New rules for Oregon food carts are now in effect. These include having most carts equipped with an on-board wastewater and potable water tanks, and for equipment like shelves and tables to be physically attached to the cart when they are put away.
The Oregon Health Authority says a mobile unit may also connect to water and sewer if available at the operating location, but the tanks must always remain on the unit.
The rules were established back in 2020, but food carts were given a three year grace period to give operators time to comply. Food carts that have not made the changes will not be shut down if they are actively working to solve the problem.
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Here is the full rundown of the specifics from the Oregon Health Authority:
Integral means that all equipment associated with a mobile unit is rigidly and physically attached to the unit without restricting the mobility of the unit while in transit.
In the state, there have been challenges with non-integral items sitting on the ground around mobile units, which creates gathering places for insects and rodents. Because of this, OHA has strengthened enforcement for violations with the support of the Rule Advisory Committee.
All mobile food units must be designed with integrated, on-board potable and wastewater tanks. A mobile unit may also connect to water and sewer if available at the operating location, but the tanks must always remain on the unit. One exception applies to mobile food units licensed prior to Feb. 1, 2020, in which the water tanks and associated plumbing were removed prior to that date. Those units are not required to reinstall the tanks and associated plumbing if the unit is still connected to an approved water and sewer system in its original licensing location.
A mobile food unit may not connect to a freshwater system without also connecting to an approved sewer system.
Because all operations and equipment must be integral parts of the mobile food unit, those that use potable and wastewater storage tanks that are not integral to the unit must discontinue the use of these tanks. Properly sized tanks may need to be installed on the unit to meet their current needs for fresh and wastewater.
A mobile food unit may use folding shelves or small tables that are integral to the unit for display of non-potentially hazardous condiments and customer single-use articles, such as disposable utensils and napkins. The shelves or small tables must be designed and installed so they do not impede the mobility of the unit when retracted.
What hasn’t changed
Off-unit items such as refrigerators, freezers and water/wastewater tanks have never been allowed, and there is no change to the requirements. These violations are now a higher priority in the Food Sanitation Rules, allowing county inspectors greater ability to enforce them. Additionally, off unit water tanks become a public health problem when wastewater spills or there is improper disposal on site.
In 2018, the OHA Foodborne Illness Prevention Program formed a Rules Advisory Committee that included mobile food unit operators, interested parties, industry association representatives and regulators. The following year, OHA conducted informational meetings, inviting every mobile unit operator statewide to attend. The meetings – in Bend, Medford and Salem – included presentations and discussions about the proposed rules, the timeline of the rulemaking process and a question-and-answer session.
After hearing formal testimony on the proposed rules during a public meeting, OHA created a document outlining the major rule changes. These rule changes have been available online for the public since 2019 and the significant changes document was given to operators by local environmental health inspection staff during inspections.
Operators and the public can learn more about the food and safety rules for mobile food units here: https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/HEALTHYENVIRONMENTS/FOODSAFETY/Documents/foodsanitationrulesweb.pdf
A link to the significant changes document can be found here: https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/HEALTHYENVIRONMENTS/FOODSAFETY/Documents/musignifchangenglish.pdf
Here is a link to OHA’s food safety webpage: https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/HEALTHYENVIRONMENTS/FOODSAFETY/Pages/index.aspx