LA County supervisors push back their vote on food truck grading system

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David Berkowitz (cc by-nc-nd)

The Coolhaus Ice Cream Truck - Los Angeles CA

Los Angeles County Supervisors are pushing back their vote to roll out the restaurant grading system for food catering trucks. Health inspectors are using this time to prepare traditional taco truck operators for the changes ahead.

"What he’s saying," Erin Glen says in Spanish, is that the rules are going to be the same for restaurants and food trucks. She heads the trade group most traditional truck operators belong to, La Asocacion de Loncheros.

Glen’s standing in front of about a hundred truck operators to translate what a health inspector is saying about bathroom access. The new rules will require all trucks to carry written consent to use a restroom within 200 feet – and those restrooms must include a sink.

"That has hot running water,” she says, “No exceptions.” Existing regulations also require this, so it’s nothing new. But truck operators have been getting away with washing their hands on their truck, after they’ve used the bathroom. The new letter grades will expand to food trucks the same state health laws that have governed restaurants for 20 years.

Most traditional and gourmet mobile vendors welcome the change. But some in this group say they’re concerned that more formalities will invite more problems with health officials in the field.

Ortega says some inspectors aren’t that good. He’s operated his truck, Mariscos Jalisco, in the same downtown spot for eight years.

“Because they use different criteria to judge us," Ortega says in Spanish. "For example, one inspector might come and tell me everything is fine. Another will come and tell me that I’m doing everything wrong.”

Truck operators in this trade group say that inconsistency has to stop. Most appreciate the value in a standardized system that lets customers know their mobile kitchens are clean. But they say that standard should also include a written list of inspection criteria.

Health department officials took questions from gourmet truck operators about a month ago. L.A. County supervisors are scheduled to revisit the food truck grading issue in two weeks.

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