Kristie Hang | USC Annenberg
Over the past few years, food trucks have become a pivotal part of Los Angeles’ culture. An estimated 10,000 food vehicles now traverse the streets of LA County ever since the notorious Kogi Korean BBQ truck launched a food truck phenomenon in the county just two years ago.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance to expand their letter grading system to encompass food trucks throughout the county.
Trucks will now have to post a health letter grade just like restaurants. Although many ”roachcoach” customers welcome the new grades, the opposition brings up some valid points worth considering.
The new ordinance will establish an annual certification inspection for food equipment and mandate a requirement for owners to detail the whereabouts of their mobile eatery, including the arrival, departure time, and exact location.
This means food trucks will not be able to conduct business when they are being inspected. The trucks will likely end up losing money while inspectors venture into them randomly to inspect food. Since all locations must be disclosed prior to the health officials, food mobiles will no longer be able to freely and spontaneously choose locations different from what they submitted to the Department of Public Health.
Paul Varenchik, owner of multiple food mobiles throughout the city, is worried about how officials will handle the new mandates. Varenchik believes that if a mobile receives a C grade, stealing an A grade from other trucks will be simple as food trucks park overnight with no supervision.
Though much of the public has a misconception that food trucks were not inspected at all prior to the passage of this ordinance, Varenchik is quick to point out that food trucks were already inspected twice a year by the public health officials on the road and also at commissaries.
Another issue to consider is that imposing the letter-grades would most likely mean a rise in the current $695 permit fee to employ all the additional inspectors that would be needed. Although the health officials have adamantly denied that a raise in fees would occur, with over 10,000 food trucks roaming throughout L.A. it is safe to speculate that some type of fee increase will occur.
Some food truck customers are also concerned that the higher fees for food mobile owners will translate to high food prices for consumers.
Despite the arguments for and against the grades, customers will ultimately be the ones to decide whether or not the grading system will help them decide where to eat.