Mobile Food Unit and Pushcart Requirements

Requirements for the Operation of a Mobile Food Unit or Pushcart

This information is provided for people who are interested in obtaining a permit to operate a mobile food unit or pushcart in North Carolina. The requirements are set forth in the "Rules Governing the Sanitation of Food Service Establishments", 15A NCAC 18A .2600. These requirements must be met in order to obtain a valid pushcart or mobile food unit permit.

Pushcarts and mobile food units must operate in conjunction with a permitted food-handling establishment, usually referred to as a "commissary". Restaurants and food stands are the most commonly used types of commissaries. The commissary must provide written documentation to the health department stating their agreement to allow use of their establishment for the purpose of servicing the pushcart or mobile food unit. The pushcart or mobile food units must return daily to the commissary to obtain potable water, empty gray water, and wash and sanitize utensils and equipment utilized by the unit. For mobile food units, a potable water hose shall be provided and must meet National Sanitation Foundation food-grade specifications and be stored in a sanitary manner. Wastewater must be emptied into approved wastewater facilities, such as a can wash drain or other approved manner.

If it is found that the commissary does not have adequate facilities to service the pushcart or mobile food unit, a permit will not be issued. The mobile food unit or pushcart must operate in conjunction with a commissary whose hours of operation allow that mobile food unit or pushcart access to the facility for servicing. A daily record of visits is recommended to be maintained at the restaurant.

Furthermore, no foods to be served by the pushcart or mobile food unit can be prepared at home. All foods must be prepared on site or at the commissary and the leftovers must be thrown away at the end of the day. Only hot dogs or commercially pre-cooked sausage can be prepared on a pushcart. Coleslaw and chili must be stored in their original containers, unless prepared by the commissary. This also must be documented.

Mobile food units must have power available to support equipment holding cold or hot foods and maintaining hot water requirements. By definition, a mobile food unit is a "vehicle mounted food service establishment designed to be readily moved." These units can prepare a variety of foods but must also meet equipment requirements. For example, mechanical refrigeration and an on-board water system with a water heater are required, as well as a hand wash sink and a minimum one basin utensil sink. In contrast, pushcarts can only prepare hot dogs and serve pre-wrapped sandwiches prepared by an approved facility and labeled. Mobile food units must also pass an LP gas inspection by the NC Department of Agriculture.

The link to request an inspection is here