Other Healthy Food Handling and Equipment Guidelines:
Do not work in food preparation or service when you are sick. This includes when you are sneezing, have a runny nose, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, dark urine or yellowing of the skin (jaundice) or fever. Do not handle food if you have an infected cut or burn, pus or boil. Always wear food service gloves over any cuts, abrasions, or burns.
Never touch food with your bare hands. All food items should be handled using gloves, tongs, forks, spoons or other utensils. Always keep a clean supply of spare utensils in a clean covered container. Remember that if anything falls and hits the ground, whether it is food or a utensil, it is considered dirty. Such contaminated food must be thrown out. Such contaminated utensils must be washed in soapy warm water and sanitized before being used again. A sanitizing solution usually consists of 1 part chlorine bleach in 200 parts water. There are also off-the-shelf pre-mixed chemical sanitizing solutions that can be purchased.
Always have a supply of food wrappers and proper utensils available to your customers so that they never directly touch any food items with their hands. Kindly provide instructions to customers as needed so they maintain food hygiene.
Clean and sanitize all your food service utensils at each days end and store them in a clean washable covered container. Never mix clean and used utensils in the same container, as the used items would contaminate the clean ones.
The local health department may require you to have a sink for washing utensils. Many health departments actually require hotdog carts to have as many as 3 or 4 sinks on the cart. For example, some counties specify that a hot dog cart have one sink for washing and rinsing utensils and one for sanitizing in chlorine bleach. The third sink would be devoted solely to hand washing. Check carefully with your local health authorities for the regulations in your area.
Hand sanitation is especially critical when serving food to others as many diseases and bacteria are passed on by unwashed hands. A vendor cart therefore should have hand soap, hand sanitizer and disposable paper towels on hand at all times.
As a food service operator you are required to wash your hands immediately after using the toilet, coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, handling money, or after touching garbage or any or unsanitary or toxic item. You must also wash your hands when you re-enter the food service work area (the hotdog cart) even if you have just washed them in another place such as in a nearby washroom. You must also wash your hands after eating, drinking, smoking, washing dishes, washing other equipment, sweeping or mopping the floor, handling raw, fresh or frozen meat or any other food items, and even before putting on gloves to handle food.
Hands should be washed using hot water and soap. The IDPH specifies that hand washing water be at least 110°F. You should lather your hands for 15-20 seconds. Attention should be given to removing any dirt or contamination under the fingernails. Then dry your hands using a single use towel (such as paper towels), a clean towel on a roller dispenser, or by an air dryer. Multi-use hand towels such as are used at home are not acceptable in the food service industry as these can store and transfer contamination and bacteria.
The use of gloves should never be seen as a means to short cut proper hand sanitation. Gloves can become contaminated and pick up and spread germs. For example, you would not use gloves to handle raw meat and then also to serve cooked food as this would transmit bacteria from the raw food to the cooked food.
Proper headgear such as a hat or hairnet must be worn to contain hair and prevent it from falling and contaminating the food. You do not want your customer to find a hair in their food. It would surely cost you customers and your hard earned reputation as a quality food vendor.
Keep your fingernails clean and trimmed short. It is unwise to wear finger rings as these can trap and carry food particles and bacteria and transfer them to clean food. Rings can also cut through gloves making them useless.
Do not smoke, chew tobacco, eat or drink when serving or preparing food. You must leave the food preparation and serving area for any of these activities. Move a short distance away from your cart to eat, drink or smoke. Remember that you must then wash your hands when you return to the cart.
You are however allowed to drink from a closed beverage container while in the food service area. Such a beverage container would need to have a lid on it. It must also have a handle to prevent your hand from touching the area that your mouth touches. Otherwise it could have a drinking straw that would accomplish the same purpose. Always wash the container between uses or discard it.
Your clothing must be kept clean and neat. Soiled clothing can store and transfer bacteria. A fresh change of clean clothes must be worn each day or each work shift.
Never store food on the ground or floor. To do so would subject it to contamination from dirt, insects, water, and any spills. Food must always be stored on a shelf raised off of the floor or ground.
Do not store cleaning chemicals alongside food or food preparation utensils. They must be stored completely separate from food to prevent contamination and poisoning. Keep all such chemicals clearly labeled so they are not misused.
Most health departments require a roof or umbrella to be installed over a cart to protect the food service area from rain, falling leaves, and blown debris and bird droppings.
Have a garbage container on hand at all times. Never allow it to over-flow. Dispose of any garbage as required. Sanitize the garbage container at the end of each day to prevent odor.
Always keep your food preparation and serving areas looking clean. Clean up spilled condiments and wrappers to keep the area looking neat and clean.