Food trucks in Contra Costa County to display signs following inspection

Food trucks in Contra Costa County will soon be issued color-coded placards from the health department to notify the public of any health code violations.

Contra Costa County Environmental Health Director Marilyn Underwood said they want to see the same good behaviors in food trucks that they see at standalone restaurants. In the coming weeks, they will be conducting regular health inspection of mobile food facilities. The food truck will receive either a green, yellow, red, or white placard to signify the results of their inspection.

A green sign means no major violations or one major violation that can be fixed while an inspector is on site. A yellow sign means the food truck has two major violations and a follow up inspections will be completed within 10 days. A red sign means the truck was closed due to major health violations. A white sign means an inspection is coming soon or is for permit holders waiting for their renewal or opening after a closure.

The county has posted color-coded signs following an inspection at fixed restaurants since 2016.

“This is one way to promote good food safety,” Underwood said. “This placarding program has been shown to help elevate people that are in the kitchen to do the better thing, to do the right thing."

Underwood said common violations in food trucks include food temperature issues in a fridge when a truck’s generator gets turned off and about 30% of the time they find hand washing violations in food trucks, due to space issues. 

“In a smaller food truck, they often start covering over or using that hand washing sink for something else, which means you can’t wash your hands at all,” she said.

Food trucks will be required to display their colored placard as long as they operate in Contra Costa County, but Underwood said it doesn’t prevent a food truck owner from taking down their sign if they travel to another county. Contra Costa is working to figure out this issue because they know some food trucks operate in several bay area counties and not all counties have a placard program.

Popular Bay Area food truck organizer, Off the Grid, which operates in San Francisco, Alameda, and Contra Costa counties said all food trucks are required to display all valid county health department decals or signs on their vehicle at all times, no matter where the trucks are serving that day. 

Off the Grid founder and CEO Matt Cohen released the following statement to KTVU about Contra Costa County’s placard program expanding to food trucks.

"One of Off the Grid’s core values is a commitment to transparency on behalf of our guests. These changes support greater openness and help to dispel an outdated perception of the mobile food industry as being held to a lesser health and safety standard than brick & mortar restaurants. Off the Grid welcomes these actions on behalf of our guests, and looks forward to supporting Contra Costa Health in ensuring they have access for these inspections in the future."