NYC food carts' health violations - FOX 10 News |

NYC food carts' health violations

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If you are like most New Yorkers, you have probably eaten at one of the hundreds of mobile food carts parked on almost every street corner in the city.

They are convenient for grabbing a quick bite to eat, but do you really know if they are clean? Or doing enough to safeguard your health?


We obtained 18 months of food cart violations from the New York City Department of Health and tracked down the carts with the most violations over the last year.

What we found might make you lose your appetite.

In 2012 the New York City Department of Health recorded nearly 7,000 violations ranging from live rodents to food being kept at dangerous temperatures. Some vendors were even serving mystery meat.

One food cart on 43rd Street and 6th Avenue scored 15 health violations over four different inspections.

We caught the vendor on our undercover camera blowing his nose in a napkin and, then, using that same napkin to wipe down food prep areas.

Last year, the same vendor was cited once for failure to maintain personal hygiene and, on three separate occasions, food not protected from contamination.

Cameras also caught him smoking with his bare hands while handling food tongs.  

The owner of the food cart told us his cart follows safe food practices and all violations had been paid.

The New York City Department of Health fined nearly $16 million in violations last year; $15 million of those fines went uncollected.

One reason that collecting fines from food trucks is next to impossible is because they are mobile. In fact, many of the carts on our list were no longer located at the address of their last inspection. Mobile food carts are supposed to be identified in part by a decal number, but some do not have even have those.

New York City Councilman Daniel Gorodnick said that he believes that a letter-grade system should be implemented for food carts, just like restaurants.

"Any fines, penalties or health issues, that information should be readily available," Gorodnick said. "It should be available right there on the cart."

In the last year alone, 12 food carts were cited for vermin or other live animals present in food storage, preparation, or service area.

A busy fruit cart on 68th Street and Lexington Avenue was closed for unsanitary conditions after vermin activity was found among the produce. A few months later, the cart was back in business after passing re-inspection.  

The food cart with the most violations in New York City is parked in front of the Apple Store on West 67th and Broadway. The cart was slapped with 22 violations over five consecutive inspections in 2012.

We caught on undercover video the vendor using a dirty, oily rag to wipe down his utensils, while smoking a cigarette. We also caught another vendor that works for the same cart picking up a pretzel from the dirty sidewalk before putting it back on the pile of pretzels.

Worst of all, we caught the vendor picking up a dirty napkin from the ground and later using it to wipe down a piece of meat before serving it to a customer.

Even his fellow food truck vendors said they would never buy from the cart.

The cart's violations include being cited for spoiled food, potentially hazardous food temperatures, and on all five occasions not protecting food from potential contamination.

"We want to encourage the vendors who keep their carts clean and serving food safely," Gorodnick said. "But, for the folks that are the bad actors, that have consistent records of failure to stay clean, we don't want to keep that sort of business on the street."  

The Department of Health is developing a new handheld device to better track mobile food carts. They are also finalizing new regulations for mobile food vendors including: new size restrictions on carts and requiring vendors to show, on request, proof of source of their food.


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