Residents in Los Angeles County are looking for answers. The county, home to Tinseltown, is a thriving center of the growing food truck movement in the United States. At present, the county hosts more than 3,200 food trucks, selling everything from tacos to sushi. For the most part, L.A. County residents are perfectly happy to have such a successful, economically viable new food-scene. That being said, there is growing concern among residents and the county’s Department of Public Health that food trucks are serving a little bit more than their customers asked for.
A number of L.A. residents are reporting that after eating at some of the city’s popular food trucks, they came down with some nasty stomach bugs. Now, you might be thinking that getting an upset stomach from a bad piece of sushi is to be expected from time to time, but what if you heard that it could probably have been avoided? Consider, according to a recent report, 40% of the county’s food trucks haven’t been inspected in three years. The other 60% were only inspected once in the last year, despite state mandates calling for at least two annual inspections.
Because food trucks are inherently mobile, surprise inspections, a tactic the DPH relies on to get a real picture of an eatery’s compliance, are nearly impossible. For now, as the county mulls over greater oversight, the Department of Public Health is advising patrons of the food truck scene to visit the DPH website and take a look at the list of recent inspections, ensuring that the vendor they’re about to buy from is up to date.
Foodborne Illness is a Constant Concern in the States
For many, the lack of inspection of these mobile establishments is a non-issue. After all, a plethora of countries across the world allow their citizens to run unregulated restaurants on the streets without issue. Japan, most notably, let’s residents serve food for money out of their homes with minimal issues. For many in the worldly Los Angeles, complaints from the Department of Public Health and others are simply overreactions.
It’s important to note, however, that foodborne illness in the United States afflicts millions of people every year. The most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control show that 48 million Americans become ill after eating bad food each year, with 128,000 needing to seek medical treatment. While annual deaths from foodborne illness are relatively low, only measuring around 3,000 annually, there’s no denying that food poisoning is a real issue.
Increased Oversight isn’t Going to Stop the Food Truck Revolution
In the end, increased oversight and enforcement of public health laws needs to become a reality in L.A. County and throughout California. Critics of instituting any new rules against what has traditionally been a volatile, sensitive market say that increased oversight will hinder the growth of a micro-economy that has been a great source of income for the county.
However, those criticisms are likely unfounded. Food trucks throughout the United States have gained stable footing, now generating an estimated $650 million in revenue per year. Whether at New York’s award-winning Red Hook Lobster Pound, winner of the Daily Meal’s coveted number one spot for best food truck in the States or at Kogi BBQ, L.A.’s own golden child, a little oversight isn’t going to be slowing anybody down. Delicious food that’s safe to eat, it’s no stretch to say, will likely improve the fate of the food truck movement overall.