Food Fight

Amid the hustle and bustle of downtown Los Angeles, there exists another world, an underground world of illicit trade in—not drugs or sex—but bacon-wrapped hot dogs. Street vendors like Elizabeth Palacios must choose between satisfying customers’ desire for bacon or government regulators who call the salty pleasure “a potentially hazardous food.” Palacios knows the regulations have teeth—she spent 45 days in jail for selling black market bacon dogs.

Amid the hustle and bustle of downtown Los Angeles, there exists another world, an underground world of illicit trade in-not drugs or sex-but bacon-wrapped hot dogs. Street vendors may sell you an illegal bacon dog, but hardly anyone will talk about it, for fear of being hassled, shut down or worse. Our camera caught it on tape. One minute bacon dogs are sold in plain view, the next minute cops have confiscated carts, and ordered the dogs dumped into the trash.

Elizabeth Palacios is one of the few vendors willing to speak publicly. "Doing bacon is illegal," she explains. Problem is customers love bacon, and Palacios says she loses business if she doesn't give them the bacon they demand. "Bacon is a potentially hazardous food," says Terrence Powell of the LA County Health Department. Continue selling bacon dogs without county-approved equipment and you risk fines and jail time.

Palacios knows all about that. She spent 45 days in the slammer for selling bacon dogs, and with the lost time from work, fines, and attorney's fees, she fears she might lose the house that bacon dogs helped buy. She must provide for her family, but remains trapped between government regulations and consumer demand. Customers don't care about safety codes, says Palacios. "They just want the bacon."

In "Food Fight: Battle of the Bacon Dogs," reason.tv host Drew Carey takes a long look at the human cost of trying to prohibit trade in oh-so-tasty treats.

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