HOUSTON -- They’re popping up on corners and in parking lots near you: High-tech kitchens on wheels that are all part of the boom in hipster food trucks.
Of course, in this digital age, you don’t find them by following your nose, but rather by consulting their Twitter and Facebook accounts.
But, the KHOU 11 News I-Team wanted to know how safe is the food they serve?
First, the official answer: The Houston’s chief sanitarian says most of the trucks are doing great when it comes to food safety. But food inspection reports show some of the trucks have shut down temporarily and we wanted to know why.
For instance, in October of last year, inspectors wrote up ‘Koagie Hots’ for not wearing hair restraints. They got caught again a week later for the same violation and when we found the truck in early April, the guy serving food did not have a head cover.
But is that really such a big deal?
Yes, according to University of Houston food microbiologist Dr. Jay Neal who says hair can have staph bacteria. Eat it and you could face serious consequences.
“Projectile vomiting within about an hour to three hours. You are very, very sick,” said Neal.
So we found where Koagie Hots was on Twitter and confronted owner Matt Pak.
KHOU 11 News: “Is that something that you’re going to probably change?”
Pak: “Yeah. Of course.”
And Koagie Hots had another issue when they were inspected in October. See, every food truck, everyday, has to let the city know where they’re operating. That allows the city to be sure there are accessible restrooms nearby and to check other safety concerns. But the city found last autumn that it something Koagie Hots failed to do, so the truck was written up.
Recently, when we found the truck, once again, the city had no clue Koagie Hots was operating where we found it.
KHOU 11 News: “If the Health Department came out today and found you guys here would this be a violation?
Pak: “It would be a slight violation and we would fix it on site.”
But what food experts say is not slight is another past violation the business had. According to inspectors, their water wasn’t hot enough and according to Dr. Neal, that’s a biggie.
“Can’t wash your dishes; can’t wash your hands,” said Dr. Neal.
But Matt Pak says that violation was fixed long ago.
Then there’s the Waffle Bus. In late March, one of their trucks closed after the city found the water there wasn’t warm enough. He also noticed an employee not wearing a hat.
So what does our food expert think?
“The hot water really concerns me,” Neal told KHOU 11 News.
Recently, we tracked down the Waffle Bus in downtown Houston.
KHOU 11 News: “Water wise, everything is fine now?
Doug Lee: “Yes.”
KHOU 11 News: “It’s turned up. Have those been fixed?”
Doug Lee: “Yes.”
KHOU 11 News: “So all of the violations have been fixed?
Doug Lee: “Yes ma’am.”
But Neal comments: “What concerns me though sometimes not so much with the Waffle Bus, but some of these food trucks is they are not addressing it and they are going ahead and operating without a permit and they are not being inspected, they are just moving.”
For instance, ‘Oh My Gogi’ shut down after a January inspection found no hot water. Then the city went to re-inspect the business, but it couldn’t find the truck anywhere, nor did the owners check in with the city or renew their permit.
But the KHOU 11 News I-Team found them in Rice Village getting ready to open for business. In addition, their Twitter account shows they’ve been serving food for months.
We confronted one of the employees of Oh My Gogi.
KHOU 11 News: “Do you guys have a permit right now.”
Employee: “Yes ma’am.
So we asked to see the permit.
Instead of showing it to us, they packed up and drove away.
About a week later, they sent out this tweet to their customers:
“We’ll be closed for the week. Updating our truck. Will keep ya’ll posted. Thank you everyone- Team OMG.”
To find out if the food truck you’re eating out of has a current permit you can check the back of the truck to make sure it has a valid city-issued medallion on it.
If you want to check out a specific truck’s inspection reports, click here.