|Major cities and smaller locations around the United States are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of food trucks. The influx of food trucks has been so overwhelming that several cities have found the regulations governing the operation of these vehicles to be outdated. Current regulations and guidelines vary around the United States and lack uniformity in the policies governing the operation of these foodservice vehicles.
The purpose of this study is to investigate food safety knowledge and current training methods of food truck managers/owners through the lens of the Social Cognitive Theory concepts. A mixed method approach was used to examine food safety knowledge and practices, training methods, attitudes towards food safety training, and the implementation of food safety training methods all relating to the food truck sector. A survey instrument was developed post literature review, examination of laws and regulations, focus group data, and interview contributions. The participants surveyed in this study included 271 food truck managers/owners who were members of state food truck associations. Associations were chosen to represent a national sample from across the United States.
This study discovered a significant lack of knowledge in food safety, as only 27.4% of the surveyed respondents showed acceptable knowledge in the areas of personal hygiene, food preparation, cleaning and sanitizing, and safe chemical handling. The results indicated that the respondents who acknowledged their previous food safety training via studying a manual and computer-based instruction tended to yield higher food safety knowledge scores.
Results of this study partially supported the use of Social Cognitive Theory to predict positive food safety scores. Behavior intention was seen to be the best predictor of a passing food safety knowledge score. Based on the findings, the study proposes training methods influenced by the SCT concepts that food truck managers/owners can incorporate into their training programs. In addition, a food truck food safety manual was developed based on the SCT concepts, providing training activities suited to the needs of a food truck operation. The qualitative results revealed that managers/owners have an overall positive attitude towards food safety training. Similar findings were revealed by the survey results. The study discovered a significant lapse in the number of inspections of food trucks taking place around the country, as 60% of the interviewees indicated that they have yet to be inspected.
Research in this sector of foodservice is in an infancy period. Future research is needed to determine the rationale behind this lapse as the safety of the public is at risk. The laws and regulations throughout the nation are unstable as many cities/counties continue to change their rules. Future studies may assess the reliability of nationally accredited certification programs and determine if these programs should be adjusted to meet the challenges of food safety training in the mobile food sector.