CORPUS CHRISTI — You may have spotted these restaurants on wheels throughout town, or maybe you've eaten at one yourself. We're talking about food trucks. They're a big rage in Corpus Christi, but how do you know their food is safe and sanitary?
Food trucks are becoming more popular in the Coastal Bend. In fact, in the past few years, the number of food trucks in Nueces County has doubled. Now there are more than 300 food trucks permitted in the county, that serve their tasty treats to thousands of customers.
"New locations are coming about with the downtown area and across the board, so I definitely see this as a growing business for Corpus Christi," said Jennifer Richter, a public health inspector with the City-County Health Department.
As food trucks have been busy opening their windows, health inspectors like Richter also have their hands full too. Just like with restaurants, they're required to inspect every permitted food truck.
In January of every year, each food truck is required to get an inspection with the health department and with the fire department. The health department checks for things like, whether food is being stored at proper temperatures, and whether the running water in these trucks is hot enough to kill germs.
They also check to make sure everything is properly labeled, employees are washing their hands, and a screen is on the windows to keep bugs out.
"For the safety of the community and everybody, this food that we're eating and putting into our mouths, we got to have everything clean," said Betty Lopez, the co-owner of R&B Funnel Cakes and More.
Betty Lopez owns the truck with her husband Ricky Lopez, and after being in business for five years, they know what it takes to get those orders out the window.
"It's a lot of work behind the scenes to get everything prepared and ready for the event," said Ricky Lopez.
To pass inspection however, the manager of each food truck and every employee must also have their food-handler permit. Plus, every employee must undergo a background check.
Meanwhile the fire department also checks for things like a working fire extinguisher, and proper ventilation.
So once a food truck passes its inspection, the manager gets their health permit and vending permit, which is needed to park at different locations around the city and county.
To see if a food truck is up to date on their inspections and permits, just look for a green sticker placed on the back top right corner of the truck.
While food truck inspections are pretty similar to restaurant inspections, they're inspected more frequently, because public health inspectors do random inspections especially at a food truck festival or large event.
"We get inspected every event, mostly every event," said Ricky Lopez. "So we just have to be ready and have everything ready to go."
So the next time you're wondering is the food from that food truck okay to eat? Just remember:
"The public should feel really safe about eating in these places," said Richter.
"If we're getting good scores, we're doing real good, don't hesitate to come and eat from a food truck," said Ricky Lopez.
If a problem is found with a food truck during a health inspection, the food truck must close until the problem is resolved.
Inspection reports for food trucks or restaurants are available to the public on the city's website. You can check out those reports out here.