Every Tuesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. the Austin Fire Department and sanitarians working for the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department gather at 1520 Rutherford Lane, the location of the Health Department, to wait for the first mobile food vendor to arrive for their annual operational permit renewal and equipment inspection.
The primary purpose of the renewal is to prove the vendor’s mobility. But to ensure safety, the fire department also examines the fire fuel source, which is generally propane, while the Health Department makes sure there is proper means to wash dishes, there is a place for food handlers to wash their hands, there is both hot and cold running water, the refrigerators are working at the right temperature and that the kitchen on wheels is fully enclosed, whether with a mesh screen or solid screen connected to the roof structure.
At 10 a.m. this morning I pulled into the parking lot of the Health Department and followed the white signs that pointed mobile vendors to the inspection site. At the time of my arrival, there were five mobile eateries lined up waiting for inspection, Cow Bells, Snow Balls, CupCaking Desire Bakery, David’s Lockhart BBQ and Taco Todo.
The process was quick and virtually painless. The main goal of The Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department is to protect public health and prevent the spread of food-borne illness and they want the restaurants to be in full working order just as much as we do. These inspections are just another way to ensure safe food handling.