Trendy trailers in trendy Austin face food safety changes

Trendy trailers and mobile food vendors are now facing tougher regulations in Austin, Texas.

KVUE News reports that late Thursday afternoon, Health and Human Services subcommittee members approved new regulations to regulate an industry that has doubled in popularity during the past four years.

Council member Laura Morrison, who serves on the Health and Human Services subcommittee, was quoted as saying,

“The bottom line is if you have people serving food on a shift for eight hours a day, it’s important to make sure there are accommodations for them to have safe hygiene and wash their hands. Public health is what we are all about when we look at this. We want to make sure there is enough controls in place to make sure we aren’t subjecting the public to foodborne issues.”

Some mobile food vendors choose to rent commercial kitchen space to prepare food. Under the new regulations, the formal agreements must be certified by a notary to ensure food safety.

The City of Austin is forecasting more than 1,600 mobile food vendors in 2011.

Hockey hat trick hats are often discarded for sanitary reasons

After three games of the Stanley Cup finals with Detroit leading Pittsburgh 2-1, and some of the best hockey in years, I finally have a reason to blog about it.

Puck Daddy asked today, What happens to hats thrown for hat tricks?

It all comes down to sanitation.

In hockey, when a player scores three goals in a game, it’s called a hat trick, and after the third goal, the ice is often littered with hats from fans.

One of hockey’s greatest traditions, the tossing of hats on the ice when a player scores thrice evolved from local businessmen handing out fedoras to players about 90 years ago. During the 1970s, fans built on that tradition by tossing hats on the ice, and the NHL eventually amended its rule book to say that "articles thrown onto the ice following a special occasion (i.e. hat trick) will not result in a bench minor penalty being assessed" to the home team for delay of the game.

So where do all of these hat-trick hats eventually end up?

1. The Players Keep the Hats.

2. The Garbage: Remember what mom used to say about wearing other kids’ hats back in elementary school? Turns out that health concerns about the indiscriminate origin of the hats is a consideration.

Mike Sundheim, media relations for the Carolina Hurricanes, said that a portion of the hats that are in decent shape are given to the players, but that "the majority of the older, well-worn ones pretty much have to go in the trash because of health concerns."

That was echoed by VP of communications Tom McMillan of the Pittsburgh Penguins, although he said a student once did a project with the Penguins in which he took hats thrown on the ice, had them "cleaned and medically approved" and then donated them to charity.

Colleges dumping cafeteria trays – what about cross-contamination?

The New York Times reports that scores of colleges and universities across the country are shelving cafeteria trays in hopes of conserving water, cutting food waste, softening the ambience and saving money.

The story has lots of the usual fuzzy stuff about sustainability but mentions nothing about sanitation. In the absence of trays, the silverware better stay on the plate because the accumulated microbiological mess on the cafeteria tables would cross-contaminate any forks, knives and spoons that were placed on the table.

Trendspotting: Shopping cart sanitation

Some of you may remember the 2004 International Association for Food Protection meting in Phoenix. At a local supermarket I found this sanitizing system for shopping carts displayed prominently. That’s when I started to think, maybe food safety can be marketed.

A few months later and I was in the Gold Coast, Australia, for a food safety meeting. I told one journalist about this new trend I’d observed –always gotta be trendspotting – of more prominent use of sanitizers in grocery stores.

That turned into,

“Doug Powell, a food safety expert from Canada, says a decision to put hand wipes in supermarkets and provide sanitising towels for shopping trollies has been successful in reducing the number of food poisoning cases in the US and Canada.”

And it ran all over Australia.

So I wrote a letter which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and read in part,

“The use of hand wipes in supermarkets and sanitizing towels for shopping carts has been experimental at best in the U.S., and has not and cannot be correlated with any reduction in foodborne illness (Shoppers urged to clean hands to wipe out food-borne diseases, October 11/04, Sydney Morning Herald).

“However, as the Food Safety Information Council correctly noted, and as I stressed during the interview, any measure — whether on the farm, in processing, at food service, in the home, and yes, at retail — that can enhance food safety awareness should be explored and encouraged.”

Now it appears some such work has been done.

USA Today reports today that supermarkets and other retailers that provide shopping carts are increasingly looking to limit germ exposure for customers and their families.

“A ShopRite supermarket in Passaic, N.J., installed a push-through cleaning machine on Tuesday that sprays each shopping cart between uses with a misty peroxide solution to kill bacteria, according to Jim Kratowicz, president of PureCart Systems, the manufacturer of the machine. …

“Studies conducted in 2006 and 2007 by FoodNet found riding in a shopping cart beside meat and poultry is risky for infants under six months.

“Doing so triples the chance they may contract salmonella and quadruples it for campylobacter, a diarrhea illness, according to Olga Henao, an epidemiologist for the CDC.

“Infants can become ill when they transfer bacteria from the packaging into their mouths, Henao said. Also, if raw juices leak out onto the cart, it can create a bacteria risk for the next infant in the cart, she said.”

Trendspotting is just so hip. Here’s Demetri Martin with his own trendspotting.