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Local Health Official Advises about Tamale Purchases from St

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HARLINGEN – Tamales that are sold on the street and made at home can pose a risk, according to local health authorities.

During the holiday season, tamale vendors offer their goods online and through social media.

The preparation methods are not subject to health inspections, and cleanliness is unknown.

"They're not to be sold out of the trunk of a vehicle," said Josh Ramirez, the director of the Harlingen Health Department.

Hot prepared foods have to be kept at a temperature above 165 degrees, said Ramirez. Cold items have to be kept below 45 degrees.

Tamales transported in vehicles by unlicensed food vendors are not always equipped to keep food within those temperatures, he said.

"You don't know how long they've been sitting in that vehicle," said Ramirez.

Vendors say a tamal-making business offers a living during the holidays.

Tamales can also be hazardous because of cross-contamination, said Sonia Rodriguez, the owner of Sonia's Tamales in McAllen.

"Raw product cannot go in with a cooked product," she said.

Doing things by the book requires the use of hair nets, washing hands, using aprons, and organizing stock, among other procedures he said.

Fines for illegal food vending in Harlingen range from $200 to $1000.

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