Committee Approves Changes to Taco Stands

A Houston City Council committee has approved some changes to the mobile food vendor ordinance. The proposal will now go before the full council. Committee members still have questions about definitions and the city's ability to enforce the proposed ordinance. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports.

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The changes focus on what are called commissaries. That's where mobile food vendors take their units to be inspected and cleaned. It's supposed to happen daily, but some are concerned that is not happening. Health and Human Services Assistant Director Doctor Michael Terraso oversees environmental health.

"We're looking at possibly some electronic mechanism to do that so we are asking council to give us the authority to investigate and come back and see what it would cost. Again, it's just a verification that they are doing what they are required to do under the ordinance."

The proposed ordinance would not change the requirement to be within 500 feet of a restroom.Working Families Association Field Director Orell Fitzsimmons says City Council is addressing a problem that doesn't exist.

"It's incredible how competitive these, if people don't like the tacos they are eating they go to another stand, there's so many of them. It's not a problem in the community being served by the taco stands it's really just a visual nuisance to certain types of people. It has nothing to do with public health."

Some council members on the committee expressed concern over the city's ability to enforce the ordinance. There are 43 city employees who inspect just about 1,000 mobile food vendors and the thousands of restaurants. Harris County has its own mobile food vendor rules to take affect September first. Vendors on wheels parked permanently must have access to a restroom within 300 feet. Vendors also must have the units cleaned daily. It's estimated about 500 mobile food vendors operate in the county. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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