Mobile food trucks operating in the City of Los Angeles will be required to display letter grades indicating the results of health department inspections after the Los Angeles City Council approved a motion Wednesday by Councilmember Tom LaBonge, 4th District.
The city council’s decision came roughly a month after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a countywide letter grading system for food trucks, food carts and mobile vendors that is similar to the requirements in place for restaurants. The Los Angeles City Council also approved a motion by LaBonge that will study how the letter grade system will affect mobile food trucks serving the film industry.
“The public health is the most important thing. What we want to do is make sure we have a system in place with ratings for trucks selling food off the streets,” LaBonge said. “This is one step in a long process of creating regulations for these trucks, and it will ensure that people are getting food that is safe when they order from one of these trucks.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, 3rd District, initiated the county’s mobile food truck grading system, and said that he hoped other cities would follow suit.
“We believed it was the best way to ensure that the vast number of food trucks and carts are meeting the standards of public health,” Yaroslavsky said. “It is to protect the public from food poisoning and food-borne illnesses that can potentially occur with these trucks.”
The county and city of Los Angeles have had a letter grade rating system for restaurants in place since 1998. The trucks will get a letter grade when they renew their permits and are inspected, and must display it in a place that is easily visible. The system will take approximately one year to be fully implemented, with truck owners renewing their permits at different times.
The letter grade system was welcomed by some industry advocates representing the food trucks. Matt Geller, CEO of the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association, said he believes the new system will add some legitimacy to the mobile eateries.
“This kind of thing couldn’t have come soon enough,” Geller said. “The grades are going to inform the public, just like they are doing with the other restaurants out there. Another benefit is that in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County, there are a lot of illegal vendors who don’t get permits, and this will help create a public perception that if you don’t see a grade, don’t eat there.”
LaBonge said there are many other issues involving food trucks that he is currently trying to resolve, including the proliferation of the trucks on Wilshire Boulevard. More than 20 routinely park along Museum Row in the Miracle Mile during the lunch hours, and some restaurant owners have complained that they are taking away their business. LaBonge said he is working to establish a location where the food trucks will be allowed to park, but added that the city council is not ready to move forward on that issue. The issues surrounding mobile food trucks that exclusively serve the film industry are another concern.
“The City of Los Angeles wants to continue to be partners with the film industry the way it has been for over 100 years,” LaBonge said. “As we consider the issues surrounding food trucks, we want to be certain we’re not adversely affecting a key ingredient of the Los Angeles economy.”
The council directed the City Attorney’s Office to work with FilmLA, the organization that coordinates film permitting in Los Angeles County; the Motion Picture and Television Mobile Catering Association; and the Los Angeles County Health Department to create an ordinance that would apply to the film industry’s food trucks. The group will report on the progress in 90 days.
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