April 5, 2012

The Food Truck Stops Here

A bill in the Missouri House of Representatives would, if passed, prohibit anyone from operating a food truck without a license.

At first, I thought this legislation was a bad idea. After all, it will certainly make it more expensive to operate a food truck. The bill would require every food truck (and restaurants and warehouses that store food truck supplies) to pay $100 each year to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Costs associated with complying with the proposed licensing law could result in some food trucks closing or increasing their prices. Some would-be food truck entrepreneurs may even be discouraged from ever trying to open a food truck company in Missouri.

This law would also require food truck operators to list, on their applications, the location of all warehouses or restaurants that supply their food and where they repair and store their food trucks. Perhaps some restaurant owners or food truck operators who have the right connections could get a sense of how best to undercut their competition with this information.

Food truck operators would even have to make sure that records of the “specific locations of the specific itineraries” for the food trucks are readily available for inspection. Could food trucks that announce their lunchtime locations, like @PiTruckSTL, @falafelwich, and @whereschacha, submit those tweets as the required “itineraries”?

This law does sound bad for food trucks.

But, then I read the provisions of the food truck law that require inspections. Did you know that food trucks would have to provide “samples of food, drink, and other substances…as often as may be necessary” to inspectors to determine if the food is “unwholesome?” Or, that inspectors would be granted “access…to the interior of all mobile food units…at such times as the department considers necessary?”

Department inspectors could have access to Pi Pizza, Falafelwich, Cha Cha Tacos, and a litany other of food trucks as often as “necessary.” They might be able to participate in ridealongs if they demand to have access to the interior of a food truck while it drives.

You know, this legislation does not sound so bad. Where do I sign up to be an inspector?

By the way, check out our video about city regulation of food trucks.

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