The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) has ruled that vending machines which dispense fresh foods such as salads will need to be inspected and graded to ensure food safety, according to the New York Times.
The Times reports that the new requirements were determined following an inspection of a vending machine operated by Farmer’s Fridge, which contained fresh food products such as prepared salads, falafel bowls and yogurt parfaits.
The inspector relayed concerns about the food safety of these products to the DOHMH, who claimed that salad greens and other fresh ingredients pose high risks of food-borne illness.
As a result of this, Farmer’s Fridge voluntarily shut down all 55 of its vending machines present in New York City.
According to the report, the health department ruled that Farmer’s Fridge’s machines were ‘food-service establishments’, and the company was required to file an application and pay $280 – the same amount a restaurant would pay – for each machine.
Farmer’s Fridge vending machines dispense fresh food products such as yogurts, salad bowls and noodle bowls. ©Farmer’s Fridge
Every machine will reportedly require a permit, inspections and the same kind of letter grade displayed in US food-service establishments.
Article 81 of New York’s health code states that vending machines do not require individual permits or inspections, but this was composed based on long shelf-life goods such as confectionery and sodas.
A spokesperson from the DOHMH told the New York Post: “Selling certain prepared foods from a vending machine can create a risk of food-borne illness, and the New York City Health Code sets out food safety requirements for food vending machines.
“Companies like Farmer’s Fridge signal new changes to the NYC food space and we’re working to create the best enforcement structure to protect the health and safety of New Yorkers,” the Health Dept. spokesman said.”
“The Health Department worked with Farmer’s Fridge to be sure their equipment would hold food at safe temperatures, and that foods were properly labelled and from approved sources.”
Farmer’s Fridge vending machines do have a range of in-built safety mechanisms to guard against food-borne illnesses. The internal temperature of each machine is taken every five minutes and uploaded to company servers, and should a refrigerator reach an unsafe temperature, it automatically stops dispensing food.
The machines also track how long food has been inside, and will not release a product after its sell-by date.
Farmer’s Fridge stated that it hoped to re-open its machines soon, and continue introducing new machines to New York and New Jersey.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020