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Health Department seeks to change food truck regulations

July 31, 2014
December 18, 2013 Cover Design by Eli Miller

December 18, 2013 Cover Design by Eli Miller

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District wants to overhaul city code that regulates food trucks.

“Basically, much of the reasoning is the face of the mobile vending industry is changing. So we needed to make some changes. So with the influx of larger mobile vending units and some of the smaller units kind of dwindling in numbers, we needed to make some changes to be more efficient,” said SAMHD Sanitarian Services Manager Stephen Barscewski.

[Your A-Z Guide to San Antonio Food Trucks]

The big changes include a new fee structure, requiring permit applicants to have a government-issued identification, limit criminal background checks to venders who sell ice cream, raspas and snow cones, and change commissary logs to a sheet rather than a time clock, mechanical-type feature. Authorities are also considering allowing food trucks to use RV Parks as service areas, as opposed to being limited to commissaries, which increase service area options for vendors, Barscewski said.

With that established, let’s cut right to the money.

The proposed changes would set up three fee categories: the fee for prepackaged or unpackaged non-potentially hazardous foods would be $100; the fee for prepackaged potentially hazardous foods would be $200 and the fee for open handling of potentially hazardous foods would be $300. Previously, fees ranged from $48 to $265 in six different categories.

“The easiest definition of a potentially hazardous food is that its food that requires refrigeration to prevent it from spoiling or causing illness,” Barscewski said. “A non-potentially hazardous food is a food that really doesn’t require refrigeration to keep it safe.”

Barscewski said the health department diligently did its homework and believes they have the support in council to pass the changes during the Aug. 7 city council meeting.

San Antonio Food Truck Association Co-founder and Financial Director Sameer Siddiqui said SAFTA collaborated with the city on rewriting the rules.

“We were one of the first ones to help guide the guidelines. They were written so long ago. We didn’t get everything we wanted but for the most part it was a good compromise for all parties,” Siddiqui said, adding that the majority of food trucks SAFTA represents have been supportive. “So as far as the proposed changes, we feel they make more sense. Was it 100 percent what we wanted? No, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Siddiqui said the biggest wins for SAFTA were doing away with criminal background checks for the majority of vendors and also decreasing the frequency of water tests from a weekly test to an annual test.

“I think it’s finally caught on,” Siddiqui said of the mobile vendors. “And I don’t think food trucks are going to go away soon.

You can read a draft of the proposed changes here:

Food Truck Draft Ordinance

 

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