LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - "The past few days have sometimes hit over 100 degrees so it's possible that that maybe affected the cooler in some way," truck driver David Hernandez told NewsChannel 18 on July 26.
That's an excuse heard all too often by Indiana State Police and Health Department officials and it's a weak one too.
Refrigerated trucks are designed to haul food at certain temperatures.
The people in charge of inspecting the food we eat said blaming the heat isn't going to cut it.
"It's not like Indiana is the only hot place and Tippecanoe County is even hotter," Tippecanoe County Health Department Administrator Ron Cripe said.
But you won't know it by looking at state inspection reports.
Of all hot trucks pulled over in Indiana between last October and the end of July half were in Tippecanoe and Clinton Counties.
Cripe said if troopers didn't stop these trucks they could have kept driving for hours before delivering food and the longer they go the worse it can be for consumers on the other end.
"The opportunity for bacteria to grow increases significantly and it could be several kinds of bacteria: salmonella, listeria I could go on with the list of them," Cripe said.
Which means if you eat bad food, you can experience anything from a stomach ache and diarrhea to a hospital stay or even death.
Since March 1 a new law allows Indiana state troopers in the commercial vehicle enforcement division to give a hot truck driver a ticket without an inspection from the health department.
It's led health officials to develop resources of their own as well.
"The Indiana State Department of Health has come up with a uniform inspection report so that all local health departments are using the same type of inspection report so it's consistent," Cripe said.
That consistency means inspectors won't forget to ask a certain question, or get critical information before clearing the hot truck to leave.
The new checklist allows inspectors to take in-depth notes on the truck's condition, food temperatures and where the truck is heading.
Inspectors hope between state trooper enforcement and better consistency Indiana as a whole, and the Lafayette area in particular, will see an end to hot trucks.
"What I hope down the road is that the word gets back that hey, we're getting pulled over quite a bit, we're losing a lot of food which costs a lot of money," Cripe said.
Trucking companies are responsible for all costs associated with the disposal of spoiled food by the health department and paying fines from state troopers.
Cripe said the Health Department is also looking into charging trucking companies for inspecting hot trucks.
The drop in temperatures brings the potential for health dangers, such as hypothermia and frost bite. The bitter temperatures can pose a threat for children, adults and pets.
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