CHARLOTTE, NC — Channel 9 has investigated restaurants that receive low scores on their health inspections, but restaurants aren't the only places people on the go like to eat, and more consumers are getting their meals from food trucks and food stands.
Channel 9 anchor Scott Wickersham dug through inspection reports for those businesses and found one at the center of a huge Charlotte summer tradition that recently got a low score from the health department.
Just like at restaurants, food temperature is a common concern at food trucks and food stands. The “danger zone” is anywhere between 45 degrees and 135 degrees because bacteria and germs can grow more quickly, and food starts to spoil.
Channel 9 found nine food stands that scored below a 90 since the start of the year:
- 87 -- Circle K food stand on Fairview Road
- 88.5 -- Fresh Market deli on Providence Road
- 82.5 -- Iacofano's catering on Yorkmont Road
The Home Plate Club and picnic area at BB&T Ballpark scored an 88 on April 13. The inspector found hot foods like chicken wings, hotdogs, and chili being held below 135 degrees.
Lynn Lathan with Mecklenburg County Environmental Health said that's a real concern.
"Then we are growing whatever is on that,” she said. “The closer you get to body temperature, the more hazardous it is.”
Speaking of body temperature, 98 degrees was the temperature of meatballs that the inspector found during that same inspection.
Professional Sports Catering, which operates the Home Plate Club, promised to correct the issues, saying in an email, "We are conducting additional food handling and storage training with our culinary staff and all team members."
Others that scored below 90:
- 88.5 -- La Unica meat market on Independence Boulevard
- 88 -- Little Caesar's pizza on Eastway Drive, considered by the health department to be a food stand. They voluntarily shut down for a time after the inspector found standing wastewater in a floor sink that wasn't draining.
- 87 -- A Mouthful food stand on Tuckaseegee Road
- 87 -- New Century Oriental Meat Market on North Tryon Street. The inspector found "algae growth in the glass doors of the meat display cooler."
- 86.5 -- R & K Express on Pence Road. They had a container of coleslaw with a manufacturer sell-by date from five days prior to the inspection.
Since the start of the year, five food trucks also scored below 90:
- 86 -- Halal Food Cart 2. The inspector found a rice cooker full of rice sitting on the ground outside the unit.
- 85 -- El Comalapa
- 85 -- Tacos Garduno
- 82 -- Mini Taqueria El Nevado. They had mayonnaise stored at 67 degrees, that's 22 degrees above the safe cold holding temperature.
- 87 -- Taqueria Rosa Mexicano
Some of the food trucks and stands had follow-up inspections and scored in the “A” range.
Lathan said consumers always need to look for the current health score, which should be posted in plain sight. If vendors don't have it posted, they could be operating illegally, meaning they aren't being inspected by the health department at all.
"We see them at construction sites, parking lots, and if people don't see the score, they need to ask," Lathan said.
In January 2019, Mecklenburg County will adopt new guidelines for cold food storage which will drop the required temperatures down to 41 degrees instead of 45 degrees. Lathan said that's because of listeria concerns.
She said the bacteria grow more slowly below 41 degrees.
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