1. Headline
  1. Headline

Video: Hidden health hazards in food delivery trucks

  1. Closed captioning of: Hidden health hazards in food delivery trucks

    >>> back at 7:43. this morning on ""rossen reports." the trucks that deliver your food may be putting your health at risk. good morning, jeff.

    >> reporter: when we go to the grocery store and go to the restaurant, we assume the food is fresh. who would ever think it may have been spoiling in a hot and humid truck on the way to the store? i've been tracking the story for over a year. we found that last summer trucks carrying unsafe food bound for your breakfast table. now police say it's actually getting worse. we're on patrol with the indiana state police . no radar gun. we're going to pull him over right now.

    >> yes.

    >> reporter: instead officer kelly is armed with a food thermometer.

    >> i'm getting an initial temperature of 53 degrees in your trailer. this summer's been particularly bad.

    >> reporter: indiana . if you eat it, it was likely hauled through here pu but if the units are off, food can turn foul. on our first stop, trouble. police athis truck's refrigerator isn't working properly. by law the food should be at a cool 41 degrees. some of it was pushing 60.

    >> we have sour cream, we have cheese, we have dairy drinking right here.

    >> reporter: and these are all over temperature?

    >> yes.

    >> reporter: and there are yogurts in here, too, for kids. all destined for a dozen grocery stores . local officials condemn it and chuck it. remember, you could have eaten this. the driver told me he's actually relieved the cops stopped him.

    >> reporter: it's good this food didn't make it to the stores, it could have made people sick.

    >> i'm glad it didn't make it.

    >> reporter: his company tells me it monitors food temperatures carefully and claims the driver would have disposed of bad food before delivering it. how dangerous is this?

    >> it's very dangerous. somebody could actually die by consuming some of this food. we're playing russian ruoulette with our food supply .

    >> reporter: how fast is the bacteria growing in the back of these trucks?

    >> growing roughly every 20 minutes .

    >> reporter: that fast?

    >> that fast.

    >> reporter: and the worst is yet to come.

    >> that's not even water.

    >> reporter: this truck's refrigerator is broken. the inside temperature? 101 degrees. meat and chicken are even atract attracting supplies. police find raw meat with juices dripping through the box. even if watched, it could still make you sick.

    >> this is all from the chicken stuff that ran off to the floor.

    >> reporter: this food was headed to popular chinese restaurants in indiana . not anymore. the trucking company didn't return our calls. while police did find many trucks doing the right thing --

    >> we're at 35 degrees inside the trailer, which is absolutely fine.

    >> reporter: too many are in violation. cops say some companies actually shut off their refrigeration systems on purpose.

    >> these systems run off the diesel fuel . they shut them off to save money.

    >> reporter: this trucker claimed his refrigerator wasn't working. but as we were shooting, he suddenly turns it on.

    >> reporter: jeff rossen from nbc news. why was your refrigeration unit off? can you talk with us?

    >> i can't speak with you.

    >> reporter: his company told us the refraj rateor was on when he left the warehouse and called it a mechanical problem.

    >> they save a few dollars here and there with us at risk.

    >> reporter: today indiana is one of the own states targeting these food trucks . believe it or not there is little federal oversight and state police captain wayne andrews is boiling.

    >> the feds are not doing their job. it's been left to the states to fix the problem.

    >> reporter: in 2005 congress told the fda to come up with stricter guidelines for food trucks . almost seven years later the fda hasn't done it. congress even set a new dead line of july 2012 , last month, and still nothing. the fda declined to go on camera

    but sent us this e-mail: the rule making process it can take time and we are working diligently to strengthen and modernize our food safety system.

    >> if this doesn't make them act, i don't know what would.

    >> and until there's action, police say for every truck they stop, countless more get away, most of it headed for restaurants and groceries stores. by the way, the responsibility lace on the grocery stores and restaurants to their food as well. they're not doing this

    >>

By
TODAY
updated 8/23/2012 7:44:08 AM ET 2012-08-23T11:44:08

A hidden health hazard in some of the food you buy: Authorities say the trucks delivering that food to stores may be putting your family at risk. TODAY National Investigative Correspondent Jeff Rossen reports.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. Savannah on pregnancy oversharing: 'Now I'm one of THOSE people'

      I’m one of those people now. It takes very little provocation for me to show my ultrasound pic.

    2. Billy Crystal reflects on loss, family in new special
    3. Witnesses on Everest: ‘We heard an avalanche’
    4. Doctor: 'Elimination' diet a quick fix for a better body
    5. Rock out! 30 songs keeping Natalie pumped for the Boston Marathon

When we go to a restaurant or grocery store, we assume the food is fresh. Who would ever think it may have been spoiling in a hot and humid truck on its way to the store? We found it last summer — trucks carrying unsafe food. Now police say it's still happening, and getting worse: unsafe food bound for your dinner table.

Have an idea for Rossen Reports? Email us by clicking here!

