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FAQs for Mobile Food Facilities


1. What is a mobile food facility?

A mobile food facility is any vehicle/cart used in conjunction with a commissary or other permanent food facility upon which food is sold or distributed on a retail level (California Retail Food Code, Section 113831).

2. How do I obtain a permit for my mobile food facility?

  1. Obtain a Mobile Food Facility Application. Applications are available online at www.cchealth.org/eh or at the Environmental Health office located at 2120 Diamond Boulevard Suite 200 in Concord.
  2. Complete the application and submit it along with the appropriate permit fee and any supplemental materials (e.g. vehicle registration, food safety certificate, etc.).
  3. Once our office has received all of the application materials and fees, an appointment for an inspection of the mobile food facility will be arranged.

3. Do I need to submit plans for my mobile food facility?

No. Plan review is not required for mobile food facilities. Plan review is only required if you wish to obtain a health permit for a mobile support unit.

4. What qualifies as a potentially hazardous food (PHF)?

Food that is in a form capable of (1) supporting rapid and progressive growth of infectious or toxigenic microorganisms that may cause food infections or food intoxications (requires time and temperature control), or (2) supporting the growth or toxin production of Clostridium botulinum.

5. What does not qualify as a potentially hazardous food (PHF)?

"Potentially hazardous food" does not include foods that have a pH level of 4.6 or below, foods that have a water activity (aw) value of 0.85 or less under standard conditions, food products in hermetically sealed containers processed to meet the commercial sterility standard, as defined in Section 113.3(e) of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations, or food that has been shown by appropriate microbial challenge studies approved by the enforcement agency not to support the rapid and progressive growth of infectious or toxigenic microorganisms that may cause food infections or the growth and toxin production of Clostridium botulinum (California Retail Food Code, Section 113871).

6. What are the different types of mobile food facilities?

The three basic types are enclosed mobile food facilities, unenclosed mobile food facilities, and mobile food facilities which sell non-potentially hazardous food items. The type will determine the kind of foods allowed to be sold from the vehicle/cart.

7. What is an enclosed mobile food facility?

An enclosed mobile food facility is a vehicle that is equipped with all of the necessary equipment needed to conduct full scale food preparation as defined in Section 113791 of the California Retail Food Code (e.g. catering truck/trailer).

8. What is an unenclosed mobile food facility?

An unenclosed mobile food facility is a trailer/cart that is restricted to conducting limited food preparation as defined in Section 113818 of the California Retail Food Code (e.g. hot dog/tamale cart, churro cart, shaved ice cart, espresso cart, etc.)

9. Do I need a permit to sell packaged food items from my vehicle/cart?

Yes. Any person who operates a mobile food facility is required to have a health permit issued by the enforcement agency (California Retail Food Code, Section 114387).

10. Do I need to have a food safety certificate?

A food safety certificate is required for mobile food facilities that prepare, handle, and/or serve non-prepackaged potentially hazardous foods (California Retail Food Code, Section 113947.1).

11. Is my mobile food facility permit valid in other counties?

No. You must obtain a separate health permit for each County you wish to operate in.

12. How long can I stay at a particular location?

If your location is in the unincorporated areas. of the County then the Contra Costa County Ordinance (CCCO) applies. CCCO Section 413-3.1612 states that motorized mobile units shall be permitted for a maximum of one hour per day, per site. Non-motorized mobile units shall be permitted for a maximum of two hours per day, per site.

If your location is inside the city limits (incorporated areas of the County), you must check with local municipal codes for restrictions on vending within city limits.

13. Can I operate an open-air barbecue alongside a mobile food facility?

No. Barbecuing is allowed only on the same premises as, in reasonable proximity to, and in conjunction with, a permanent food facility approved for food preparation, a temporary food facility, or a stationary mobile food facility operating at a designated community event (California Retail Food Code, Section 114143).

14. Do I need to utilize a commissary in order to obtain a mobile food facility permit?

Yes. The exceptions are for mobile food facilities which sell only whole uncut produce and/or pre-packaged, non-potentially hazardous foods. Mobile food facilities, which are exempt from the commissary requirement, must provide copies of receipts where food is being purchased and store any excess food at an approved food facility at the end of each operating day.

15. Do I have to be near a restroom?

Yes. Mobile food facilities shall operate within 200 feet travel distance of an approved and readily available toilet and handwashing facility or as otherwise approved by the enforcement agency to ensure restroom facilities are available to facility employees (California Retail Food Code, Section 114315).

16. Do I have to obtain a separate permit if I wish to participate in a temporary event?

If your mobile food facility has a valid health permit a separate temporary event permit is not required.

17. Can I park or store my mobile food facility at home?

No. All mobile food facilities must be parked or stored at an approved commissary at the end of each operating day and whenever they are not in use (except for mobile food facilities which sell whole uncut produce and/or prepackaged, non-potentially hazardous foods).

18. Are there ceiling height and aisle width requirements for mobile food facilities?

Yes. A mobile food facility shall have a clear, unobstructed height over the aisle-way portion of the unit of at least 74 inches from floor to ceiling, and a minimum of 30 inches of unobstructed horizontal aisle space. This shall not apply to vehicles under permit prior to January 1, 1996 (California Retail Food Code, Section 114321).

19. What is the penalty for operating without a valid health permit?

A fine up to three times the cost of permit fee and/or other administrative actions (California Retail Food Code, Section 114387).

20. Can I set up extra shelves/tables next to my mobile food facility?

No. All food that is sold or distributed to the public must be stored on the permitted mobile food facility. Table top displays are only allowed at a temporary food event, swap meet, or certified farmer's market.

21. Do I need a handwash sink?

Yes. A handwash sink is required for all mobile food facilities that sell non-prepackaged food items (California Retail Food Code, Section 114311).

22. Can I use magnetic signage on my mobile food facility?

No. Permanent signage is required on at least two sides of the exterior of the vehicle/cart. The business name must be at least 3 inches high and of a color contrasting with the vehicle/cart exterior. The address and telephone number of the owner/operator or commissary must be at least 1 inch high and of a color contrasting with the vehicle/cart exterior. All signage must be legible and clearly visible to consumers.