In the United States and of course in most countries of the world, there are requirements and regulations that govern every industry and the food truck industry is not an exemption. If you run a food truck business, you are required to meet the regulations that govern the industry even though most states have slightly different requirements and regulations for food truck businesses.
According to the State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) a food truck is a licensed vehicle from which food is sold at temporary sites. Workers work inside the food truck but the public stays outside. Also, a food truck is no more than 8.5 feet wide and has at least one of the following: an electrical system, a water or drain system, or a propane gas system.
Please note that as regard types of regulations for food trucks, your state or city will have specific requirements that must be met depending on your mode of operation. For example, if you are selling prepackaged foods, you are not going to be considered as a food handler and you may have to contend with less stringent requirements than if you are actually preparing foods or even scooping ice cream.
So, if you truly want to start a food truck business in the United States, here are some of the requirements and regulations you have to comply with;
5 Types of Regulations for Food Truck
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1. Business License Requirements
If you are looking towards starting a food truck business in the United States, one of the very first regulations you are expected to comply with is to apply and secure the appropriate business license. A food truck is required to have a state business license. Cities and counties typically require food trucks to obtain local business licenses as well.
In as much as it might be pretty difficult to secure business license for a food truck business in some states, it is important to state that some cities, like Wenatchee provide temporary business licenses at reduced cost to vendors who seek to do business in the city for a limited period of time. Other jurisdictions, such as Ellensburg will not require a business license from a vendor that is an authorized participant in a permitted special event.
2. Health and Safety Department Requirements
Another regulation that is mandatory and cut across all the states in the United States is that you should comply with the health and safety department requirements. In the United States and in most countries of the world, before you can be allowed to serve food to the public, you are required to obtain a permit from the local health department.
Health departments require detailed plans to minimize the risk of foodborne illness. Since health departments generally have countywide jurisdiction, food truck owners must obtain approval when they wish to operate in a new county.
In the United States, food safety regulations state that those selling the food are responsible for it and that the food must be safe to eat in terms of its hygiene, allergen ingredients and cooking particularities. A food training course will equip you with all the information you need, like contamination knowledge, and food holding temperatures, to start your food business in a safe and legal way.
It might interest you to know that food truck operators and of course all food preparation enterprises come under the food and beverage industry and need to comply with the concession businesses rules and laws according to their localities. There are also special laws for vendors in some states, so that should also be checked.
In order to maximized safety of health, most food industry businesses are required to go through a food safety exam in which an official inspection may take place. There are more than 500 concession contracts under The National Park Service, which conducts periodic inspections of its contract holders and keeps an eye on their tariffs and price lists, as per their regulatory role in the industry.
3. Location and Parking Regulations
Food truck parks are designated places that food trucks are permitted by the law to park when they are not moving from one place to another to sell their products. It is illegal to park your food truck anywhere else, even in your own home hence you must look for a food truck park to park your food truck.
According to different states and city councils, different locational rules and regulations are applied on the food businesses. This depends on the place you want to park your truck during its operation and where you want to go with it if you keep it totally mobile.
For those food truckers who want to keep switching between different cities and states, road route map applications will help in the routes that your vehicle can take while your city government’s laws will tell you whether you can operate in commercial, residential or public spaces.
Please note that when you negotiate with a food truck park owner to lease space to park your food truck and vend, you must do due diligence to make sure the property has the amenities you will need to operate legally and profitably. When it comes to food truck, permits and regulation vary across different areas so make sure to contact your local health department and transportation authority before entering into an arrangement with a property owner.
4. Gas and Electrical Safety Certificates
The fact that your business is primarily about cooking means that you will be making use of either a lot of gas or electricity to cook or prepare your food. Not only do your gas and electrical equipment need to be in accordance with the laws but they also need to check for safety hazards on a bi-yearly or annual basis. For both gas and electricity, there will be different authorities within your city’s institutions that will govern this aspect.
This means that you should make sure you comply with the requirements for the usage of gas or electricity in the city where you want to operate your food truck business from.
5. Annual Inspection
Submitting your food truck to annual inspection is one of the regulations that you are expected to comply with as a food truck operator in the United States of America. In the United States of America, food trucks are typically inspected at least once a year by a health department inspector, sometimes randomly.
The inspector checks to see how food is stored so that it doesn’t spoil. All food equipment as well as sinks and water supplies are checked. Commercial kitchens and garages in which food trucks are kept are also inspected frequently and can be fined if they don’t meet health and fire codes. For example, In Washington, an inspection is conducted to verify the following:
- Proof of ownership, proper identification and vehicle license
- Proof of district-issued food manager identification card
- Food purchase record storage and record keeping
- Depot, commissary or service support facility meets vending unit operation needs
- Copy of license for the service support facility and/or a recent inspection report
It is important to point out that earlier this year in the United States of America, the legislature passed SHB 2639, which exempts food truck operators from state board and local health jurisdiction requirements to have a separate brick-and-mortar kitchen for preparation and storage of their food. Now, operators can prepare, store, and cook food in the trucks as long as certain requirements (listed in the legislation) for equipment and storage are met.