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KSL Investigates: How Safe Are Food Trucks?

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Everyone loves a good food truck, but how much do you really know about your favorite meals on wheels? As the KSL Investigators found out, they face more challenges than a brick and mortar restaurant.

The KSL Investigators dug through health inspection records for each of the 315 food trucks registered in Salt Lake County to find out what customers should watch out for.

From 2014 through 2019, 25 of those trucks were temporarily shut down at some point for critical violations.

One big reason was for parking a truck at a private residence. Inspectors with the Salt Lake County Health Department said that’s a big no-no, in case people at home are sick.

“That illness will then be spread to the public and so we’re very concerned about food preparation at home versus a commissary or in a food truck,” said health inspector Jeffrey Oaks.

Eddee Johansen knows all about food trucks and their challenges.

“I don’t want to get anybody sick,” Johansen said. “I mean that’s just lame right?”

Johansen is the owner of Yoshi’s Japanese Grill, which boasts two food trucks and a restaurant. In his experience, he said food trucks are much trickier.

Johansen is the owner of Yoshi’s Japanese Grill, which boasts two food trucks and a restaurant.

“You’re moving a kitchen around. So that’s the first challenge is keeping everything stable as well as keeping food hot and cold,” Johansen said.

And that was another reason food trucks are sometimes shut down — not keeping food at the right temperature. Health officials said it’s much harder for food trucks to do than restaurants.

“If it’s hot outside it’s hard to keep their food cold,” Oaks said. “If it’s really cold outside, sometimes they struggle to keep their food hot.”

But the KSL Investigators found the number one reason food trucks get temporarily shut down is lack of water.

Whether the truck has frozen pipes, a broken generator or simply ran out, if there is no water, they can’t serve food.

“The biggest issue with no water is the inability to wash your hands,” Oaks said. “If you cannot wash your hands, you will be closed because there are so many germs that can be spread from hands to food.”

Fourteen trucks were shut down temporarily for lack of water during the past five years. KSL found out that one of Utah’s most popular trucks, Cupbop, was closed twice in seven months for not having water.

Cupbop was closed twice in seven months for not having water.

If you frequent food trucks, it’s a good idea to make sure employees are wearing gloves and have access to water.

Other critical violations KSL discovered when looking at all food trucks:

  • “Employees not washing hands.”
  • “Food being stored on the floor.”
  • “Raw meat stored above ready-to-eat foods.”
  • “Wastewater being dumped in a parking lot.”

“It’s wastewater on the ground. That’s not something people want to smell or step in or anything like that and that’s a problem,” Oaks said.

When it comes to food truck violations, those deemed “critical” are the ones to pay attention to. Critical violations have the most potential of making you sick.

The food truck Comfort Bowl had the highest number of critical violations, with 29 in 2018 and so far in 2019. None of the violations were serious enough to shut it down.

Comfort Bowl had the highest number of critical violations, with 29 in 2018 and so far in 2019.

So which food trucks were the most popular with diners?

According to the Food Truck League, it was Salty Pineapple in 2019, Freshies Co. in 2018 and in 2017 that honor went to Yoshi’s.

“I want people to know and trust that when they eat off Yoshi’s food truck, they’re getting good, quality, safe food,” Johansen said.

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