Mobile food units are one of the hottest topics and challenges facing local food regulatory programs across the nation. The second annual Capital City Food Truck Convention, sponsored by the DC, Maryland, and Virginia Food Truck Association, brought together the metropolitan region’s food truck owners, industry purveyors and service providers, and regulators March 12-13. The meeting provided vendor education, professional development, and networking opportunities. This year the convention also put on a course providing regulatory best practices for licensing and permitting mobile food businesses from the perspective of the industry.
The course, “Regulatory Oversight of Food Trucks,” was presented by Matt Gellar, the president of the National Food Truck Association (NFTA), Rob Mitchell from the Philadelphia Food Truck Association, and Brian Reed from the Central Ohio Food Truck Association. The course covered four topic areas, including: public health and keeping the consumer safe; building and commissary standards; special events regulations and standard; and vendor operations.
The presenters shared insight on the challenges and barriers mobile food truck owners face while dealing with local regulators across the country and vice-versa. Many of the issues that both sides face can be addressed by cultivating and maintaining a healthy and open relationship between regulators and industry. For example, allowing vendors to operate from private property reduces crowding on public streets and time spent searching for vendors to inspect. Many food truck owners are also willing to pay for guaranteed space to increase foot traffic, decrease search costs, and create synergy with other trucks.
Additionally, the presenters discussed current, successful regulations. The examples of regulations that work included the following:
- Every employee must have a seat with a working seatbelt while moving.
- There is no smoking on a Mobile Food Facility.
- A properly charged and maintained minimum 10 BC-rated fire extinguisher to combat grease fires must be properly mounted and readily accepted on the interior of any mobile food facility that is equipped with heating elements or cooking equipment.
- Trash must be removed from all areas visible around the truck. The truck should take all bags with them when vacating an area.
- You must have a health permit for the municipality you are doing business in.
- You must have a business license/vending permit/peddlers permit for the municipality you are doing business in.
- You must dispense food from the sidewalk side of the street. No truck may dispense food street side.
- Stay a safe distance away from intersections to avoid obstruction of site lines. Know the municipalities’ requirements.
- You must have a conspicuous litter receptacle which is clearly marked with a sign requesting its use by pastries. In-truck hatch receptacles are not sufficient.
The presenters also discussed about the importance and involvement of local fire departments with local health departments to inspect food trucks. With the recent food truck explosion in Philadelphia, food truck fire safety standards have been pushed to the forefront. To address this issue, the International Fire Marshal Association developed a task group to develop standards. Resources and information on the developing standards for food truck fire safety standards are available.
NFTA is currently developing online courses on food trucks and will include a course geared toward local regulators which is tentatively slated for release in April 2016. NFTA is also available to assist local regulators in rule developments and have worked with numerous local governments in California and several across the nation. More information is available.
NACCHO will be hosting a sharing session on food trucks for local health departments in June. Keep an eye out for an announcement on the blog.