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"Doing bacon is illegal" in LA - Drew Carey and black market bacon dogs

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No ... it is not a calorie thang ... the beautiful people finally outlawing fat.

However, unless a vendor has special equipment and permits to sell legal bacon, it can land you in jail like one vendor who spent 45 days in the slammer.

Yes, there ARE food police ... "“Bacon is a potentially hazardous food,” says Terrence Powell of the LA County Health Department. "
http://reason.tv/video/show/392.html

But the illegal trade continues for those hooked on bacon despite LA's lardon laws ... however, keep an eye out for nearby porta potties should the evidence need to be flushed.

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  1. That Is Terrible!!!!
    Big Brother is live and well in LA.
    If Mr. Powell can point to an outbreak of cases of food born illness caused by bacon dogs perhaps it is justified.
    Trashing the unlicensed vendors carts is a way to protect the licensed vendors So that is alright but reqiring a $27,000 cart to sell hot dogs is ridiculous.

    1. Wow. Bacon is one of the safest foods there is -- I can't imagine a scenario where the bacon would be hazardous and the hot dog itself wouldn't. The only way bacon can be considered "potentially hazardous" is to consider anything that can be ingested "potentially hazardous" -- which technically speaking is true. If people do get sick, it's much more likely to be from the condiments getting cross-contaminated than from the bacon. Using that "potentially hazardous" excuse, they can shut down just about anyone. Can we set up a fund for Ms. Palacias?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Another fact about bacon is that it's got LESS fat per serving than most anything else we could consider to be fatty. That's because a serving of bacon is a few slices, which don't add up to much weight. Cheese, for example, has much more fat than bacon.

      2. Does anybody know or have a link to some info on why bacon, a cured and smoked meat product that is served fully cooked, is considered a potentially hazardous food? I have never, ever heard of anyone, under any circumstance gettin sick from eating bacon. I would like to see a better explanation of what this new, expensive cart offers - is it refrigeration? Better cleansing of utensils? Couldn't those things be replicated for something less than $27,000?

        Edit: I just read the LA Weekly article that the Drew Carrey Project site links, and it explains that what is illegal, apparently, is grilling. Hot dogs must be boiled or steamed and cannot be grilled, which of course, bacon dogs require. But that just brings up more questions - what's in the $27,000 cart that makes it legal to grill, and does that mean that every single knish, souvlaki and sabrett dog cart in NYC is susceptible to the same problems as grilling carts in LA are?

        I guess I can't help but feel that in this wonderful country of ours, there has got to be good rhyme and reason for imposing and enforcing such extreme freedom-limiting dictates. You’ll take my pork bellies when you pry them from my cold dead fingers!

        1. I think the thing is, too many of the "carts" are simply a wire mail-room type cart with a sheet pan on top/sterno cans underneath, not an actual grill. I really don't think that anything is cooked to a safe temperature here. No refrigeration, maybe an ice chest rolled alongside but not always. Who knows how long the dogs and bacon have been sitting in "the danger zone", especially on a hot Santa Ana day.

          8 Replies
          1. re: ErikaK

            Did you see the story? That wasn't the kind of set-up they were referring to. And wouldn't having a hot food under the hot sun help it stay hot? Isn't that better than having it on a grill on a cool day where it's more likely to drop into the "warm" danger zone?

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              In a time when budget concerns cause school programs to be cut in California and cities like Vallejo to go bankrupt and cut police salaries ... one wonders why someone like Mr. Powell is being paid to hurt vendors in business for more than 20 years without ONE single health violation. As a result of Mr. Powell's harrasment, Ms. Palacias stands to lose not only her business but her home.

              People always look at the big items like education or health care for the least helpless in our society. Maybe someone should spend some time making cuts in the budget for absurties like this. I volunteer my time. Give me a call Arnold.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                I think the grill that they threw in the garbage was a modified shopping cart that people use to get groceries home, but grilling in Ms. Palacias' cart would be just as illegal since it doesn't seem to meet the grilling standards.

                I had the same reaction as Ruth Lafler had above, and I couldn't find any link to a fund for her.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  "wouldn't ... hot food under the hot sun help it stay hot?"

                  Yes, but not enough! and grills on cool days should cook/keep it hot enough if they're working properly. I wonder why they don't just wrap cooked-but-still-limp bacon around steamed dogs and cook it on a flat-top however it's powered (I can't believe they're using sterno, that would be wayyy too expensive) until the bacon is crisp. I'm sure it would taste the same.

                  Seems to me the real issue is sufficiency of proper equipment: cold-holding for uncooked food, cooking equipment to ensure proper doneness, hot-holding for cooked food until it's served and consumed, not to mention hand-washing and other sanitary facilities for the food-handler. If it's all there what's the problem, if it's not then there may be a risk that health professionals have to address.

