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Not, and now never, from a cart. [Photo: Robyn Lee]

At Midtown Lunch, Zach Brooks writes about Department of Health regulations that will go into effect January 1, 2010, which ban the sale of any fish or seafood from a mobile cart:

No fish, shellfish, or any food consisting of or made with an aquatic animal... shall be prepared, stored, held for service or sold from a mobile food vending unit.

"Particular attention has been placed on food preparation and protection and maintenance of mobile food vending units," the code reads. Wow. They weren't kidding.

Is this the right decision? Sure, fish spoils, but it's not as if beef, pork, and chicken don't as well—and it's not as if sushi trucks roam the streets of New York. The seafood sold from carts, by and large, is just as thoroughly cooked as any other meat. It'd be interesting to know if the DOH has any evidence of higher incidences of contamination or sickness, or whether this ban stems from other motives.

Zach laments the loss of fine seafood on his turf ("the fried cod from the Schnitzel Truck... the salmon and tilapia served by Kwik Meal"). But this would seem to be a much larger matter. Keeping our food safe, eradicating food-borne illness—sure, these are laudable goals. But until our street carts sell nothing but hermetically sealed, pre-packaged food—and, hell, even then—we'll never be fully protected from the food we eat. And that's true in home kitchens and restaurants—not only on the road.

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