ST. PETERSBURG, Florida— More problems for Tampa Bay’s troubled Taco Bus chain with state health inspectors shutting down yet another location after discovering major health code violations that could make customers sick.
An inspector with the Florida Division of Hotels and Restaurants visited the Taco Bus location on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg on February 28th, uncovering 34 food safety violations and prompting the temporary closure of the establishment’s trailer kitchen.
The inspection report shows the issues included major food temperature violations including a squeeze bottle of sour cream found at 80°F and raw beef stored 71°F. The state also ordered a stop-sale on the tomato paste (87°F), shredded cheese (42°F -62°F), pico de gallo (49°F), cut cabbage (59°F -63°F), guacamole with cut tomato (49°F), and vegan steak (60°F). The safe temperature for foods that require refrigeration is considered to be 41 degrees or below.
Records show the truck’s sole refrigeration unit was not functioning properly with employees instead of trying to use ice to keep items cold.
“That refrigeration issue got fixed right away said Taco Bus General Manager Pedro Ramos. “The door was open the whole lunch time.”
Ramos criticized Senior Sanitation and Safety Specialist Deborah Von Cannon for showing up to inspect the kitchen in the middle of the restaurant’s lunchtime rush. “She’s very hard to deal with.”
In our report from last May, 10Investigates found food temperature abuse to be a recurring issue at Taco Bus locations across Tampa Bay.
The health inspector also ordered cut peppers be thrown out after finding a “milky white liquid” dripping into the uncovered container from above.
Another major issue leading to the emergency closure was a clogged drain causing sewage or wastewater to back up into the kitchen. The inspector indicated management was warned to get the problem corrected, but restaurant staff indicated there was a cup stuck in the line.
The inspector wrote up the cook for not washing their hands before working with food, also citing the establishment for not providing soap at the employee hand sink.
A separate kitchen at the same location was allowed to remain open but also had violations including missing soap and paper towels at employee hand sinks, and small insects flying around over a soiled food prep table.
The Taco Bus St. Pete location was cleared by the state to reopen later the same day. See the follow-up inspection report here.
10Investigates visited the original Taco Bus location on Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa last May, after one of that location’s food trucks was ordered to cease operations after an inspector found live roaches running throughout the kitchen. At the time, owner Renee Valenzuela told us the truck was not in operation when the roaches were found, but state records confirmed the truck was stocked with refrigerated food.
If you have a tip for Restaurant Red Alert reporter Beau Zimmer, you can e-mail us at RedAlert@wtsp.com.