SAN DIEGO - Food truck operators will be required to display the same health inspection letter grades as restaurants under an ordinance passed unanimously Wednesday by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.
The county inspects around 1,100 mobile food operations in the region, of which 550 sell to the public, but the operators were not previously required to display the results, Supervisor Ron Roberts said. Restaurants generally display their blue letter grade on a placard in a front window.
Under the ordinance, the food trucks will receive decals instead of cards so the grades can't be transferred among vehicles.
Roberts initiated the ordinance this year, soon after the 10News I-Team asked him why it wasn't easier for consumers to find food truck inspection results.
"Channel 10 is what brought this to my attention," said Roberts. "I want to ensure people here -- whether they're going to a restaurant in the conventional sense or a mobile food truck -- that they can do that with confidence and know that those facilities have been inspected and certified."
County Department of Environmental Health officials plan to work with the region's 18 cities to establish uniform enforcement.
Staff will introduce fee adjustments related to implementing the new law in September. According to county documents, the costs for inspection could increase by as much as 14 percent, to around $450 to $500.
The additional inspection costs will be covered by raising the annual food truck permit fee. The county Department of Environmental Health estimates the increase will be between $40 and $62 a year.
"The world is changing," Roberts said. "At one time we had drive-in restaurants, now we have drive-around restaurants."
The plan was supported by the San Diego County Restaurant Association and food truck owners, according to Roberts.
"I think it's a good idea," said Chicho Casillas, owner and chef of Chubby's food truck. "We always abide by the health codes, everything still [has to] be up to code. The difference is now we're just going to have a letter on there, which is great. It kind of gives you a little uniformity with the restaurants."
According to the county, of the 550 mobile establishments that sell to the public, around 300 are limited in scope, selling hot dogs and coffee. The rest are "hot food trucks," "gourmet food trucks" and catering vehicles with complex menus and multiple ingredients.
Roberts said he hopes the county will begin putting the results of food truck safety inspections online, at the same website where the county shows reports on restaurants -- eatsafesandiego.org.
A QR code that can be read by smartphones will also be displayed on the letter cards.
"It has an icon that you'll be able to scan with a smartphone and have access to all the records -- past records -- for this particular truck," said Roberts.
County staff will now work with area cities to adopt the new food truck ordinance. They hope to begin issuing letter grades to food trucks in December.
The supervisors, as part of their consent agenda, also approved an update of county regulations of body art businesses -- including tattoo shops and body piercing establishments -- to bring them into line with new state law.