FS1203:           Addressing Illegal Food Vending and Food Defense with Education and Innovation


Speaker:          Jean Strey, REHS/RS


Riverside County has launched two educational campaigns with the focus of reducing the rise of un-permitted food vendors and to introduce food defense concepts to food workers. Attend this session and learn how to utilize tools developed by Riverside County to address issues of illegal food vending within your jurisdiction.  Also discover innovative ways to introduce food defense concepts to food employees in your food facilities.




Riverside County Department of Environmental Health launched two educational campaigns in the last five years.  The “Make the Smart Choice” campaign focused on reducing the rising tide of food vendors selling food illegally without a permit and consequently without safe food handling practices. This was posing a considerable threat to public health, and was proving difficult to control through enforcement measures.  This educational campaign was initiated to address the consumer side of the problem by informing the public of the dangers associated with eating food that is not handled safely and encouraging them to protect their health by only purchasing food from permitted food vendors. The Department was able to educate thousands of Riverside County residents through presentations, a traveling informational booth, and other various advertising techniques, including a video which aired on public access television.


The second campaign was the FDA’s “Employees First” campaign directed at restaurant and other food worker employees informing them of the dangers of sabotage or intentional contamination of food in areas where food is stored, displayed or prepared for retail sale. The Department began introducing this campaign to food facility owners so that they could better protect their businesses from an intentional attack. Educational materials were distributed to all food facilities within Riverside County, and additionally, food defense concepts were incorporated into the Department’s Food Worker Certification program. Most recently, a video was created which incorporated food safety practices with the food defense information from the Employees FIRST DVD. This provided an additional teaching tool to food workers and also proved successful in increasing awareness of food defense concepts to food workers within Riverside County.


The FDA was offering grants that would provide innovative methods to present their Employees First Campaign. Beginning in 2008 Riverside’s Department of Environmental Health was awarded three consecutive FDA Innovative Food Defense grants to fund and support our efforts in waging these campaigns.  The three awards combined amounted to approximately $200,000.  Riverside County Environmental Health provided additional funding in the form of salaries, vehicle, and office expenses.