                  1. re: hsk

                    I think you hit the nail on the head, hks. As much as I adore these 'dogs, I'm the first to admit they aren't very sanitary, nor is the prepping environs.

                    1. re: hsk

                      My point was that whether it was under the hot sun was irrelevant if the issue is them being hot enough. Being under the hot sun isn't going to make them hot enough, but it certainly isn't going to make them *less* hot!

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        Perhaps there are more airborne pathogens on hot days? Or that there are more animals around on hot days?

                  2. re: ErikaK

                    That makes no sense. If your scenario is true then why just bacon?? Everything would have to be considered hazardous.

                    DT

                  3. I'm so sorry. I'm usually very open. And in general I haven't a bigoted bone in my body.

                    All that said, sometimes I wonder if California and LA in particular is where all the nuts go to roost. :)

                    Ok, you can pelt me with bacon now for saying that, but every so often you hear a story like this one and you just say wow, they are just so far out there out there!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: HarryK

                      I don't think it's just LA. I'm sure every city has it's bizzare laws that are probably based more a couple peoples fears than anything factual.
                      Be it food related or otherwise.

                      DT

                    2. Bacon-dogs, smothered with grilled peppers and onions are as close to orgasmic as i've tasted. HEAVEN..Had a girlfriend tell me about 'em, and we drove, FROM VEGAS, to The Alley just for these gorgeous treats. I think they tasted even better, due to all the trouble getting to them.

                      I have a hunch that the Health Department wants their pound of flesh, and their cut of the dough. Some of these carts are honest-to-goodness hot-dog carts, but some...not so much. Some of them seem a bit ghetto, and home-made contraptions to boot.

                      These are the hot-dog of my dreams, tho..They are so tasty! (of course, anything with bacon is damn tasty, but I digress...)

                      1. I don't know what happend in this country, or exactly when it happened, but collectively we have lost our minds. I would be willing to believe that food cooked in an old greasy spoon in the 1950's was probably more sanitary than food cooked by today's city code restrictions. We have lost our common sense. Supposedly in our schools our children are being given more education than ever before, yet most kids can't tell you who the president is, or when election day is. We have allowed the Terrance Powell's of this world to dictate what we eat, & how we eat it. Yet there seems no other reaction from the public, but a loud sigh, and then everyone gets back to business. In a sense, we have no one but ourselves to blame.

                        1. I'm not saying that I agree with the LA County Health Department but I'm going to go ahead and play devil's advocate just to keep the conversation lively. If you watch the full video at the site linked to in the OP the Health Department Official cites one specific requirement (there may be others not shown in the video) which would allow a vendor to sell bacon dogs -- a three compartment sink so that they may wash, rinse and sanitize utensils and cookware coming in contact with the bacon. This is standard sanitation procedure that I suspect any chow would rightly expect of any restaurant they frequent. Why the sanitation procedure for bacon but not for hot dogs alone? Because bacon is a raw food product whereas hot dogs are fully cooked prior to packaging.

                          I detect some cognitive dissonance here. Chows on these boards will extol the virtues of non-industrial, organic farming methods because (among other reasons) it lessens the likelihood of spreading pathogens through the food system. Yet they seem to be allowing street vendors a free pass to play microbiological russian roulette.

                          I will take no offense if you flame me to a crisp, just wrap me in bacon first and serve me with peppers and onions.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: kmcarr

                            Bacon is cured. It's no more unsafe than a hot dog that has been fully cooked but then cooled and packaged.

                            As I pointed out, the real danger on those carts is the bins of condiments (especially chopped raw onion), which are accessed by many customers, easy to cross-contaminate and which sit in the sun allowing bacteria colonies to flourish.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              Ruth,

                              Curing does not necessarily kill the microorganisms present on the raw meat prior to the curing; it is meant to inhibit their growth so as to prevent spoilage. Also, the modern, commercial bacon which I imagine most of these vendors are using is given an ultrafast, injected wet cure meant more to flavor the meat than to preserve it.

                              Utensils touch the raw bacon then transfer the dormant but still viable bacteria from the inhospitable environment of the bacon to a much friendlier place like those condiment containers you mentioned. That's why the sanitation station is required for working with raw meat, cured or not.

                              1. re: kmcarr

                                Yeah, but raw meat doesn't necessarily have any more harmful bacteria then cooked meat. *Some* raw meats are more likely to have *some* specific pathogens (salmonella in chicken, primarily). Commercially raised pork no longer has trichinosis -- you could eat it raw if you wanted to, although most Americans still have psychological inhibitions against doing that. With those few exceptions, any meat -- cooked or raw -- picks up bacteria the same way: by environmental contamination. If the bacteria aren't in the environment, then it doesn't matter what foods are present, and if the bacteria are in the environment, it doesn't matter whether the foods they come into contact with are already cooked or not. Our environment is swimming in bacteria, and only a tiny fraction of them are actually harmful -- something germ-o-phobes like to ignore when they start screeching about the bacteria on your money or, as in a recent bit I saw on TV, your computer keyboard. Not only that, but the harmful bacteria are relatively rare, otherwise people (1) would be sick all the time, and/or (2) would develop resistence to them, like the myriad other bacteria we're exposed to on a daily basis.

