F for filthy: displaying grades on food carts

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TOWNSEND HARRIS High School students are often seen eating from the food carts scattered around the Queens College campus. Each vendor sells a different selection of food, but they all share one thing in common: the absence of a sanitation grade.

Although carts must have regular sanitation inspections, they are not required to post their grades outside their establishments like restaurants are. After an inspection, the business will receive a letter grade from A to C that reflects how many of the health code guidelines they follow or violate. A grade of C, which can amount to 28 health code violations, will require the vendor or restaurant to close down.

Expectedly, customers often shy away from restaurants rated with low grades because they indicate the obvious disregard to cleanliness. Level C can indicate the use of spoiled food, both features that customers typically want to be aware of and stay away from.

The inspectors post the grades given to the food trucks online, but they do not require vendors to have the grade visible anywhere else, as restaurants do on the front of their establishments or somewhere customers can clearly see it.

The posting of this vital information online is rendered useless due to the difficulty in accessing it. In order to discover the grade of the cart or truck, the consumer must know the permit number, which most people tend not to do simply because they do not have the time. Food trucks’ main consumers tend to be people who don’t have ample time to sit and eat. While this is not always the case, customers usually cannot be bothered to go through a lengthy process to find out whether or not their food is safe to eat. It should be the vendors responsibility to guarantee that the food is being prepared under sanitary conditions.

Sometimes, food vendors do not have a permit at all or obtain one illegally. As consumers, it is our right to know what we are buying and eating. If the grade were posted outside, the customer would have a better sense of the conditions the chef prepared the food in, as well as give the vendors a motive to improve their sanitation conditions. Posting the grades outside would provide incentive for the vendors to keep a clean environment and improve their grade because it would directly have a result on their business. The higher the grade, the more likely people would buy their food. At the same time, the customers know that what they are consuming isn’t contaminated.

Customers and owners of food carts would both benefit from this implementation because consumers would have a more trustworthy opinion regarding the cleanliness of certain trucks and owners would experience potential business advantages with health regulations being on their side.