Kern County Public Services officials want consumers to be aware of the risks of unpermitted mobile vendors. The group has initiated a new campaign “Safe eats in Kern streets” to make the public aware of the risks of buying pork rinds, tacos and other items from unpermitted mobile vendors. The campaign was created after Public Health officials noticed an increase in the number of vendors selling products on the street. Many lack permits and their lack of education and certifications could put the public at risk of developing a foodborne illness. While only 1 in 6 will develop a foodborne illness each year, such illnesses are contracted by the consumption of inadequately prepared food.
To make the public aware of the ongoing problem and the risks involved, public health officials with Kern County have set up electronic billboards to inform locals to only buy foods from permitted mobile vendors. Permitted mobile vendors will feature a green permit. Public Health Officials encourage consumers to turn in any unpermitted vendor they encounter.
Subsequently, the group has take measures to simplify the process of submitting a tip to their department. By using the Safe Diner mobile app, consumers can easily provide public health officials with an unpermitted vendor’s name and location for investigative purposes. Officials confirm their program has already paid off, with 291 unsafe food handling practices being reported across the county. The number also includes reports pertaining to brick-and-mortar establishments.
While mobile vendors are required to follow the same safety protocols as their conventional counterparts, they tend to be some of the biggest offenders. Public Health Services Director Matt Constantine spoke with Bakersfield.com. He recalled owners scattering when public health inspectors rolling into an area containing several vendors. He also described one vendor selling corn from a cooler attached to his bicycle. The man fled from authorities, after agreeing to show them his home kitchen.
Constantine revealed the biggest problem associated with mobile vendors was the lack of a proper hand washing station. In order to crack down on the violators, public health inspectors have altered their schedules to allow them to work after dark. While the permit isn’t expensive, mobile food vendors must follow strict protocols, which regulate what they can sell and where they can sell it. Vendors are also expected to tell the public health department when and where they’ll be selling food.
Constantine highlighted the point that the county wants to work with the vendors. He believes they can succeed, but wants them to do so safely.