Des Moines Spanish-Speaking Food Truck Owners Earn Food Safety Certification

Those who visit the Tacos Degollado food truck located on the 1800 block of University Avenue in Des Moines, will see two blue and white ServSafe certificates hanging proudly in the truck’s kitchen.

Javier Camarena Zarate, one of the owners of Tacos Degollado, received the highest exam score of any Spanish-speaking food service professional who has taken the ServSafe food safety certification facilitated by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in Polk County.

“Javier’s success was hard earned,” said ISU Extension and Outreach Specialist, Mary Krisco. “He and his brother and business partner, Raul, who also passed the exam, stayed up until 1 a.m. many nights to study after their 12-hour work days.”

Camarena completed every exercise in the 200-page ServSafe study manual and the 20 pages of additional exercises given to him and his brother by Krisco prior to the eight-hour workshop and exam on Monday, Feb. 8. The exam includes everything from the cooking temperature of ground meat to the name of the toxin found in amberjack fish.

Iowa law requires all food establishments to have at least one certified food safety manager.  Javier and Raul Camarena decided to exceed that requirement by each earning a certification.

“Neither brother has had the opportunity to have many years of higher education in Mexico,” explained Krisco.  “It was a month-long struggle to master their textbook and understand all the technical terms in the federal Food Code.”

Camarena was proud to have his picture taken while receiving his certificate from Krisco and Andrea Nelson, Polk County Extension and Outreach executive director. He said he wanted to show everyone how important food safety is to him, his brother and their customers.

“It was the toughest test I ever took,” said Camarena. “I am so happy I passed.”

Four ServSafe workshops and exams are being offered in 2016 in Spanish through ISU Extension and Outreach in Polk County. To learn more contact Krisco at mkrisco@iastate.eduor (515) 957-5763 or visit

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