One of the most well-loved summer traditions is attending food festivals. There’s nothing like gormandizing a multitude of food offerings coupled with other fun sights and experiences: music, games, rides and even artwork.
Foodborne illnesses are more prevalent in the summer than any other time of the year. For starters, foodborne bacteria multiply faster in the warm weather. Many people opt to cook and eat outside, where the usual safety controls that the confines of a regular kitchen offers are not implemented. With regards to summer food festivals, there’s a number of challenges in keeping food safe in such a crowded, outdoor environment. Dust, rain, insects, excessive heat, and limited working space, storage and lighting, are just some of the elements that may contribute to food contamination.
Food festivals are a place to try everything, especially if each vendor offers something unique on their menu. FoodFacts.com urges you to take the time to scope out which vendors are implementing good food handling protocol. Here are some things you should look out for:
- Safety certification. Vendors are inspected before (or at the beginning, at the very least) of festivals. Most these certificates are displayed on their trucks and/or booths.
- Food preparation can get messy in a regular kitchen. It can get even messier in makeshift ones. Nonetheless, food trucks or booths should be reasonably clean and in order.
- Vendors employ safety food handling practices:
- they use gloves, tongs and utensils;
- they separate pre-prepared/pre-cooked items from fresh items.
- they separate dry goods from wet goods.
- they keep cold items cold, and hot items hot.
- Vendors keep a keen eye on every step of the food preparation process, such as cooking, putting ingredients together, adding condiments and so on.
- Vendors should practice division of tasks: one person takes orders and deals with money while the other prepares and hands the food over to the customer. In such cases as there is only one person manning the food truck or booth, necessary practices should be implemented.
- Observe the workers – Do they keep their work surfaces clean? Do they wash their hands? When you see food vendors taking the time to do these things in between tasks, you know that they are committed to food safety.
Keep these in mind when you head out to your next food festival. Take in all the fun sights and sounds, but not the foodborne illnesses!
If you or a family member have contacted foodborne illnesses, call your healthcare provider immediately. For serious cases, take afflicted to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.