Patch Answers: Illegal Parking Lot Tamales and Roadside Fruit

Officials say unauthorized vendors don't follow health codes.

Looking for a quick lunch or some fresh fruit? Stay away from roadside fruit stands and car-based tamale vendors, county officials say.

That’s because those vendors cook in a kitchen that isn’t inspected, don’t have a way to keep food at a safe temperature and don’t have a way to wash their hands on site, said Kelly McCoy, a Supervising Environmental Specialist with the Sacramento County Environmental Management Department.

“Really [we’re] trying to protect the public from buying food that could make them sick,” McCoy said in a phone interview.

Rosemont Patch reader near the Bradshaw Road Food Source.

McCoy said parking lots of large grocery stores and big-box retailers all over the county are popular among tamale vendors, who she said are often just trying to make an honest dollar.  

“It’s difficult because with the downturn in the economy people are trying to do things to feed their families and we understand that,” she said, adding that the county also wants to create a level playing field for businesses and restaurant owners who pay for county permits.

She said tamale vendors can legally receive a permit to sell from a cart, a restaurant or a market like the one that recently reopened on Kiefer Boulevard–as long as the food is prepared in a safe way and in a commercial kitchen.

Fruit cart "kingpins" targeted

McCoy leads the county’s 3-year-old Unpermitted Food Vendor Team, and said another of its goals is to crack down on fruit carts. Cut fruit can’t be sold in a cart without a sink and refrigerator, and whole fruit can’t be sold on a public street or sidewalk, she said.

Five people this year have complained of getting sick after eating at a fruit cart, although it’s hard to prove exactly what food made someone sick, McCoy said.

She said county inspectors and code enforcement officers “impound” unpermitted carts and the fruit they’re selling, but most of the time the carts don’t belong to the people staffing them.

“Just a couple people in the community are putting out these carts,” McCoy said. “We’ll take one cart and they’ll be out the next day.”

She said the fruit cart “kingpins” are hard to track down because they move often and it’s not a crime to have a fruit cart in one’s home. Still, McCoy says the county is doing the most it can with its limited resources.

“They started out three years ago with really nice stainless steel carts–we took those away,” she said. “Now [the carts are] just pieces of old, moldy plywood and yucky plastic. If we keep taking them it cuts into their profits.”

Customers wondering if a food vendor is legitimate can look for a 4-by-4-inch 2011 county inspection sticker, McCoy said. Complaints can be made to 916-875-8440.

