Beware Unlicensed Food Vendors
City Department of Health (DOH) officials are again warning Queens residents to be alert when purchasing food from unlicensed street vendors.
DOH officials said purchasing food from licensed vendors is the safest way to avoid food poisoning, salmonella and other illnesses when eating or snacking at street fairs, festivals and on busy shopping strips. Unlicensed vendors often do not have proper cooling equipment to safely store and serve prepared food, officials said.
“People are taking a health risk when they purchase food from vendors who are not licensed and regulated by the city,” the officials said.
Queens police officials said officers are constantly on the lookout for shady vendors or those who are preparing and serving food in a questionable manner.
Patrol officers at the 114th Precinct have been vigilant in the past – even arresting a vendor who was selling pizza pies out of a vehicle with no refrigeration, officials said.
“If they see something questionable, officers check for a valid license and determine if vendors safely prepare and store food in refrigerated equipment,” officials said. “If a vendor is not licensed, officers pull them, their equipment and food off the street.”
Restaurant owners along commercial strips in Astoria and Long Island City have been battling with city officials for several years, to come down hard on unlicensed food vendors.
“They pull up in vans or station wagons, set up shop in the vehicles and sell food at crazy low prices,” one frustrated owner said. “People see low prices and common sense goes out the window.”
Restaurant and diner owners complain that the unlicensed vendors treat summonses issued by Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) inspectors as “a price of doing business.”
Owners said the vendors remain on the street after they receive the DCA summonses because “It’s cheaper than renting a store, paying insurance and everything else involved in running a legitimate business.”
Meanwhile, the vendors take business away from restaurants by snagging customers with rock bottom prices, the owners said.
Queens residents and business owners are urged to call 311 to report unlicensed vendors or to request immediate police response.
A DCA spokesperson said shoppers have the right to ask a street food vendor for his/her license prior to making a purchase. If the vendor is unlicensed, shoppers are urged to call 311 for police response, the spokesperson said.