Food Vendors Try to Keep Cool in Extreme Heat

By: Mark Tenia Email
By: Mark Tenia Email

July 8, 2010

The hot weather is tough on people who make their living working outdoors, like food vendors who have carts on the Downtown Mall.

The hot days haven't been great for business if your business is selling hot dogs. Many vendors said it's a constant battle to keep foods that are supposed to be cold out of what's called "the danger zone."

Tom Jakubowski is back behind his cart after missing a few days while in the hospital because of heat exhaustion. Staying hydrated is just one of the challenges he's facing in the hot weather, as he tries to sell hot dogs.

Keeping foods at the right temperature is another obstacle.

Health codes require foods to be out of the "danger zone" -- keeping foods heated above 135 degrees or cold below 41 degrees -- meaning more money for vendors and a closer eye on their food in these high temperatures.

"If you're in the 70s or 80s, you can get by with about 60 pounds of ice with what I do," Jakubowski said. "If it gets up into the 80s, you're looking at about 80 pounds. Probably about 100 pounds of ice today."

Food left out of the danger zone for hours can cause bacteria and some serious problems. It could even leave customers going to the hospital.

"This type of year, some of our regular restaurants are really challenged with refrigeration equipment, if the kitchens especially are hot," said Eric Myers, an environmental health supervisor.

Restaurants that had temperature violations in the past month -- including C&O and Little John's -- all had food that should have been stored below 41 degrees. The violations were corrected during the inspection.

For vendors outside, the high temps have meant more money spent on ice and less business.

Vendors said they expect business to start heating up again once the temperatures start to go down.

The health department says it is constantly working with all restaurants, both inside and out, to make sure food is properly stored, but that it doesn't have sufficient staff to increase inspections during hot weather.

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