How to Keep Your Food Cart up to local Sanitary and Health Codes

This manual aims to provide a general guide to the running of a typical American hot dog stand daily. Researched and compiled in a clear and logical format, the information has been carefully researched. We've included several checklists and paperwork to make your life easier and to save you time. However, please let us know if you have any recommendations or notice any typographical problems.

Guidance for the Provision of Food Services

The completion of a food handling program before starting a hot dog cart service is strongly advised. These programs are usually taught or funded by the state or local health authority and therefore do not cost quite so much money to participate in. In addition, completing such a course is frequently a condition for acquiring operating permission for a new food seller in many jurisdictions. For more information about these courses, visit the website of your local municipal or health department. We also urge that you check with your county or local city health authority to determine the specific local codes that apply to vendor carts in your location, as these might differ from one place to the next. If a hotdog cart serves dairy-based condiments like grated cheese, mayonnaise, or even squeezed bottle cheese, it may also be prohibited by various health agencies from operating. Raw meat will not be permitted to be cooked by mobile food vendors in many places. This is because some foods are deemed to be harmful. When they are incorrectly stored or cooked, they are susceptible to rapid bacterial development. Poultry, meat, eggs, seafood, dairy products, garlic-in-oil mixes, cooked potatoes, and cooked rice are all examples of cross-contamination. All of the principles in this guidebook are largely universally applicable, and they are intended to keep you and your cart and your food safe and aesthetically pleasing. We have essentially attempted to compile the most helpful information possible from many federal, state, and local health agencies. The information is clearly presented that would be designed to be simple to comprehend and put into action. Please remember that you will be regarded as a food carrier by the health department authorities. As such, you must adhere to their special operating standards when operating your hotdog stand. Failing to adhere will put the health of your clients at risk and will very certainly lead to the loss of your operating licenses as well as financial penalties.

Instructions for Meat Handling, Preparation, and Storage

The sale of pre-cooked meat items, such as sausages or wieners, on hotdog carts, is restricted by many municipal health departments. These meat products must be grilled or barbecued on the cart. You may not even cook some raw meat (like beef, ground beef, pig, and poultry) may not even be cooked on the cart if they are deemed potentially hazardous to consumers. You should keep cooked meat at a consistently higher temperature than the minimum temperatures set by the health department. This needed storage temperature changes as well from one location to another. For example, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) advises a holding temp of 140°F or higher for infectious diseases. A thermometer must also be kept on hand by the hotdog vendor to keep track of the temperature of the food. You should keep refrigerated meat at a temperature below the recommended cold temperature. ACCORDING TO ITS GUIDELINES, the IDPH recommends that potentially dangerous items such as meats be kept at or below 41°F (4°C). This will need the cart vendor to have an additional thermometer on hand to keep track of the temperature. Additionally, the temperature of the icebox or refrigerator must be monitored by the cart operators frequently all through the day by the cart operator. We recommend that you do so every 2 hours or such. It is important to ensure that refrigerator panels or icebox coverings are not left wide open since this could increase the inner temperature above the cold storage threshold. As soon as you receive food from a supplier, check it for temperature deviations from the acceptable ranges and discard it. Put all perishable goods in appropriate storage containers as soon as possible after they are prepared. To be stored properly, pre-cooked meats and fresh meats must be chilled to the refrigerated temperature within one specified amount of time after they've been prepared. Example: The IDPH requires that cooked beef be brought to 70°F (21°C) in 2 hours and 41°F (4°C) inside another 4 hours after it has been brought to 70°F (21°C) (6 hours total). You should bring down fresh meats to 41°F (4°C) after 4 hours of being brought to room temp. Following the guidelines outlined above helps to keep the product fresh and avoids the development of microorganisms. Briefly stated, a health department will generally require that hot foods like sausages be kept above 140°F (60°C) and that frozen perishable goods be kept below 41°F (4°C). The temperature range around 41°F (4°C) and 140°F (60°C) is considered to be the danger zone for growth of bacteria and food degradation. Health officials will require that you first heat some items to specific degrees before enabling you to sell them to the general public. To serve pre-cooked hotdogs, they must be reheated to at least 165°F (74°C) before even being served. Put the thermometer lengthwise into the middle of the hotdog to accurately read the internal temperature. Avoid getting a falsely high-temperature reading; avoid passing your hand through the meat and touching the heating surface. Never rely on accurate equipment thermometers to attain the desired temperatures. Instead, always use a thermometer to check the temperature of the food you are preparing. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), initially, uncooked meats must always be cooked to the following recommended temperatures: Chicken = 180°F (82°C) Beef – Medium = 160°F (71°C) Beef – Well Done = 170°F (77°C) Ground Beef = 160°F (71°C) Pork = 170°F (77°C) The internal temperatures shown above should be reached and kept for a certain minimum period to ensure that the food is completely cooked before distribution. For instance, the IDPH suggests that beef, chicken, fish, or pork in the shape of steaks, chops, or entire pieces be cooked for at least 15 seconds to reach the appropriate temperature. The meat can then be placed in a storage area and kept at a temperature just above the required temperature (140°F or 60°C) until it is ready to be served. Once all these baseline cooking temperatures have been attained for the specified timeframes, you can serve the meat to customers. During the preparation and cooking process, you must exercise extreme caution to prevent the risk of cross-contamination between meat or any food items on the table. When working with raw, fresh, or frozen meats, exercise extra caution to avoid cross-contamination. You and your consumers can become ill and perhaps die if you serve meat with potentially harmful bacteria. The area used for meat preparation should be cleaned and disinfected before using it for any food preparation! Using a cutting board to divide frozen meat portions, for instance, requires the board to be cleaned and sanitized before you use it to chop onions. Every piece of equipment that comes into touch with meat must be cleaned and sanitized in the same manner as the meat. Alternatively, you can add one teaspoon (5ml) of chlorine bleach to 1 quart (1L) of water to create sanitizing solutions. Avoid re-using the same plate or surfaces used to prep or transport the raw (frozen or fresh) meat after it has been cooked. For example, if you were using a tray to carry frozen sausage from the icebox to the grill, you should not place the cooked sausage on the same trays you used to carry them. It has already been polluted by undercooked meat and should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before using it again. You should not handle raw, cooked, and frozen meat with the same tools. Fresh, raw, and frozen meats should all be viewed as potentially harmful, and anything that comes into contact with them should be considered contaminated. This includes blades, forks, or tongs that have been used to handle the meat throughout the preparation. They will have to be thoroughly cleaned and sterilized before you can use them again. You should use the shelf below and distinct from any food items to keep raw, fresh, or frozen meats so that they do not cross-contaminate them by leaking on them or otherwise coming into contact with them. Using the example above, a hotdog cart operator who relies on an icebox to hold chilled things would still need two iceboxes: meat and non-meat items. It is necessary to keep meats refrigerated with other items on the bottom shelves, below the other foods, to prevent them from spoiling. You should never store meat on the ground or the floor directly. Whenever possible, you should store food on something like a shelf that is elevated above the floor. Always remember to completely wash and disinfect food prep surfaces, equipment, and utensils after each use to prevent cross-contamination.

