Durham Health Officials Concerned about Illegal Food Vendors

Durham Health Officials Concerned about Illegal Food Vendors
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July 21, 2015

While food trucks seem to be a consistent cause for conversation, some mobile vendors have Durham County officials concerned.

Their beef isn't with those operating legally, but those that are operating without a permit, which means they aren't being properly inspected.

The illegal operations that sell prepared food out of their truck are angering their competitors who spend considerable time and money on following strict food preparation and permitting regulations to ensure the public doesn't get sick.

The Herald-Sun reports that the problem has been going on for years and that one of the challenges that health officials face is their inability to cite offenders.

Chris Salter, environmental health division director at the Durham County Department of Public Health, explained to the Herald-Sun that their standard procedure is to speak with the vendor and ask them to stop, but they're often back the next day. The police then come in and cite the vendors with a misdemeanor for ignoring the requests.

Sometimes the vendors can't read or speak English making difficult communication between health officials and those selling food. The health department is working on a campaign to educate vendors of the permitting requirements.

WUNC reports that there are about 125 legal vendors operating in Durham County.

N.C. State professor Ben Chapman writes on his blog, Barfblog, that food sold out of an SUV isn't the only food safety concern. "As I peruse my Facebook feed and the Wake Forest Community Information page, there's food that folks are selling out of their homes," he writes. "Like cupcakes and pesto."

For lovers of mobile food, a licensed vendor will have the same grade card as brick-and-mortar restaurants.