Every restaurant in New York City is graded for meeting Health Department food safety standards — and food carts and trucks should be evaluated the same way, according to Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz.
The Forest Hills-based legislator introduced on Wednesday, Feb. 1, a bill (Intro. 1456) mandating that the city Health Department inspect and issue letter grades from A to C to the operators of mobile food vendors selling everything from hot dogs to halal food, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches to Belgian waffles, and many other edible items.
The cart owners would be required to prominently display the letter grades on their carts and trucks for customers to see before ordering.
“You go to a food cart and you really don’t know its sanitary condition,” Koslowitz said in a statement. “Our current grading system works well for restaurants, and I believe it would be good for the city food carts as well. The consumer has a right to know to what degree a cart is in compliance. This way, the public can make an informed choice as to whether to eat at a particular food cart.”
The city’s restaurant grading system has been in place since 2010. Health Department inspectors conduct food safety checks at 24,000 eateries across the five boroughs annually and grade each location for compliance with regulations on practices including food handling, food temperature, personal hygiene, facility and equipment maintenance and vermin control.
Points are added to a restaurant’s score based on the severity of the violation discovered; lower scores indicate that a restaurant is in greater compliance with food safety regulations. Restaurants are given A grades if it scored 13 or fewer points in an inspection; a B grade for scoring between 14 and 27 points; and a C grade if it scored 28 or more points.
According to the Health Department, a restaurant has two chances to earn an A in every inspection cycle. Restaurant grades must be posted on the front window or door of a restaurant in plain sight of any visitor; the public can also see an establishment’s grades on the Health Department’s online listing.
Two other Queens City Council members — Barry Grodenchik and Rory Lancman — have signed onto the mobile food vendor grading bill as co-sponsors. The legislation has been referred to the City Council Health Committee for further consideration.
“It’s simply about consumer protection, forewarned is forearmed,” Koslowitz concluded.