2015-04-29 / Front Page

Officials Warn Of Dangers Of Unlicensed Vendors' Food

By Liz Goff

City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOH) officials are once again warning Queens residents to take caution when purchasing food from unlicensed street vendors.

DOH officials said licensed vendors are your best bet when purchasing food at street fairs, festivals and on busy shopping corridors. Unlicensed vendors often do not have proper cooking and cooling equipment to store and serve 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.

Officials at the 114th Precinct said police officers are constantly on the lookout for shady vendors or those who are preparing and serving food in a questionable manner, while restaurant owners along commercial strips in Astoria and Long Island City continue to battle with city officials 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.”

“They take business away from us, from our restaurants, diners and coffee shops, by snagging customers with rock bottom prices,” the owner said.

Police officials said local cops would continue to summon, arrest and confiscate items being sold by unlicensed food vendors – especially during the upcoming summer months. Business owners and area residents 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.

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