possess at least a college science degree and you will be trained as a specialist in proper food quality, maintenance and preparation practices.
Once they are trained they are expected to educate food truck owners and staff on safe food handling and preparation; carry out inspections of food trucks and carts to assure local, state and federal health codes are being followed; give out warnings or fines when basic regulations are violated; collect samples, if necessary, to trace the possible sources of a food poisoning or outbreak; and lastly, prepare inspection reports that are available online or on public record at a local office.
Even though health regulations and inspection processes can vary from county to county, city to city and from state to state in the United States of America, there are at least three types of health inspections that you are expected to be subjected to and they are;
3 Categories of Food Truck Health Inspections You Should Expect
- Routine Inspection
Routine inspections are inspections that are carried out on food trucks and other mobile food carts unannounced. Here, the inspector looks at all aspects of a food truck or cart to assure compliance with local food regulations. Everything from employee handwashing practices to trash disposal are looked at during routine inspections.
- Complaint Inspection
Complaint inspections are carried out whenever a customer has either become sick or filed a complaint about probable unhealthy practices. The health inspector is expected to vet your business processes and equipment to be sure that they are safe to retail food to the public.
- Follow-Up Inspection
Follow-up inspections are carried out after a food truck operator has been given a certain amount of time to correct critical violations. For example, if a customer lays a complain, and the health inspector comes around and found out that some of the complaints are true, they will give you time to make amends and if they come visiting and no changes has been done, your license may be revoked or you will be fined.
How to Prepare your Food Truck to Pass Health Inspections
In order to successfully pass food truck health inspection, you must stay above board and staying above board means that you must at regular intervals perform self-Inspection. This is important because, in the United States, some cities will let you know when you’re due for an inspection, while other cities will simply send inspectors out to food service establishment randomly.
Most cities inspect food trucks and other food vendors one or two times per year on the average. When you are preparing for Health Inspection for your Food Truck, you should make use of this simple five-step guide to self-inspections to make sure you’re ready to pass with flying colors every time.
- Schedule Your Self-Inspection Randomly
One important factor that you should imbibe when conducting self – inspection for your food truck is to schedule your self – inspection randomly. As a matter of fact, your employees should be caught off guard so as to know the state of their preparedness. This will give you the likely results you will get when health inspectors from the government come visiting.
- Show Professionalism
The fact that you are conducting self – inspection does not mean you should be casual with it. As a matter of fact, you should be stricter than the health inspector from the Federal Government. Your employees should know that it is not business as usual and they must be ready to take responsibility if anything that is placed under their care does not meet up with the expected standard during the mock inspection. Please ensure that you have the exact form that health inspectors use and make sure your fill and follow through to the later.
- Make Sure You Inspect Everything
If you must get it right and pass your official health inspection, you must make sure that you inspect everything during the mock inspection. You should pay close attention to everything on your food truck even if they are recently cleaned. Just ensure that you put yourself in the shoes of the official health inspectors and go into details when carrying out your job.
You must inspect the food preparation procedures, you must inspect in and out of the food truck, you must inspect your equipment, you must inspect your licenses, permits and all paper works and you must inspect your staff members amongst other things.
- Inspect Your Employees
Health inspection is not complete without the inspection of employees; those that are involved in the preparation and serving of food. The truth is that if a sick employee handles food, the tendencies for the food to be contaminated cannot be ruled out, hence the need to inspect them, train them and bring them up to speed to enable you successfully pass the health inspection exam when the time comes.
- Review Your Results
Lastly, you are expected to come up with a result and the only way to improve on the result is to review the outcome of your self – inspection. The essence of reviewing your results when preparing your food truck for health inspection cannot be overemphasized.
In reviewing your result, you are expected to work with your team, look at areas where you scored low and get suggestions from your team on how to improve on those areas. With that, you will be able to stay prepared. Please note that after the review, if need be, you can go all out to hire a professional to train and re – train your staff members to be able to stay above board and pass health inspections when the need arises.
17 Action Steps You Must Take To Pass Health Inspection
If you have read through all that is written above, then here are things you need to do to be able to prepare your food truck to pass Health Inspections on a regular basis;
- First things first, in order to successfully pass health inspection whenever they come calling, you must enforce regular and proper hand washing in your food truck especially by cooks and servers (everyone that handle foods).
- You must ensure that all your ingredients and food are gotten from a licensed and responsible source like a Grocery Store and food farms.
- You must ensure that the right temperatures are being maintained for food ingredients and some prepared foods. Due to the fact that food-borne sicknesses are the most dangerous, health inspectors pay attention to food holdings and temperatures that meat, poultry, and seafood products are stored in. He or she is also looking for bacteria, mold, and other health-related risks.
- You must ensure that you put processes and structure in place that can help you prevent cross-contamination between raw and uncooked ingredients.
- You must ensure that your food storage containers are well – labeled.
- You must make sure that your mobile vendor permit is current and valid for the form of business you are engaged in.
- You must ensure that the floors, walls, and ceilings of your commercial kitchen and food truck are properly cleaned and remain clean at all times.
- You must make sure that your meat thermometers are well calibrated for accurate readings and your chefs use meat thermometers to make sure meat is cooked correctly and at the right temperature.
- You must make sure that you and your staff members do not only read up on Health Codes but are subjected to training and re-training.
- You must make sure that all paper products and other service items for customers are stored in a clean place until they are used and cooked foods are served or refrigerated quickly.
- You must make sure that garbage and food waste are disposed off properly and the outside of the truck is clean and in good condition.
- You must make sure that all your licenses and permits are in order and most importantly that the truck has proper records for everything (including hand-washing, ingredients, cleaning schedules, etc.).
- You must make sure that your pest control meets international best practices.
- It is very important that you put in place efficient and health friendly approaches or procedures in order to limit bare-hand-contact with ready-to-eat foods. As a matter of fact, you must make sure that all your employees are up-to-date on food safety practices and can answer questions about proper handling and cooking procedures.
- You must make sure that all your employees are healthy, well-groomed, and wear appropriate garments or protective wear and your employees’ personal items are kept away from food preparation areas.
- It is also very important that you put in place a policy for reporting illnesses or injuries of your employees. This is so because if a customer complains of falling sick after purchasing and eating food from your food truck, health inspectors will check your medical reports to see if a sick employee handled food, and samples will be taken to see if the food was contaminated with an illness.
In conclusion, if you are able to read through the above article and you also go ahead to put into practice all the practical tips and clues given above, you can be rest assured that whenever Health Inspectors come inspecting your food truck, you will definitely pass, irrespective of the time and how they choose to carry out their inspection…Good luck to you and your food truck business.