Hot Trucks in the Hot Seat

INDIANAPOLIS/NEW YORK (September 22, 2011 – WTHR-TV and NBC Today) —Following an investigative report by Indiana TV station WTHR on “hot trucks” carrying unrefrigerated perishables to grocery stores and restaurants, Indiana police are calling for change. The station’s report led to national exposure of the problem, as well, with NBC’s Today Show airing a segment on its own hot trucks investigation this morning.

According to the WTHR “13 Investigates” report, the problem is commercial food delivery trucks carrying perishable food at dangerous temperatures.  Beef, pork, chicken, eggs, milk, and produce – 13 Investigates found all of it being transported in trucks without proper refrigeration.  "It's just not working properly and it had approximately a 94.7 degree reading at the time of the traffic stop," explained Indiana State Police trooper Ashley Hart, standing next to a hot truck she pulled over along Interstate 65 near Lafayette. The truck was carrying raw meat, eggs and produce from a warehouse in Chicago to restaurants in Indianapolis.

13 Investigates first exposed the problem in July as state police partnered with local health departments to keep spoiled food from hot trucks off Hoosier dinner plates. Since then, the danger has not gone away. “The problem is growing,” said Andrews. “It’s not just a few as we may have initially thought. It looks like it’s quite prevalent and it’s just growing. I think it’s a huge issue...There have to be people getting sick from some of the food products that are being transported. It’s very, very scary.”

The report cited a legal loophole that results in most food trucks never being inspected. Health inspectors are not allowed to stop a moving food truck to inspect it. State motor carrier inspectors can pull a truck over, but if they find dangerous food inside, they have no authority to do anything about it, according to Andrews.

The NBC Today Show report on hot trucks, which put the issue in front of a national audience, found two of four trucks stopped on one day to have no refrigeration or refrigeration units not working. Raw chicken, seafood, beef and other perishables bound for local restaurants were found to be held at well over 60 degrees. Click here to view the full Today Show report.

IFDA Responds

In direct response to NBC’s coverage, IFDA submitted a statement to The Today Show. It reads as follows: “Reputable foodservice distributors make food safety a top priority, in part, by ensuring cold chain integrity. This extends from the sourcing, receipt and storage of product to delivering that product to a restaurant’s walk-in cooler or freezer. We strongly recommend that foodservice operators know who they are buying from. They should be familiar with their distributor’s food safety program, including cold chain practices, to ensure product safety and their distributor’s compliance with government safety requirements. Cost should not be the only criteria that foodservice operators use in determining the distributor they use – food safety practices have to be a top priority as well.”

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