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July 25, 2017

Food Truck Safety: Prevent Foodborne Illness with Remote Monitoring

Written by TempAlert

Food trucks are here to stay. What might have seemed a fad a decade ago is now BIG business. The food truck niche is projected to haul in a whopping $2.7 billion in 2017. It’s not just small players either, many of the largest national chains have trucks on the road, including Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut.

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Mobile Cuisine reports that up to 40,000 trucks may currently be operating—and that many of them are custom built. Being able to build a truck to meet your chain’s specifications has great advantages for your brand. However, in addition to the bells and whistles that set your trucks apart from the competition, it’s essential not to skimp on food safety. You want to be sure that refrigeration units and cooking technologies are holding your entire menu at the right temperature. Otherwise...

Chicken & Rice Guys: A Lesson Learned

Chicken & Rice Guys is a highly popular and successful business in the Boston area, with both food trucks and storefronts serving the public. Unfortunately, on April 5th of this year, reports started coming in about outbreaks of E. coli associated with their trucks. At least 15 people were sickened in one of the bigger foodborne illness outbreaks in Massachusetts. Ten of them had to be hospitalized. According to William Christopher, the commissioner of Boston’s Inspectional Services Division, this outbreak is unique for involving a business with so many parts. Chicken & Rice Guys has four eat-in or take-out restaurants, five food trucks, and a kitchen commissary that supplies the food it sells on its trucks.

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The Challenges of Food Truck Safety

The example of Chicken & Rice Guys is an excellent illustration of the unique challenges trucks can bring to food service. With five vehicles and a kitchen commissary, the chain must ensure that all six facilities maintain safe food preparation and handling. On top of that, the trucks are on the move, often stopped for hours in hot environments, and short on space for refrigeration and holding.

In fact, food regulators in Boston shut down food trucks more than four times as often as brick-and-mortar restaurants because of health violations. In 2016, nearly 10% of the city’s food trucks were targeted for immediate temporary shutdown due to health code violations. That’s an awfully high percentage. So, the challenge is: how can you centrally monitor your fleet of food trucks remotely to ensure that your entire menu is being prepared, held and served at the right temperatures?

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Food Truck Safety Tips

It’s not quite clear exactly what caused the E. coli infection at Chicken & Rice Guys. Many factors could have been involved. Mobile Cuisine, therefore, offers its Top 10 Food Truck Safety Tips to make sure all bases are covered: 

  • Train all staff properly. 
  • Enfore handwashing
  • Wash all produce. 
  • Properly store refrigerated foods. 
  • Cook foods to appropriate temperatures. 
  • Clean and sanitize all food contact surfaces. 
  • Perform self inspections. 
  • Know local health codes. 
  • Regularly check temperatures. 
  • Inspect all incoming food shipments. 

Note that three of the tips concern temperature.

A study conducted by the Environmental Health Specialists Network confirms the importance of temperature monitoring. It identified the key food handling practices that restaurant workers believed were the most important regarding food safety. Among those practices, temperature-related issues were predominant:

  • Cooking food to the right temperature
  • Keeping heated food hot
  • Keeping cooled food cold
  • Reheating food to the right temperature

TempAlert’s Food Monitoring Solution

While food truck safety may have more than its share of temperature monitoring challenges, TempAlert offers a comprehensive  Food Monitoring Solution that can meet them all.

  • Cellular Gateway: No matter where your trucks are located throughout the day, TempAlert’s Cellular Gateway ensures connectivity to the cloud. Because it works through cellular towers, rather than unreliable Wi-Fi networks, your safety team can see the temperature data virtually anywhere.

  • Web-based Platform: TempAlert’s web-based platform solves the challenge of central monitoring of remote trucks. From headquarters, a manager can view all equipment temperature readings across your entire fleet as they travel from location to location. Even better, they can monitor and manage any temperature excursion remotely.

  • Food Safety Checks: During a lunch rush, prepped ingredients must be held at appropriate temperatures. If not, they must be discarded (and therefore wasted); otherwise, they pose a serious health risk to customers (and your reputation). Using a TempAlert Bluetooth food probe integrated with digital food safety checklists ensures the safety of the prep line ingredients and proper cooking temperatures. They could also potentially triage situations where an ingredient must be thrown out due to improper temperatures, causing a shortage of a particular menu item, by notifying the brick-and-mortar location of the shortage. In addition, your team can digitize their opening and closing checklists to ensure smooth operations in the truck.

In short, TempAlert’s remote, continuous monitoring system provides complete visibility across your food truck fleet. From a central location, your safety team can see whether the food temperatures are inside or outside of food temperature compliance.

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Topics: Food Safety