General Overview

The popularity of mobile food operations has increased in recent years and is projected to exponentially grow in coming years. They vary in size and complexity, from large mobile units to pushcarts. While they frequently operate at temporary food events, such as festivals or fairs, many seek to be permitted as year-round or seasonal food establishments. This guidance document is designed to address the process for approval, and the unique support service requirements that need to be met in order to obtain year-round or seasonal approval as a mobile food operation. The one unique characteristic of these units is that they are not situated in a fixed location with water and sewage connections but remain mobile and transitory by design.

This section is intended to describe the review, approval and operation of a Mobile Food Unit (MFU) in the following ways:

Types of Mobile Food Units (MFU)

Pushcart - Process 1 Type Foods

Examples of foods offered:  packaged ice cream, packaged cotton candy, packaged chicharones, etc. 

Pushcart – Process 2 Type Foods

Examples of food offered: Hot dogs, Panini grilled sandwiches, Shaved Ice, Scooped Ice Cream, Kettle Corn, Beverage Service, or Nut Roasting. This is typically a Medium Risk Category. (NET Health Mobile Food Unit Types that fit this category are: (TCS Pushcart, Simple Menu Full Service Mobile Food Unit)

Roadside Vendor - Process 1 Type Foods

Examples of foods offered:  Frozen Steaks, Frozen Poultry.

Limited Package Mobile Food Unit  – Process 1 Type Foods

Examples of food offered: Packaged Ice Cream, Single Serving Size Packaged Snacks, plate lunch wrapped at Commissary. (We would include the Limited Package Trucks in this group). This is a Low to Medium Risk Category. NET Health Mobile Food Unit Types that fit this category are: Limited Service (Restricted) Mobile Food Unit, Mon TCS Pushcart, Roadside Vendor)

Full Service Mobile Food Unit – Process 2 Type Foods

Examples of food offered: Hot dogs, Grilled Sandwiches, Raw Shrimp, Salads, Shaved Ice, Kettle Corn, Beverage Service, or Nut Roasting. This is typically a Medium Risk Category. (NET Health Mobile Food Unit Types that fit this category are: (TCS Pushcart, Simple Menu Full Service Mobile Food Unit)

Full Service Mobile Food Unit – Process 3 Type Foods

Examples of food offered: full menu, (i.e. Kitchen on wheels) food items could be: pulled pork, sushi, chicken salad made from shredded chicken, undercooked animal proteins and more. This is a High Risk Category. NET Health Mobile Food Units that fit into this category are: Full Service (Unrestricted) Mobile Food Unit)

** Submitting and reviewing Mobile Food Unit (MFU) Plans **

No person, firm, or corporation shall be allowed to operate a mobile food unit (MFU) where food or beverages are served to the public without a permit or license from the local jurisdiction regulating retail food establishments. In Smith County, the local jurisdiction is NET Health. TFER 228.247.

Operators seeking approval for an MFU must submit a set of plans for review consistent with the criteria provided in TFER 228.244 (FDA 8-201.11 and 8-201.12). The plans and specifications for an MFU should include all the information necessary to demonstrate conformance with, and an understanding of, food safety provisions within the Food Code. NET Health may determine that a variance and/or a HACCP plan is necessary based on the type of proposed operation, proposed menu items processed or proposed equipment to be used, or may restrict the menu based upon the limitations of the MFU – the same as for any other food establishment operation.

Prior to giving approval to and issuing a permit for a MFU, NET Health is responsible for performing a pre-operational plan review and one or more pre-operational inspections consistent with TFER 228.246 (FDA 8-203.10). The pre-operational review provides NET Health the opportunity to discuss areas of concern with the applicant and should be conducted prior to the issuance of a permit.