LAFAYETTE – In recent weeks, "hot trucks" have made headlines as Indiana State Police found numerous food transport trucks driving with improper refrigeration for their loads.
A new Indiana law that took effect in July makes it a class A infraction to transport food that is more than two degrees above the acceptable temperature, that shows outward signs of contamination or spoilage or that is loaded in a way that risks cross-contamination.
David Drinan, chief of the Tippecanoe County Health Department's foods division, said the Indiana State Department of Health has been pushing for this law since 2007. It has done so because the law enhances food safety during transport by requiring law enforcement and public health agencies to make a coordinated response.
The ISDH recommends that certain perishable and potentially hazardous foods be kept at certain temperatures. Milk and dairy products, for example, are supposed to be kept at 45 degrees.
But Drinan said on some occasions when the police have called him in to assist, temperatures have been as high as 69, where opportunity is ripe for bacteria growth and other forms of contamination.
News of the hot trucks raised red flags for many consumers and should put restaurant owners and store managers on higher alert, Drinan said.
While police have been catching many of these trucks after pulling them over for other suspected violations, Drinan pointed out there are still more that slip through the cracks.
Data from Indiana State Police's Commercial Vehicle Enforcement unit show there were 781 food enforcement stops from Oct. 1 through July 31. The state health code requires restaurant owners to check the temperature of food upon delivery, but Drinan said "they do not have to document whether or not they're doing it."
Drinan's advice for restaurant owners: Don't accept food deliveries between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., or during any other busy times, especially if the driver offers to help move it to your walk-in cooler.
"I tell people that's a red flag. That ought to tell you that he’s got something wrong with the cooler on his truck. Don’t hesitate to reject all or part of the shipment.”