County wants public’s help with ‘Safe Eats on Kern Streets’

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A program launched Monday by the Kern County Public Health Services seeks to reduce foodborne illnesses associated with food trucks and street vendors while encouraging the public to report sellers who don’t have proper permits.

Based in Bakersfield, CA, the county’s public health department kicked off the “Safe Eats in Kern Streets” campaign Monday. Public Health Services Director Matt Constantine unveiled the campaign during a news conference, citing an increase in the “number of vendors and complexity of food being sold from the street in unsanitary manners.”

The county health officials are encouraging people to only buy food from vendors and food trucks that prominently display their large, green mobile food permits. They also want the public to report vendors who do not have permits.

To help with the public reporting aspect of the campaign, the Kern County health department has added a link in its “Safe Diner” mobile app to identify the location and name of a vendor for public health officials to investigate.

California health officials at the state and county levels have been concerned about street vendors — particularly those selling Mexican-style soft cheese — since late 2015.

In March 2016 the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) revealed it had been tracking a Salmonella outbreak for several months.

“Since November 2015, at least 50 patients have been infected with three different strains of Salmonella,” according to the March 2016 warning. “No deaths have been reported, but hospitalization has been required in several cases.

“The investigation into these cases is ongoing, but several patients have reported consuming potentially unpasteurized Mexican-style cheese purchased from street vendors before they became ill.”

County officials in Kern County reported at least seven people there were sickened from eating soft-cheese products from an unapproved vendor.

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