Keeping Condiments Safe, Preparing, and Serving

Municipal health agencies frequently prohibit hot dog cart vendors who offer dairy-based condiments like mayonnaise, grated cheese, or even squeezed bottle cheese. Some health authorities would only allow condiments to be offered from a cart if they do not need to be refrigerated once they have been opened. Before starting operations, it is important to verify with your local health department to ensure that you comply with all applicable local codes. If any such perishable condiments are permitted, you must adhere to the health regulations to ensure that all these condiments stay in good health throughout your working day. If you are authorized to use refrigerated condiments, store them at or below the prescribed temperature (typically 41°F or 4°C or lower). To do so, you will require a thermometer to keep track of the temperature. You must store food in clean, reusable containers that are well sealed to prevent pests, dirt, foliage, and rain from getting into the containers. According to several health regulators, glass jars with screw-on lids are not suitable as serving containers. After the day, if any condiments get contaminated, you must thoroughly clean them before being replaced with new content. Alternatively, you could always supply condiments in those single-serving plastic single-serving containers. It is not recommended to place condiments directly on the ground or floor. Whenever possible, store foods on a cabinet elevated above or below the ground or the floor. Among them are items that have been prepackaged, like certain condiments. Keep your condiments apart from your meats by storing them in a separate cooler or on racks below them. Keep your condiments away from any cleansers or chemicals to avoid contamination. All of these regulations are in place to ensure that the condiments do not become tainted in any way.