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  I am by no means a germaphobe; I have worked in a laboratory setting with E. coli so I don't freak out over bacteria in the environment. But I also learned just how easy it is cross contaminate. Cases of human E. coli and salmonella infection have been traced to pork sources. These pathogens were almost certainly present in the piggies at slaughter time, not picked up from the environment. Porcine salmonellosis is becoming an increasing problem for commercial pig farmers. It is not generally safe to eat raw pork; it should be handled just like raw chicken or beef.

                                  1. re: kmcarr

                                    E. coli outbreaks have also been traced to spinach and green onions, which makes your salad bar, where everything is raw and/or sitting out a lot more dangerous than your bacon.

                                    1. re: kmcarr

                                      But cross-contamination is a problem in all food services, not just food carts that serve bacon. People attend certification classes all the time to learn to prevent this. Why not mandate a certification class to get a street vendor's license, rather than put people in jail for 45 days and take away their livelihood? Or even more reasonably, when someone complains of a problem with food at a 7-11, food cart, or top of the line restaurant, close them down until they take the class. That would address a real problem. Not put a person who has never, ever had a complaint in all those years of providing food, into a position where they can no longer compete.

                                      1. re: applehome

                                        The vendor in question, who was put in jail, was in fact licensed and certified by the health department. The health department has just decided that even for a licensed and inspected vendors, bacon dogs pose an unreasonable risk. Which just doesn't make any sense to me.

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          The vendor was certified to sell hot dogs and other fully pre-cooked products. Bacon is in a different class, it is a raw meat product, and no, the curing process for commercial bacon is not sufficient to take it out of the raw meat category. It has too little salt and too much water still in it to be considered "cured". At best I would call it "brined".

                                          While the vendor's license and sanitation equipment were sufficient for the sale of pre-cooked products, they were not sufficient for the preparation and sale of raw meat products. It make perfect sense to me. And it was no mystery to the vendor either; she new the licensing and equipment requirements and chose to ignore them.

                                          1. re: kmcarr

                                            Don't try arguing the facts here, this is about bacon dogs. I'm always stunned by the fact that when people break a law and get arrested it is somehow the fault of the law. If it is in fact an invalid law get it changed, don't ignore it then cry foul when you get caught.

                            2. The vid inspired me. I'm going to have a local craftsman make me a portable griddle, one with removable legs. Such things are available in Australia, but, to my knowledge, not elsewhere. I'll make bacon dogs for my friends before opening a franchise empire here in Colombia (Yes, sadly, such an enterprise is probably not possible in the US without me going ballistic at some point).

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                See this on-going thread about the Japanese series, Teppan Girl Akane - a young girl goes around Japan with her portable Teppan, making okonomiyaki! (email me if you want some more info on availability)

                                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/511007

                                I have one of these 2-burner, 60,000 BTU each, with detachable legs. They also sell all kinds of griddles (Teppans to us) to sit on top - just look around the site.

                                http://www.campchef.com/catalog/item/...

                                1. re: applehome

                                  Thank you! I'll first try having one built here with a large teppan built in. I have a huge output single burner like yours that a friend had copied here. I'll use the picture of the griddle (in "griddle care") from the campchef link.

                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    So am I going to have to go to Colombia for a decent okonomiyaki and bacon dog combo?

                                    1. re: Scrapironchef

                                      You bet. But let me get things rolling first.

                                      This is a country where people aren't paraniod about food safety, where health care is great, where things aren't overly regulated, where people tolerate each other on the tollways--some going 30 mph and others 130 mph, where most people aren't in a hurry, and where there are probably no morbidly obese. And while Colombian food isn't so great, I think bacon wrapped dogs would be a hit.

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        I've got no problem with you driving 30, just get out of the fast lane!

                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                          Sam- when you do this you also have to make sure you open up the hot dog buns and lightly smash them face down onto the griddle to absorb some of the flavors from the onions and peppers, some of the peppers need to be like a serrano or jalapeno left whole, and the condiments have to include ketchup, mayo, mustard and pickle relish (the "con todo") The griddle itself is like a double large sheet pan, heat not too high. The one I used to frequent also had the mixed fruits- cucumber, mango, jicama with the salty acidic hot pepper powder. Also roasted peanuts in the shell in a bag (the tiny ones)

                                          1. re: torty

                                            Got it. Thank you. All of you are going to be franchise partners! We'll become rich and transform Colombia's culinary past, present, and futhure!

