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Street Food Hygiene . . . or Utter Lack Thereof


Restaurants & Bars

Street Food Hygiene . . . or Utter Lack Thereof

Pam Sommers | Jul 29, 1999 04:00 PM

Warning to all eaters of street souvlakis, chicken
kabobs, etc.:

Out of nowhere a few weeks ago, dozens of carts
appeared on our Hell's Kitchen (Clinton South, if you
prefer) block in the mornings preparing their food for
the day. When I say "on our block" I really mean it
literally. There they were on the street chopping
vegeatables, handling meat, cosolidating vats of
condiments and my favorite, combining stainless steel-
tubs-ful of raw chicken and marinade, up to the elbows
with their bare hands, the tubs sitting directly in
the gutter - not even a sheet of plastic between the
basin and broken glass, dog shit, automotive oil,
condoms, etc. There are no kitchen facilities on the
block; no restrooms, nada. They re-appear at the end
of the day to "wash" up and clean their carts, sharing
the water flowing out of an illegally opened hydrant,
creating a river of slimy, greasy food-flecked water
flowing down our block. The carts have been gone for
2 days now. The people to whom we first spoke at the
health department were frighteningly un-alarmed by
this situation, but we must have finally impressed
them with our determination after calling relentlessly
for a week. (My favorite part of the calls: I tell
them that the prep took place between 8 and 8:45 AM
and "clean up" after 6. The supervisor then told me
that they only send inspectors out between 9 & 5.
Sigh...I made sure to get his name so when I read
about people being felled by food poisoning, I would
be able to relate our conversation accurately to the
powers-that-be. That perked him right up.) In any
case, they must have finally come and moved the cart-
men elsewhere, but my hunch is it wasn't to clean,
regulated kitchen facilities, it was probably to some
other block where they are preparing food under
similar conditions.

Eat at your own risk, folks.

If you ever need to make a similar complaint, the
number of the Health Department is (212) 442-1838. You
will be given a complaint number. Record it and then
follow up in a few days at this number: (212) 676-1600
(Mobile Vending Complaint Department) if no change in
the situation is apparent.

Alas, the wheels grind exceedingly slowly at the
health department....

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