Sos Save Our State August 18, 2011 at 08:40 PM
I always report them when I see them, and sometimes I stop and leave them a flier that you can download from the county site...even in spanish which is what most of the illegal vendors speak. But any under-the-table activity should be reported and stopped, and when it involves threats to health and safety, that goes double. Thanks to Ms McCoy for staying on top of this. But overall...rosemont is not a known haven for them; it could be if we show them we will put up with it though
Cody Kitaura (Editor) August 18, 2011 at 11:06 PM
You're right -- sometimes there are some whole fruit vendors in Rosemont, but not many. Kelly McCoy said most of the fruit carts are farther south in the county. What made you decide to get involved with reporting all the vendors you see and leaving them with fliers?
Sos Save Our State August 19, 2011 at 12:00 AM
Because I'm a hate mongering racist and bigot, who is intolerant of immigrants and fearful of diverse cultures. Or so I'm told anyway....... But I believe I'm in it for a level playing field as far as competition goes, and that includes people working under-the-table businesses to support themselves while they live in the country illegally. North Sac is also an area you find lots of illegal vendors, and not all of them are foreign imports. You'll find native born Californians setting up a sidewalk barbeque and offering ribs and chicken seasoned with roadside dust from passing cars. But overall, illegal food vendors are nearly synonamous with spanish speakers.
Cody Kitaura (Editor) August 19, 2011 at 12:39 AM
Since it's hard to tell online, I'll assume the first part of your comment was sarcasm. And a level playing field was also one of the big things McCoy brought up. Do you have a background in business or do you know some small business owners?
Matt Hopkins August 19, 2011 at 01:08 AM
Begin with checking their immigration status and follow the law. Call the nice officers with the big white bus with the green stripe. Problem solved.
Sos Save Our State August 19, 2011 at 01:32 AM
Cody, I have a small business. at least I keep telling myself so. The illegal vendors were among the underground economy that were crippling my legitimate business effort. And yes, sarcasm to a point. But that's the labels you get from some of the enablers and participants of Sacramento's underground economy. Matt, I'm not sure how much you know about immigration enforcement in the area, but ICE isn't going to be dispatching busses and agents to bust up anything remotely connected to hard working ..uh...immigrants....even those working under the table. Amd if they do, they'll have one of Obama's henchwenches on that bus giving out instructions to obtain visas to work legally.
Sos Save Our State August 19, 2011 at 01:40 AM
I'd like to add that Ms McCoy was one of the few agency persons who took action on this. I was getting nowhere previously with others, even though there were a few years of complaints. She's earned quite a bit of respect in my corner of the universe. Plus, a few of us started banding together for combined effort. I think one person complaining is just seen as an irrelevant whiner. But 3 to 5 is the beginnings of a troublemaking mob
Bettie August 19, 2011 at 02:07 PM
I buy tamales from street venders. They cost a dollar and are delicious. I support these enterpreneurs.
Sos Save Our State August 19, 2011 at 04:13 PM
Hopefully we can make it so you have to drive a long ways for one dollar tamale. I hear they're even cheaper in tiajuana, and probably even triple the food borne virus risk.
Denise August 19, 2011 at 09:17 PM
It's simple supply and demand. If you're not into them, or you think they're wildly dangerous, don't buy from them and they'll go somewhere else. Does it add value for us to be paying a person to pursue these people to protect me from myself and my poor food judgements? Also - let's not jump to the "they're all illegals" just because they're all hispanic. I've actually spoken to some, they've got their kids there, they're trying to make a buck to feed them, and they speak English and are generally from Sacramento. They're trying to take care of themselves, not drain from our collective pocket like some others who aren't trying to work. I'm so encouraged that everyone wants so passionately to keep Rosemont from sliding downhill. I love our neighborhood, and I'm concerned too about some of the things I see (at the moment I'm concerned about whether there are ladies selling their wares in our neighborhood, but that's for another post perhaps). But we tend to head right for demanding order above all things, which cannot be at the cost of other people's freedoms.
Sos Save Our State August 20, 2011 at 12:08 AM
It's not just simple supply and demand. There are rules, and one group or even a single person should not hafe the ...uh...freedom to ignore them while the rest must adhere to them. By the way, children are not able to tell which vendors are selling them contaminated food. It's up to us to protect them. I saw one of those illegal vendors next to Rosemont school, targeting the unsuspecting kids with their bootleg goods. the useless code enforcement was right down the street and wouldn't do their job. they should be replaced with actual working, caring employees, willing to do their jobs. But in the interim, it's up to us individually to protect our kids in the community. And I don't care if they are illegals or not. Illegal vendors must be stopped. It just becomes double the offense when they are breaking immigration laws too.
Frank August 20, 2011 at 12:59 AM
This story is a bunch of B.S. I buy from street vendors all the time. I have never gotten sick, but I did get sick from the chinese food I bought from the deli area of Bel Air in Elk Grove! These are the same useless people that are trying to circumvent honest people trying to make an honest living. I am appalled that we allow this to happen.
Sos Save Our State August 20, 2011 at 01:28 AM
If they were honest people, they would get a permit, an inspection, and use approved equipment. But they don't, so they are dishonest
Dave Peterson August 21, 2011 at 04:38 PM
Get a dictionary,look up the word Honest,then rethink your view or go apply for disability because your brain doesn't function properly.
Sos Save Our State August 21, 2011 at 05:07 PM
My brain works just fine. Personal attacks are a poor substitute for reasoned exchanges. I could say you might want to look up the definition of illegal.
Cody Kitaura (Editor) August 21, 2011 at 05:14 PM
Dave, please stay away from personal attacks. I want everyone to have an open discussion here, but I want it to be respectful.
Sos Save Our State August 24, 2011 at 05:27 PM
I don't know why I should be prohibited from bringing up the cultural, national, or legal status of the vendors where applicable. But if it's any comfort to you, I report anyone I suspect, regardless of those factors above. I don't like it that caffien and sugar laden products are sold legally on school grounds either, but reporting it does little good. There you have to go to community and state meetings to change the law. In the case of illegal vendors, they often are selling products they made up at home, and soft drink companies are at least inspected and regulated. It might be inspected garbage, but at least it isn't laden with salmonella. I have many videos of illegal vendors targeting children, and they are not just high schools
Sos Save Our State August 24, 2011 at 05:57 PM
I'm pretty sure I mentioned the level playing field/unfair competition thing too
Cody Kitaura (Editor) August 24, 2011 at 06:46 PM
Folks, please stay away from personal attacks and arguments about other users' reasoning. Let's stick to the topic of the story and not devolve into arguing and mud-slinging.
Sos Save Our State August 24, 2011 at 07:00 PM
Yes, it's getting to be a circular, pointless pursuit now. I will point out that researching this topic has actually made me more aware of food safety at home and at picnics, and other gatherings. As mentioned before, it may be tradition, but people traditionally got sick too. I also speak up sometimes when I'm at restaurants or stores when I feel it's warranted. At Starbucks once this worker was carrying several floor mats to be cleaned outside, and then dropped them to help the person in front of me. she immediately had her hands all over the coffee equipment, their cups, etc without so much as a wash. Floor mats are filthy, because they capture the germs from each persons trip to the toilet, the trash cans outside, the parking lot during breaks, etc. Sure I mentioned that to her.
john burch June 28, 2012 at 08:28 PM
So, if these so called illegal vendors were to become legal then what would your be your complaint for your crippling legitimate business?
Raider Nation June 29, 2012 at 01:40 AM
LOL!! Great point John. Then it would be those darn "foreigners". Just admit "SOS" that you are a failed businessman and you have no one to blame but yourself. Now go cry a river to people who care


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