After a night of hard drinking, street meat can be a lifesaver. But in the morning, we hope the liquor is the reason you’re bent over the toilet, not the suspect hot dog you chowed down on. So how do you safely beat the spins without getting food poisoning?
We don’t want you to follow the rules (never!) but your street meat vendor should. Keep an eye out if the cart isn’t following basic practices, a real red flag that should convince you to walk away. Does the cart offer mayo or cheese with their condiments? They’re considered “hazardous dairy products” when not refrigerated. Is anything other than pre-cooked meats offered (such as chicken and hamburgers)? That can be dangerous, too. If the cart owner is ignoring such basic rules, we shudder to think what bigger violations are going on.
At the end of the day, it is all about using your good judgement. According to representatives of the City of Toronto, whether you’re buying food from a mobile stand or a restaurant, they’re all considered a commercial business, or “food premises.” The same inspections and standards apply to them all. So you shouldn’t feel less safe buying from a cart than a restaurant.
You can always catch someone on a bad day, though, and without four walls protecting the food like in a restaurant, a food stand may be more vulnerable to problems. Look for any health hazards that you wouldn’t want in your home – issues like mold and pests.
There’s actually a downside to the regulations we’re talking about. Because food carts are so restricted in what they can make and offer, it’s actually holding back our city from having a great food cart scene. Vendors can’t make anything at home, it all needs to be store bought. And with such creative and talented cooks in Toronto, we could certainly come up with something more creative and delicious than pre-cooked meats. For now, though, it seems like it’s safety first.
So have no (or at least very little) fear when indulging in your 3am sausage. And then go to bed. Good luck with that hangover.