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Is a food vendor clean? Check the condiments, says microbiologist

Look for vendors who use condiment pump dispensers, Jason Tetro suggests

cbc.ca July 8, 2018

Visitors to the Calgary Stampede will be streamed through the turnstiles this weekend and many of them enjoyed a multitude of tastes and flavours on offer from the food vendors.

An Alberta microbiologist, however, says outdoor eating at festivals and events can lead to food illnesses.

Jason Tetro says there's a key clue for customers to watch out for when they approach a food truck.

"Look at the condiments. If they are just open and there are spoons and things like that, then there's a very good likelihood that people will get their fingers in there," Tetro told Daybreak Alberta.

"And we know how well people wash their hands. There's going to be potential for contamination. If the condiment rack is like that, then there's a very good chance they aren't paying attention to the food safety as well."

Look for pump dispensers
Tetro says even if food is well cooked, bacteria can still exist around the condiments. He advises people to look for vendors who use pump dispensers.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says July and August are prime months for bacterial foodborne illnesses.

Tetro says that can be partially explained by the environment in which the food is prepared.

"In the winter when we do our cooking, we're in our kitchen," he said.

"We have our soap, detergents, disinfectants, running water, the stove. And when you are out in the backyard, or to the park or the festival, you lose those amenities. You're increasing the chances of cross-contamination, and undercooked meat could lead to problems, absolutely."

Tetro says to increase your personal food safety, keep disinfectant wipes or hand sanitizers handy.

Use a meat thermometer when cooking outdoors and at festivals or events, bring your own condiments.