July 18, 2013 by Ashlee Clark Thompson
I hesitated to dip my toe in the recent conversation that has dominated Louisville social media about the cleanliness of food trucks.
In case you missed it, WAVE 3 aired a story recently by reporter Eric Flack about the sanitation and safety of food trucks, mobile eateries that park on the street or at events and serve dishes out of the sides of the vehicles. Eric reported that Metro Health and Wellness inspections “reveal trucks that were cited for food on the floor, dirty kitchens, cheese sauce at potentially hazardous temperatures, mislabeled toxic items and cooks without hair nets.” He went on to interview the chief health inspector with Metro Health and Wellness, who said she never eats at food trucks because of sanitation concerns. You can read and watch the full story here.
This feature lit up on the Twitter feeds and Facebook pages of food trucks and customers. The overall feeling was that WAVE 3 at best, got the story wrong, or, at worst, sensationalized a non-issue.
I used to be a journalist in a former life. I know what it’s like to catch a lot of criticism for a story that captures a subject in a harsh light. But this story ignited so many feelings because it just wasn’t fair.
- In his story, Eric highlighted a food stand with some questionable cleanliness. As I understand it, food stands and food trucks are different and held to different standards. An apples to apples comparison isn’t appropriate.
- If there is an issue with the cleanliness of food trucks, the story should have included some basic facts to support that claim. How many trucks have been shut down because of health concerns?
- I would’ve liked to see a comparison of percentage of food trucks that have violated health guidelines versus the percentage of brick-and-mortar restaurants that have made the same violations. This story gives the impression that food trucks are not as safe as restaurants in stationary locations, but fails to use statistics to back up that assumption. I watch a lot of Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares — traditional restaurants can be disgusting and unsafe, even if they serve food in buildings rather than from trucks.
- Food truck operators said they didn’t feel like Eric made an effort to reach out to them. There are a couple of united groups of food trucks, the Louisville Street Food Alliance and Louisville Food Truck Association, that would have been good sources to include in this story to provide an overall perspective of health and safety in the trucks.
- I’ve eaten at a lot of food trucks since they hit the Louisville landscape a couple of years ago. I’ve never had any concerns about my health after eating at these trucks. I’ve never gotten sick. I’ve never seen unsafe practices. I’m only one person, but a lot of people share my views (search Twitter for Louisville food trucks).
Eric did a follow-up story in which a metro councilman said there could be guidelines in the future that mandate the display of health inspection grades in food truck windows. Here are some other blog posts you should read, too:
- Liz Huot from Grind Gourmet Burger Truck (a friend of this blog and this blogger) wrote a thoughtful and insightful rebuttal to the WAVE 3 story.
- Insider Louisville also featured Liz’s blog post.
- So does Eater Louisville.
- Consuming Louisville featured some insights from Liz, too.
- I interviewed Will Bogel, the co-creator of a new app called Where the Trucks At, on the latest episode of Deliciously Louisville. We talked a little bit about the food truck story (and other food truck stuff).