Response to KCRA Food Truck Safety Story

On Wednesday KCRA Channel 3 aired a story regarding food truck safety with the emphasis on how many fail health inspections. In typical TV news fashion, all of the teasers were making it sound scandalous, dangerous, and scary.  And more typical still, it only showed the issues they wanted to emphasize without giving all sides of a three dimensional picture.  So below are some points I would like to make.

1. This story does not distinguish between old style "roach coach" catering trucks and the new gourmet trucks. All of the shots focused on gourmet trucks and there were none of catering trucks. What I want to know is what was the ratio of failures between old school catering trucks versus gourmet? I suspect that, should you break them down into further distinctions, the catering trucks are where the higher percentage of violations occurred. (While I agree with Stitches n Dishes that ALL trucks should be passing inspections, I'm still curious to see if there is a difference in violation occurrences between the two types. And I still take issue with the KCRA's only showing gourmet trucks.)

2. The story fails to mention that whenever there are special events, such as SactoMoFo or Concert in the Park, that the trucks get inspected again. So even though they might officially get inspected only twice a year, in reality they could be inspected six or more times a year depending on how many special events they participate in. 

2b. They get inspected for every county they operate in. In the case of Krushburger, Drewski's, and others, they have permits from not only Sacramento County, but also Placer, and Yolo counties. So they are getting inspected by those health officials as well. In that regard, they're getting inspected way more than restaurants are.

3. The story fails to distinguish the levels of failure in health inspections, whether they be trucks or restaurants. Here in Sacramento a restaurant can get their placard in Green/Pass (everything is good to go), Yellow/Conditional Pass (minor violations that must be fixed within 24-72 hours and then reinspected), and Red/Closure (fail!). When you read a health inspection, which everyone can do via the county website, you can see the level of violations.  

It is important to note that a business can get a Yellow/Conditional Pass notice and continue to sell. They are not forced to close down completely while they fix things. To my knowledge, trucks have always gotten yellow notices. Now I went in to do some random inquiries on the database myself. I won't name restaurants, but the first one I pulled up (in Old Sac) got a Yellow, a Green, a Yellow, and a Green in the span of one week in February. 

What are Yellow violations? Things like the refrigerator not staying at the proper temperature. Fix the thermostat so it chills properly. Or not having the proper separation of hand washing versus dish washing. One thing that restaurants will have that I doubt very much you will ever see in a truck report: pests. Because trucks are cleaned out and stored every night in a licensed commissary, they are not going to be breeding grounds for roaches and rats. I'll pay $20 to anyone who supplies me an inspection notice for any Sacramento gourmet level truck that has signs of pests.

I know that we gourmet truck fans know the truth and won't let KCRA's or any other news story scare us away. Most people have the brains to know that TV stations just want ratings and they will tease and slant a news story to get you to tune in. Where it does a disservice is to those who aren't familiar with gourmet trucks. 

Restaurants and trucks fail inspections, usually only at a Yellow level. If gourmet trucks have higher citation rates it is more likely because they are actually being inspected more frequently, not less, than restaurants.

Don't forget my other site:

Added note: I didn't put it up above because I don't think it should be seen as a reason or excuse, but most of the trucks in Sacramento are used (exception is Krushburger's new truck and the upcoming new Drewski's truck). Old trucks mean a lot of breakdowns, both truck and kitchen. Drew alone has had to replace the transmission and engine of the truck and has ongoing issues with his fryer. But restaurants can have old equipment and breakdowns too and so another reason why I didn't include this point above.