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L.A. County gives initial OK for food truck grading plan

Food trucks in Los Angeles County will soon be required to post letter grades from public health officials evaluating their food-handling practices, supervisors said Tuesday.

All five county supervisors voted for the new ordinance, which received preliminary approval Tuesday but must be ratified in another vote next week. The ordinance would go into effect 30 days after the final vote in unincorporated areas of the county; local city councils must ratify the new grading plan for it to be effective within city limits.

The plan will expand the popular program that gives brick-and-mortar restaurants an A, B or C grade on food-handling practices to rolling food establishments. In recent years, some entrepreneurs have turned the once-derided “roach coaches” into upscale, gourmet kitchens on wheels, offering exotic fused concoctions of kimchi tacos or fancy cupcakes.

The first phase of the plan will expand the grading program to about 3,200 full-service catering trucks, and a second phase to begin next July will expand them to about 2,800 more limited food facilities, such as hot dog and churro carts.

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The board also approved an amendment by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas asking the county Department of Public Health to brief the supervisors on how officials plan to educate the public and food truck owners about the new ordinance, how they plan to evaluate its effectiveness, and any options to reward vendors who sell healthier foods in low-income communities with limited access to nutritious foods.

The ordinance would require twice-a-year inspections for mobile food facilities, up from the current requirement of a single annual inspection. A separate certification inspection would still be required. The ordinance would also require them to report their routes to the county, so that officials could perform surprise inspections.

Those that aren’t complying with county health rules could be shut down.

The proposed ordinance covers almost any truck selling any type of food, including motorized and nonmotorized vehicles, food carts and “any vehicle from which animal food, bakery products, fish, shellfish, fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, preserves, jelly, relish, milk or other dairy products, food or food products, ice or beverages, whether in bulk, canned, wrapped, bottled, packaged, or any other form, are sold.”

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One main question is how much the expanded inspection program will cost. Public health officials don’t have an answer, but say they will monitor the cost of the expanded program and report to the board next April on whether inspection fees should be raised.

ron.lin@latimes.com


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