Safety & Compliance

Indiana State Police Citing High Number of 'Hot' Reefer Trucks this Summer

August 02, 2011

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Indiana State Police have cited a high number of small reefer trucks transporting food at unsafe and illegal temperatures, according to a report by Channel 13 in Indianapolis, an NBC affiliate.

State police said thousands of food trucks pass through the state every day, and the vast majority are in compliance with Indiana regulations, which mandate a maximum transportation temperature of 41 degrees.

However, state troopers have found trucks in violation of the health code nearly every day. Some of the trucks have malfunctioning refrigeration units. Others have no reefers at all.

So far, troopers working with state health inspectors say they have condemned and destroyed tens of thousands of pounds of unsafe food. In at least one case, raw chicken, eggs and vegetables were tested at 67 degrees, well above safe levels.

According to reports, all of the violators were coming from nearby Chicago, and many were from Chinese food suppliers.

One such supplier, DW Trading Co., was shut down by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after the company's warehouse was investigated following a truck violation. An official report stated the warehouse was contaminated with insects, bird droppings, cockroaches and what appeared to be mice.

Reasons behind the truck violations are not totally clear. Poor maintenance habits are likely a factor, but some fear that companies are trying to save on fuel costs by shutting down reefer units on the highway. They hope that re-starting the units prior to delivery can bring the food back down to acceptable temperatures.

At this point, trucks found in violation appear to be only medium-duty straight trucks, and not Class 8 over-the-road vehicles. It is unclear whether or not the problem is confined to the northern Indiana region.

Following the rash of violations, Indiana State Police contacted the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance to help with enforcement. CVSA now wants to know if other jurisdictions are conducting similar food safety enforcement patrols.

CVSA Executive Director Steven Keppler expressed his support for the Indiana State Police. He called their operation "innovative" in getting the Indiana Department of Health involved, which does not by itself have the authority to stop and inspect vehicles.

See the WTHR report here.

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