MySafetySign Blog

Street food vendors VS. NYC health department

NYC food cart (Image by Tony Fischer)

Mobile eateries just can’t seem to catch a break! Modern street kitchens that serve up an array of dazzlingly varied cuisines to foodies in New York are under scrutiny, yet again. This time it is for issues like health violations, overcrowded sidewalks, and a thriving black market for permits. The city’s Health Department has released a list of new mandates that will require permits and govern cart size, hand washing, and storage facilities for street food vendors.

Food carts on sidewalks can be a maximum of 5’ wide and 10’ long. This measure is intended to prevent overcrowding. Food trucks do not have any such size limit.

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Another policy will simplify equipment requirements. Equipment should correspond to the kind of food sold and cooking methods used. The Gothamist reports, “Carts and trucks that prepare raw meat will be required to have a sink for hand washing, while those that sell only prepackaged foods will not.” This rule will help mobile food vendors meet sanitary standards.

The new regulations are a reaction to the health codes being continuously violated by street food vendors. NYC Department of Health collected 18 months of food cart violation information. Subsequently, it tracked down carts with the highest number of violations in the last year.

Myfoxny reports , “In 2012 the New York City Department of Health recorded nearly 7,000 violations ranging from live rodents to food being kept at dangerous temperatures. Some vendors were even serving mystery meat.”

Although the NYC Health Department fines totaled almost $16 million in 2012, $15 million remained uncollected. In most cases, collecting fines is difficult because food carts are mobile.

Another regulation may be the solution. Permit holders will have to be present during inspections. This change will also curb the black market in permits where a $200 permit can go for $15,000. Some permit holders live as far away as Texas, “making it clear their real business was in illicit licensing and not food.” (Source: New York Post)

A further regulation requires facilities that store food trucks and carts for the night to keep a log of the dates and times of the vehicles’ entries and exits. This will also enable the Health Department to track down trucks and carts to collect fines.

Other problems plague food trucks. City Councilman Dan Garodnick has proposed a bill to designate a maximum of 450 parking spaces in NYC for food trucks. It would also set a limit of one vehicle per block. Max Crespo, owner of a food truck, said, “I find it hard to believe that it would pass. People like street food. People need to eat. New York is a giant machine and food is the fuel.” Parking restrictions would limit the options for customers and could affect jobs. (Source: Daily News)