How safe are Lowcountry food trucks? ABC News 4 looks into DHEC inspection results
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) —
History is a key ingredient of life in the Lowcountry, and more now than ever it’s that history from other places influencing our deeply rooted southern cuisine.
“This is a modern tapioca. It becomes real nice tortilla!” said Teca Thompson, a co-owner of Brazillianuts Food truck.
It’s her history stirred right into Charleston’s ever-growing melting pot of food trucks.
“We are not young. So we are nuts. We are Braziliannuts to open up a food truck,” she said.
But are we nuts just to eat at food trucks? If you head to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s website, you can look at the grades for every food truck in Charleston and the specific issues they’ve been called out on.
“The sanitary side of it’s one of the biggest things,” said Robert Yanity with DHEC. “We’re making sure areas are clean. Areas are wiped up. That sort of thing. But they’re also very specific regulations.”
A quick search of that website shows 92 different inspections of food trucks in the last year.
“If there are violations, we feel they usually do a good job of taking care of those. Because that impacts their business,” Yanity said.
DHEC makes it easy. You can look up the specific letter grades food trucks have been given, and of all the 92 inspections in Charleston, Berkeley, or Dorchester County in the last year, none received any grades below an “A”.
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“WE want folks to be comfortable and know that the food they’re getting from those food trucks, they’re being inspected by DHEC and we’re doing what we can to make sure they’re following all the rules,” Yanity added.
What about the people running these rolling restaurants?
“There’s a formula to doing food trucks,” said Chef Frisco of Charleston Caribbean Creole. “Regulations are not too bad because the truck is so small.”
“DHEC inspections at least once a year,” added Victor Colbert, owner of Cast Iron Food Truck. “It can be as random as once a week, once a month.”
DHEC says the most common violations are food stored at the wrong temperature and also food not cooked all the way through.
“It’s so important because we know potentials out there with food borne illnesses. So we want to make sure those food trucks are meeting same high standards we have for retail, your brick and mortar,” said Yanity.
Anything less than an “A” on that front window is a scarlet letter for food trucks.
“As any restaurant you can get a B or C, everyone wants to have an A,” said Maria Falangelo, the other co-owner of Brazilianuts. “After first approval they inspect three months later, they can surprisingly come to see your truck at any time, but usually they schedule every year.”
Every year since they’ve been serving up their tapioca, Brazilianutsh as received perfect marks.
“This is very hard work,” Thompson said.
And it’s how they just might make their own mark on Charleston’s ever-changing culinary history.
“This is what makes us going,” Thompson said. “The pleasure of people saying I love that food!”
You can head to https://www.scdhec.gov/Apps/Environment/FoodGrades/ to search for the names and grades of food trucks across South Carolina.