We went on patrol with the Indiana State Police. There was no radar gun; instead, Sgt. Rich Kelly was armed with a food thermometer, randomly checking food delivery trucks for unsafe temperatures. “This summer has been exceptionally bad,” Kelly told us.

Indiana is known as the “crossroads of America”: If you eat it, chances are it was hauled through there. But in the brutal Midwest sun, if the truck’s cooling units are off, food can turn foul even before it hits store shelves.

On our first stop we found trouble; police said the truck’s refrigerator wasn’t working properly. By law, the food should have been at a cool 41 degrees; some of it was pushing 60! There were yogurts in there too, for kids, all destined for a dozen grocery stores.

Local health officials condemn it, and chuck it. Remember, you could have eaten this.

Video: Rossen Reports: The dirty truth about food courts

The driver told us he was actually relieved the cops stopped him: “I'm glad that it didn’t make it.” His company told us it monitors food temperatures carefully and that the unit was working when the truck left the warehouse, claiming the driver would have disposed of bad food before delivering it.

Ron Schnitzer, a microbiologist specializing in food safety, said that in warm temperatures, dangerous bacteria like E. coli and salmonella can breed on food. “Someone could actually die from consuming this food,” he said. “We're playing Russian roulette with our food supply.”

And the worst was yet to come. Another truck’s refrigerator was broken; the inside temperature, 101 degrees. The meat and chicken were even attracting flies. Police found raw meat with juices dripping through the box, leaking on the vegetables below. Even if washed, they could still make you sick.

Story: Rossen Reports: Are air-conditioning repairers being competent and honest?

“The order was so strong it took me aback,” Kelly said. The food was headed to popular Chinese restaurants in Indiana. The trucking company didn't return our calls.

While police did find several trucks doing the right thing, too many are in violation. Cops say some companies actually shut their refrigerators off on purpose.

Read more investigative journalism from Rossen Reports

“These refrigeration units run off diesel fuel,” Kelly explained. “It does cost money to run these systems, and they shut 'em off to save money.”

Last summer, as we showed on TODAY, one trucker claimed his refrigerator wasn't working, but as we were shooting, he suddenly turned it on. His company later told us the refrigerator was on when he left the warehouse, and called it a mechanical problem.

Video: Hot trucks may deliver spoiled food (on this page)

“They save a few dollars here and there, with us at risk,” Kelly said.

  1. More Rossen Reports
    1. Rossen Reports: Kids can sleep through smoke alarms, experts say
      TODAY
    2. Rossen Reports: Are child safety caps enough to keep kids out?
    3. Hotel chains devalue loyalty rewards points
    4. Rossen Reports: Potentially dangerous cars for sale
    5. How to check whether your vehicle has an unfixed safety recall

Today, Indiana is one of the only states targeting these food trucks. Believe it or not, there is little federal oversight.

And Capt. Wayne Andrews of the State Police is boiling. “The feds are not doing their job,” he said. “The states have been left to fix the problem.”

In 2005, Congress told the FDA to come up with stricter guidelines for food trucks. Almost seven years later, the FDA hasn't done it. Congress even set a new deadline of July 2012 — last month — and still nothing.

Story: Rossen Reports: Are you getting what you pay for at the pump?

The FDA declined to go on-camera, but sent us this email: “The rule-making process can take time and we are working diligently to ... strengthen and modernize our nation's food safety system.”

“There is a serious risk here to health and public safety,” Andrews said. “If this doesn't make them act, I dont know what would.”

Video: Hidden health hazards in food delivery trucks (on this page)

And until they do, police say, for every truck they stop, countless more get away, carrying bad food, most of it headed for small restaurants and grocery stores. But they say the big national chains are actually pretty good about turning away bad food.

Have an idea for a future edition of Rossen Reports? We want to hear from you! To send us your ideas, click here.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Samantha Okazaki / TODAY

    Savannah on pregnancy oversharing: 'Now I'm one of THOSE people'

    4/18/2014 11:30:33 AM +00:00 2014-04-18T11:30:33
  1. TODAY

    video Billy Crystal reflects on loss, family in new special

    4/18/2014 12:53:40 PM +00:00 2014-04-18T12:53:40
  1. Peter Kramer / NBC

    Rock out! 30 songs keeping Natalie pumped for the Boston Marathon

    4/18/2014 12:53:35 PM +00:00 2014-04-18T12:53:35
  1. TODAY

    video Doctor: 'Elimination' diet a quick fix for a better body

    4/18/2014 1:02:09 PM +00:00 2014-04-18T13:02:09
  1. TODAY

    video Witnesses on Everest: ‘We heard an avalanche’

    4/18/2014 12:02:37 PM +00:00 2014-04-18T12:02:37
  1. TODAY

    Tamron gets a new spring cut! Does it look familiar?

    4/18/2014 2:47:10 PM +00:00 2014-04-18T14:47:10