As a mobile food vendor, you can sell food and snacks from one location to the next; however, you must first obtain a food handler's permit from the health department of the state in which you sell your goods. In addition to completing an application form, there will be a full inspection of your unit before you receive authorization to sell food from your mobile restaurant. Whether you use a cart, trailer or vehicle, there are certain requirements that you must meet before you receive a permit. The authorities must be convinced that your food business meets their standards.
Food safety is a major issue in public health, and the equipment you use must be appropriate. For example, if you operate a pushcart in Dallas, your container can be no longer than 6 feet. The roof vents of your container should prevent dust and flies from entering. Similarly, ensure that you cover doors, windows and any other opening in mesh to keep out flies and other insects. The opening for serving should be as small as possible for the same reason. Also, make sure that you seal and repair all cracks and crevices and that your interior is of stainless steel.
Some of the documents that you must obtain in order to operate as a mobile food vendor include a business license, a location license and your health-department permit. In some states, such as Texas, you also must possess a valid driver's license. Keep your documents with you so that if there is a spot check, it will be obvious that you are certified. State authorities are strict on their prerequisites for food vending, and it is up to you to make sure that you are ready for any form of scrutiny or inspection.
Keep your unit in good condition; otherwise, you run the risk of having your licenses revoked. Do a daily inspection, making sure to clean the floors, appliances and surfaces with soap and disinfectant solution. You must keep all associated fixtures, fittings and equipment clean and in proper working order. There should be no form of fumes, smoke or foul odors. No waste water or garbage should go beyond a day, and they should be disposed of without threat to the environment.
State regulations vary from state to state. In New York City, for example, before you submit an application, you must first pass the health-department's Food Protection course; in Dallas, home-based operations are not allowed. Vendors must operate from a commissary, and the vehicle must report daily for food from the commissary. The same is true in Florida, and you can only prepare items that cook quickly on the unit. So, make sure you check with your state's health or agriculture department, as a permit in one state does not necessarily satisfy the requirements in another.
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A technical business analyst since 1995, Julie Davoren began her writing career in 2009. She writes technical articles and travel articles for various websites. Davoren studied accounting at Point Park University and computer information systems at the University of Phoenix.