In 2010, ALL food service establishments operating in NYC were subject to the Letter Grade System. There are 5500 mobile food vendors in NYC that prepare food, and serve it to the public every day, just like restaurants, but with less tools to ensure food safety. The System when implemented, didn’t apply to them… until now.
The NYC Department of Health officially announced that starting December 2018, all mobile food vendors (food carts and trucks) authorized to operate in NYC will be subject to a similar version of the Letter Grade System.
Just like restaurants, they will be inspected, receive points for violations and Letter Grades based on their score. Decals with the letter grade will be posted on every unit.
Having mobile food vendors subject to the Letter Grade System will undoubtedly improve sanitary conditions, allow consumers to make informed decisions based on inspection information that they will now have access to, and hopefully change negative public perception, created after unsanitary conditions were publicized. But besides the obvious benefits, there are some not so obvious concerns.
Unlike restaurants, mobile food vendors aren’t always located at the same address, making them more difficult to inspect. As a solution, location sharing devices will be attached to every unit, allowing inspectors to locate mobile vendors when they are due for an inspection. According to the Health Department, collected data will only be shared with DOH staff and its agents, and location data will be deleted from the tracking devices within 24 hours.
While that sounds promising, we live at a time when data breaches are common and privacy is becoming more and more difficult to protect. Tracking vendors with location devices that produce sensitive data is definitely cause for concern.
It will take approximately 2 years for all mobile food vendors to be brought under the system, very similar to the roll out for restaurants in 2010. Hopefully, the benefits will far exceed concerns… fingers crossed.
By Rada Tarnovsky Total Food Service December 19, 2018