About Food Trucks and Carts

Street food offers a convenient way for people to buy food on the go. Food trucks and carts, also called mobile food facilities, can sell a variety of foods, from prepackaged chips and soda cans to full meals prepared in the truck.

There are many rules and regulations that determine how people can prepare and sell food. Those rules are designed to protect the health and safety of the public. For mobile food facilities that are allowed in Los Angeles County, such as trucks and carts, operators must have permits, pass inspection, and follow the rules about handling food. Every approved food truck and cart in Los Angeles County should have a Letter Grade and a certification sticker indicating that it is a permitted food facility. You can look for these stickers on the outside of the food truck or cart.

Food Truck Permit Food Truck Grade Card

Public Health permits and inspects all mobile food facilities in Los Angeles County.

Public Health is responsible for enforcing the California Retail Food Code in all of Los Angeles County except for those located in the cities of Pasadena, Long Beach, and Vernon. Those cities have their own health departments that enforce the Code within their jurisdiction.

How to become a Mobile Food Vendor

Anyone over 18 years of age can get a mobile food facility permit. You don't have to be a U.S. resident or citizen to get a public health permit. Public Health will NOT ask questions regarding your residency status.

All mobile food facilities must be inspected before selling food to the public. New trucks and carts may also go through the Plan Check process. The fee for the Public Health Permit and permitting process is different depending on what type of equipment will be needed to safely serve the planned menu items.

Permitted food facilities must follow all local rules about land use and are not allowed to expand operations in a way that blocks the sidewalk.

Information on Mobile Food Facility Permits

The Plan Check Guide covers the requirements for constructing and operating a mobile food facility. The Guide answers many technical questions about the plan check process.

No smoking is allowed within 40 feet of mobile food trucks or carts. All mobile food facilities must display signs that state the no smoking rule. Details about the requirements and examples for downloading are available on the No Smoking Signage Page.

The Marking Guide details what inspectors look for during an inspection and how conditions will be marked during an inspection.

All mobile food facilities are required to notify Public Health of their route and schedule.

  • Mobile Food Facility (MFF) - any vehicle used in conjunction with a commissary or other permanent food facility upon which food is sold or distributed at retail
  • High-risk mobile food truck - a fully enclosed mobile food facility in which complex menu items are prepared and extensive food preparation occurs
  • High-risk mobile food cart - An unenclosed mobile food facility in which:
    1. food preparation that is restricted to one or more of the following:
      1. Heating, frying, baking, roasting, popping, shaving of ice, blending, steaming or boiling of hot dogs, or assembly of non-prepackaged food
      2. Dispensing and portioning of non-potentially hazardous food
      3. Holding, portioning, and dispensing of any foods that are prepared for satellite food service by the onsite permanent food facility or prepackaged by another approved source
      4. Slicing and chopping of food on a heated cooking surface during the cooking process
      5. Cooking and seasoning to order
      6. Preparing beverages that are for immediate service, in response to an individual consumer order, that do not contain frozen milk products
    2. "Limited food preparation" does not include any of the following:
      1. Slicing and chopping unless it is on the heated cooking surface
      2. Thawing
      3. Cooling of cooked, potentially hazardous food
      4. Grinding raw ingredients or potentially hazardous food
      5. Reheating of potentially hazardous foods for hot holding, except for steamed or boiled hot dogs and tamales in the original, inedible wrapper
      6. Hot holding of non-prepackaged, potentially hazardous food, except for roasting corn on the cob roasting corn on the cob, steamed or boiled hot dogs, and tamales in the original, inedible wrapper
      7. Washing of foods
      8. Cooking of potentially hazardous foods for later use
  • Mobile Support Unit (MSU) refers to a vehicle, used in conjunction with a commissary, that travels to, and services mobile food facilities as needed to replenish supplies, including food and potable water, clean the interior of the unit, or dispose of liquid or solid wastes
  • Commissary - a food facility in which food, equipment, and/or supplies are stored or handled, food is prepared or prepackaged for sale or service at other locations, utensils are cleaned, liquid or solid wastes are disposed of, and potable water is obtained for used in MFFs
  • Mobile Food Facility Route Sheet – Available in English and Spanish , provides information to the Vehicle Inspection Program (VIP) as to the location and times of individual Mobile Food Facility operation. Failure to notify VIP of any changes may result in the suspension or revocation of your Public Health Permit to operate as a Mobile Food Facility.

    County code 8.04.403 Route location, requires the owner/operator of a mobile food facility or mobile support unit shall complete a Mobile Food Facility Route Sheet, obtained from the county health officer, listing the complete address, telephone number and arrival/departure times of each location where the retail food business is being conducted.

Vehicle Classifications

Public Health uses the following classifications for mobile food facilities:

Food Trucks

Picture of a food truck outside
High-risk Food Truck
Picture of a food truck inside
Low-risk Food Truck

Carts

High-risk Food Cart
High-risk Food Cart
Low-risk food Cart
Low-risk Food Cart

The level of risk, high or low, has to do with the menu items that will be available. For example, pre-packaged food that does not need to be refrigerated is generally considered low risk. Soft serve ice cream and other foods that will need to be refrigerated and prepared are considered high risk because of the potential for food-borne illness.

Mobile food facilities include:

  • Mobile Food Preparation Units
  • Soft Serve Vehicles
  • Prepackaged Ice Cream Vehicles
  • Produce Vehicles
  • Retail Fish Vehicles
  • Retail Bakery Vehicles
  • Independent Wholesale Delivery Vehicle
  • Limited Food Preparation Vehicles
  • Food Service Carts
    • Hot Dog Carts
    • Espresso/cappuccino Carts
    • Popcorn Carts
    • Churro/pretzel carts
    • Prepackaged food carts
  • Mobile Support Units

Report a Problem

To report a problem with a food truck or cart, call Public Health’s Vehicle Inspection Program at (626) 430-5500 or send email to ehvip@ph.lacounty.gov. It is helpful to report details about the problem, such as exact location of the food sales, day and times of operation, and a description of what the vendor is doing.

Contact Us

County of Los Angeles Public Health
Environmental Health
Vehicle Inspection Program
5050 Commerce Drive
Baldwin Park, CA. 91706

Phone: (626) 430-5500
Fax: (626) 813-3021
Email: ehvip@ph.lacounty.gov