Keeping Food Safe: Fairs, Festivals and Food Trucks

Food trucks

When serving food outside, keep these six food safety tips in mind.

Stringent adherence to food-safety practices is just as critical away from your operation—at outdoor fairs, festivals and markets, special events, food trucks, etc.—as it is within the four walls of your business.

Follow these six practices keep food safe. 

1. Maintain time and temperature control

Some foods require time and temperature control in order to safely avoid bacterial overgrowth and the spread of foodborne illness. These are known as Temperature for Food Safety(TFS) foods and include items such as eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, cut tomatoes and melons, rice and beans. All TFS foods need to be kept out of the temperature danger zone 4°C (40°F) and 60°C (140°F). If you are serving food outside in a hot climate, use proper refrigeration to keep cold foods at 4°C (40°F) or below. On the same note, even though it may be hot outside, it is still important to hold hot food at 60°C (140°F) or above. Always check the temperature of TFS foods after cooking to ensure they are safe for eating.

2. Prevent cross-contamination

Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria or other microorganisms are unintentionally transferred from one substance or object to another. To prevent this, use separate cutting boards and kitchen utensils so that ready-to-eat items such as lettuce aren’t contaminated with raw meat, poultry or fish. When moving food around never place food carriers on the ground; elevate them onto tables, seating or staging areas. When serving food, consider using pre-portioned or wrapped items so customers can grab and go without the fear of contamination.

3. Clean and sanitize food-contact surfaces

Before service, properly clean and sanitize any surface where food will be served or consumed, including carts, utensils, equipment, tables and serving stations. 

4. Follow proper hand-washing practices

Hand-washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infection and foodborne illness. If serving food outside at a festival or similar setting, make sure a hand-washing sink is accessible to anyone that will be preparing food. Hand sanitizer is not a suitable replacement for hand-washing with soap and water. All staff should wash their hands before and after meal service. 

5. Cooking/serving considerations 

Clean or running water must be available on-site at any location which food is being prepared. When replenishing your food, bring out refills of raw food as needed just prior to cooking. This keeps food temperatures from reaching unsafe levels. Serve food immediately to ensure the quality is being maintained.

6. Make a plan for unused portions

Determining whether unused portions can be served again depends on your location and the regulations enforced there. Contact your local health department for specific regulations. As a general rule, throw away all perishable foods that have been held at room temperature for more than two hours. The cooked food must be reheated to its original cooking temperature within two hours. The cold foods must be held at 4°C and 40°F, or below. 

Rules of the road for food trucks

Because regulations vary by location, food-truck operators must check out regulations within their municipality. Here’s an example of food-truck regulations for Hamilton, Ontario, but they may differ from those in Surrey, British Columbia:

What is consistent across Canada is that every food truck is subject to an inspection, just as restaurants are, and that there must always be a certified food handler supervising the food truck. In addition, anyone handling food must be a certified food handler. 

For more information about food-truck regulations, visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) website.

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