Keeping Safe Food Handling and Equipment

If you are sick, avoid working in the preparation of the food or service industry. It is when you are sneezing, runny nose, diarrhea, sore throat, vomiting, dark urine, yellowing of the skin, or are experiencing a fever or other symptoms of infection. If you have an untreated cut or burn abscess, or blister, you should avoid handling food. Always use foodservice protective gear over any scrapes, scratches, or burns to prevent further infection. Keep your hands away from food at all times. To avoid contamination, all food items must be treated with gloves, forks, tongs, spoons, or other utensils. Always maintain a clean stock of spare utensils inside a clean, closed container on-hand for emergencies. It's important to remember that everything that falls and touches the floor, whether food or a utensil, is deemed contaminated. Food that has been tainted in this manner should be discarded. This type of contamination should be cleaned with warm soapy water and disinfected before use again. A disinfecting solution is typically made up of one part chlorine bleach to two hundred parts water. Also, there are chemical sterilizing solutions that you may buy that are pre-mixed and ready to use off the shelf. Always keep a stash of food wrappers and adequate utensils on hand for your clients to ensure that they never come into direct contact with any food items. Please make sure to give consumers any guidance they may require so that they can guarantee food hygiene. At the end of each day's work, thoroughly clean and sterilize all of your foodservice utensils before storing them in a clean, reusable container. You should not put clean and used utensils together in one container because the used goods could infect the fresh ones. The local health authorities may demand you to get a basin for washing utensils in your kitchen. It is required by several health departments for hotdog carts to get as many as three or four sinks on the cart. According to several counties, a hot dog cart must have two sinks: rinsing and washing utensils and another sanitizing with chlorine bleach. The third sink will be used entirely for hand washing, with no other sinks. Check with the local health authorities to ensure that you are aware of the restrictions in your area. Hand hygiene is especially important when preparing food for others because unwashed hands can transmit a range of illnesses and viruses to those who consume the food. Hand sanitizer, hand soap, and disposable paper towels should be kept on hand at all times in a vendor cart to prevent cross contamination. It is required that you wash your hands promptly after using the restroom, sneezing, coughing, picking your nose, handling money, or touching rubbish or any other dirty or poisonous material in your job as a food service operator. Even if you've just washed your hands in another location, including a nearby washroom, you should wash your hands again when you re-enter the food service work space (the hotdog cart). In addition, you should clean your hands after you drink or eat, after smoking, after washing the dishes or other equipment, after cleaning or sweeping the floor, after handling raw, fresh, or frozen meat and any other food products, and before putting on food-handling gloves. Hands must be cleansed with soap and hot water after each use. The IDPH requires that hand washing water always be at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit. It is recommended that you bathe your hands for 15 to 20 seconds. Particular care shall be exercised to remove any dirt or contaminants that may have accumulated under the fingernails. Next, dry your hands with a single-use towel (like paper towels), a fresh towel on a roll dispenser, or using an air dryer to remove any remaining moisture. Using multi-purpose hand towels, like those used at home, is not permitted in the food service business because they can store and spread contaminants and germs. The wearing of gloves must never be construed as a way of circumventing the need for basic hand hygiene. Gloves could become contaminated, allowing germs to be picked up and spread. For example, when handling raw meat and then serving cooked food, you still wouldn't put on gloves because doing so would allow bacteria from raw meat to transfer to the prepared meal. Headgear, such as a cap or hairnet, should be used to keep hair contained and avoid it from falling into the food or getting into the mouth of others. A hair in your customer's food is something you don't want them to discover. It would almost certainly cost you consumers as well as your hard-earned image as a high-quality food provider in the process. Maintain the cleanliness and shortness of your fingernails. Wearing finger rings is not recommended since they can retain and transport food particles and bacteria, which can be transferred to clean food. Rings are also capable of cutting through gloves, rendering them ineffective. In serving or preparing food, refrain from smoking, chewing tobacco, eating, or drinking. To perform any of these duties, you should leave the food prep and serving area. To drink, eat, or smoke, you should move a short distance from your cart. Keep in mind when you go back to the cart, you will need to rewash your hands. You are, however, permitted to consume liquids from a sealed beverage container while being in the food preparation area. A drinking container with a lid will be required in this scenario. It also needs to have a grip to avoid your hand from coming into contact with the area where your mouth is. Alternatively, a drinking straw might be used, which would mean the same thing. Thoroughly wash the bottle between usage, or throw it away if it is not clean. You should wear clean and orderly attire at all times. Bacteria can be stored and transferred through soiled clothing. Therefore, every day or every work shift, putting on a fresh set of clean clothes is necessary. Avoid storing food on the ground or the first or second story. If you did this, it would be subjected to contamination by insects, dirt, water, and any leaks. Instead, you should always do it on a shelf elevated above the lower ground floor when storing food. You should not keep cleaning chemicals in the same area as food or food prep tools. They should be kept apart from food to avoid contamination and harm to the product. Keep all of these substances carefully labeled to prevent them from being misused.