Food cart modules can soon request a new license; inspections will start in early 2022

November 17, 2021

This week, food cart pod owners and operators will begin receiving notice this week of new health and safety rules and licensing requirements for food cart pods in Multnomah County. The new licenses and rules, which take effect in January, will apply to any pod owner or operator who allows two or more food carts to park continuously on a property.

Any pod owner or operator must apply for this license, whether they already have a food cart pod or are planning to open a new one. This order does not apply to individual catering carts.

The rules come after years of concerns raised by mobile unit inspectors who have struggled to investigate violations such as rat infestations or sewage spills in food cart pods. Without rules to govern the health and safety of the entire nacelle, inspectors struggled to identify which truck(s) might be contributing to the problem. The county’s Foodservice Advisory Committee raised those concerns with the county’s Board of Commissioners in 2017, asking the council to require pods to obtain licenses and be subject to oversight. In 2018, Health Environment formed a working group focus on their main concerns then presented them to the Board in early 2019.

The Board of Commissioners, in October 2019, placed a prescription it would, for the first time, require food cart pod operators to provide the carts with potable water, pest control, and sufficient waste and recycling, among other obligations. The vote allowed Environmental Health to develop rules with the support of a committee made up of food cart and cart operators, as well as government partners and health officials.

The Department of Health planned to start accepting applications for food cart pod licenses in early 2020, with application expected to begin no earlier than July 1.But when COVID-19 hit, Environmental Health was forced to refocus its staff, and its focus, entirely on pandemic response.

the food basket rules have been finalized in November 2020, but the Department of Health pushed the pause on the app to give the industry time to stabilize. Environmental Health will begin accepting applications next month, with application beginning in early 2022.

“Some pod owners are definitely eager to get started,” said restaurant inspection supervisor Jeff Martin. “Industry continues to support the establishment of these basic public health standards and the guidance this order provides on sanitation best practices. Our inspectors are also ready to hit the road to ensure that the health and safety of these shared common spaces are maintained.”