                                2. I actually made a board on this topic before expressing my great disdain for the city law. I find it preposterous and of course, who eats here thinking that they are going to be that safe? I mean, my cousin calls the hepatitus dogs but that doesn't stop her, or me from eating it, nor have any of use ever gotten sick. Most of the time, I've gotten sick from sit-down restaurants! gasp! Bacon hot dogs are so incredibly LA, I mean they are this cool cultural thing indicative of the city; to take that away is a shame.

                                  Also a side note, LA law is also no making it that so taco trucks can no longer be parked in the same place for an hour. Probably the most unreasonable and understandable law ever. LA officials once again destroys their city's beautiful food culture.

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: digkv

                                    I'd guess there's probably some pressure from fixed eateries. The unregulated vendors are, in some ways, competition to many.

                                    And the fixed restaurants, competitors or not, have to operate under a huge array of rules and regs. Health dept., liquor dept., labor dept, taxes and fees, landords, etc - even before having to deliver a product the public desires, can cover the associated costs, and is unique. It's a tough enough challenge to launch and operate a venture. Thus I can appreciate, to a degree, the industry pressure for any food purveyor to play by the same set of rules under which they have to operate.

                                    And this is from a guy who has bought hundreds of meals from bacon dog vendors and taco trucks in L.A

                                    1. re: digkv

                                      The problem with marginal health risks is that people don't normally get sick, so we tend to discount them. When they do fail the consequences for the organizations involved are severe. When someone gets sick the public tends to blame the agency responsible for the inspection, not the purveyor.

                                      I love the bacon dog, and have never met a street food I didn't like, but I have to side with the food sanitation scientists on this one. They are out to limit the possibility for problems developing, not the availability of bacon dogs. You may have not gotten sick, nor your cousin, but the plural of anecdote is not data.

                                      1. re: Scrapironchef

                                        OK, no anecdotes - here's the CDC site report that lists outbreaks and deaths by foodborne illnesses, 1993-1997:
                                        http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/ss/ss4901...

                                        The highest annual # of deaths in there is 11. Pork is one of the consistently lowest number for sources of outbreaks.

                                        Eating bacon dogs is less dangerous than... walking your dog? taking a bath? I dunno... it's just got to be amongst the least dangerous activities any of us engage in, unless we're living in a bubble room like Howard Hughes.

                                        And how much money and effort do we really want our government to be putting into this? Putting people in jail?

                                        1. re: applehome

                                          Your link just proves the effectiveness of the food safety laws as they are being enforced. Again, I trust the food sanitation scientists on this one, they're not saying you can't sell them, just that you have to do it right.

                                          1. re: Scrapironchef

                                            To be clear, when you say that you trust the food safety laws as they are enforced, and the food sanitation scientists, that is to say that you would never eat from an illegal cart, right?

                                            Or are you saying that you'll trust their system, but are happy to break their rules based on your own judgment of the risks. If that's the case, do you honestly think that someone ought to have gone to jail for allowing you to exercise your own judgment?

                                            Nobody is saying that the scientists and the great body of enforced rules are not creating a better place for us to live. Of course, we need to have rules and inspections. But common sense has to prevail at some point - and putting someone in jail under these circumstances is not what's creating our safe food environment. Common sense (and Quality Control dictums) say go by the 80/20 rule and attack the biggest problems first (the most dangerous, the most prevalent). Bacon dogs aren't even close to being the biggest problem, and jailing vendors is a major injustice and waste of taxes.

                                            1. re: applehome

                                              No, I'm saying I trust food sanitation scientists, the laws are based on their work. As far as eating form an illegal cart, I've had resto food sanitation and hygiene training, I'm in a slightly better position to judge the safety of what I see than the average citizen.

                                              Nobody went to jail because of my judgement, they went to jail for their own bad judgement about operating an illegal foodservice. They balanced the risk of serving a somewhat risky food against the financial gain and lost the bet.

                                              Public health actually falls in the 80 part of my math, and that's what this is about.

                                            2. re: Scrapironchef

                                              Scientists do not make public policy. Politicians make public policy, and many of them are scientifically illiterate.

                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                Sam, as much as I agree with you about politicians, much of our body of law here in the states is well advised. Local public health agencies usually get high marks, it's as you move up the line and more dollars are involved that things drift.

                                                1. re: Scrapironchef

                                                  Yes, public health agencies have scientists and technicians on board. One of the biggest frustrations faced by scientists, however, is the inability in many cases to sufficiently influence public policy makers. I cannot think of a single US politician elected to higher office who is science literate. Terrance Powell certainly does not strike me as a scientist of any kind.