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Durham Health Department Campaigns Against Illegal Food Vendors

A picture of hot dogs in a hot dog stand.
The Durham County Department of Public Health is reacting to concern about mobile vendors who sell food without a permit.

The Durham County Department of Public Health wants consumers to know if food from mobile food vendors is coming from somebody who has a permit to sell it.

Environmental Health Director Christopher Salter said the department is also working to inform vendors of food safety regulations, which bar home food prep and selling from a stand without a permit.

"A lot of the people are not originally from North Carolina, and they may not be from the United States, and they come from a country where it's common to do that. They just don't understand the fact that they can't do that here," Salter said.

Salter said there are 126 mobile food units acting legally in the county. They are heavily scrutinized for healthy food preparation and storage practices. Salter said these vendors not only pose a health risk, but they undercut the businesses of food vendors who follow the legal channels.

"I know that they're just trying to make a living, they're trying to get by," Salter said. "But we have the rules and regulations and what's right and wrong, and bottom line is we have to protect the public health."

Salter added the Durham County Department of Public Health is working to create and post illustrated, informational signs about food safety regulations. More information is available in Spanish on the department's website.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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