Environmental Public Health Division
Mobile Food Establishment Requirements
(Food Preparation on the Unit)
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A mobile food establishment is a vehicle mounted
Food service is housed in a truck
or a trailer, commonly called a hot truck or an
unrestricted mobile unit.
Food preparation is permitted on the unit
once certain requirements are met and a food
establishment permit has been obtained.
The following requirements for a mobile food
establishment permit are adopted from the Texas
Health and Safety Code, the Texas Food
Establishment Rules (TFER), and the Harris
County Commissioners Court Order of June 5,
2007, “Rules for the Regulation of Food
Establishments in Harris County, Texas.”
All requirements must be met before an
application is issued for a permit and a
PERMITTING OF THE MOBILE FOOD
The mobile food establishment must be
inspected before food can be prepared
and sold from the unit. All mobile food
establishments may be inspected every Tuesday
from 7:00 to 11:00 am. (except Harris
County holidays) at HCPHES Environmental Public
Health Division located at:
John Phelps Courthouse
101 S. Richey, Pasadena TX 77506
An application for a permit will be issued after
the mobile food establishment has passed an
Note: Due to
safety concerns, mobile unit inspections and
re-inspections may be temporarily suspended
during rain and/or severe weather.
Resumption of mobile unit inspections and
re-inspections will not extend past 11:00 a.m.
In severe weather, call (713) 274-6300 after
8:00 a.m. to determine whether mobile unit
inspections have been cancelled for the day.
Blueprints and plans are not
required for a first-time inspection of a mobile
food establishment. However, blueprints
and plans can be reviewed to ensure that all
requirements will be met before a mobile food
establishment is built. Plans and
blueprints and can be checked at HCPHES
Environmental Public Health Division located at:
John Phelps Courthouse, 101 S. Richey, Pasadena
TX 77506, Monday and Wednesday only from 8:00
a.m. to 11:30 a.m. for a fee of $30.
To obtain a food
establishment permit and medallion, a mobile
food establishment must:
- Pass an inspection demonstrating
that the mobile food establishment meets all
requirements including the possession of a
food manager’s certificate, the ability to
maintain temperatures and provide hot and
cold running water under pressure.
- Bring a generator to the permitting
inspection for proof that all utilities and
equipment are working; generators and hook
ups to an electrical source are not
available at the permitting site. Due
to limitations on inspection space and time,
you must arrive with hot water in your tank.
Heating water or waiting on site to borrow a
generator will not be allowed and/or
PERMIT AND MEDALLION
Mobile units should be brought to the mobile
unit inspection area of the John Phelps
Courthouse Annex 4, 101 S. Richey,
on Tuesdays from 7:30 to 11:30 am for an
Please enter the mobile unit inspection
behind the courthouse.
If the inspector determines that your
mobile food unit meets requirements, an
application for a health permit and medallion
will be issued. Once the application is issued,
you may purchase the permit and medallion at
101 S. Richey, Suite G,
Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 3:30pm. To
receive the permit and medallion immediately,
bring cash, a money order, cashier’s check or
credit card. Any permits and medallions
purchased with a personal or company check will
be mailed in 4-5 weeks. Or, permits and
medallions may be purchased by mail. Mail
payments with the application to Harris County
Environmental Public Health Division,
Richey, Suite G,
Allow 4-5 weeks to receive the permit and
medallion by mail. To purchase the permit and
medallion online, visit
Operation of a mobile food establishment
without a valid permit and a medallion will
result in immediate legal action. Permits and medallions are valid for one year
from the date of issuance.
Mobile food establishments are inspected several
times a year. Please keep the health
department informed of the general location of
your mobile food establishment. If
there is a relocation of the mobile food unit, a
new notarized letter of permission to use the
property as well as written permission to use a
toilet facility must be acquired and presented
to the district inspector in the area.
FOOD MANAGER’S TRAINING
A trained food safety manager must be present at
the mobile food establishment during all hours
of operation. See Food School Schedule for class
dates and locations.
FOOD SOURCE AND FOOD PROTECTION
- All food sold on the
mobile food establishment must be either
prepared at the mobile food establishment or
at an approved, permitted fixed food
establishment or commissary.
Food may not be prepared at home.
Foods offered for sale must comply with
labeling laws where applicable. Food shall
be in sound condition, free of spoilage,
filth, or any other contamination and shall
be safe for human consumption.
- Only ice that has been made
from potable (drinking) water shall be used
or offered for sale. (See water supply.)
- Food, whether raw or prepared, if removed
from the original package or container shall
be stored in a clean, covered,
impervious and non-absorbent container,
except during periods of preparation or
service. Solid cuts of meat shall be
protected by being covered during storage.
- Containers of food
shall be stored at least 6 inches above the
floor in a manner that protects food from
splash and contamination and permits easy
cleaning of the floor.
- No food
can be stored in toilet rooms or vestibules.
- No food,
including packaged foods, shall be stored in
contact with water or undrained ice. Wrapped
sandwiches shall not be stored in direct
contact with ice.
- Conveniently located
or effectively insulated facilities shall be
provided to assure that potentially
hazardous foods are maintained at 41°F or
below. Potentially hazardous foods shall not
be prepared in quantities so large that
rapid cooling will not be possible.
- Potentially hazardous
food requiring refrigeration after
be rapidly cooled to internal temperatures
of 41°F below.
Potentially hazardous foods shall not be
prepared in quantities so large that rapid
cooling will not be possible.
- Stored frozen foods
shall be kept frozen.
- Ice intended for human consumption shall be
used to cool foods, food containers, or food
utensils. Ice used
for cooling stored foods and food containers
shall not be used for human consumption.
- The internal hot
holding temperature of potentially hazardous
food shall be 135°F or above
except during necessary periods of
preparation. Each hot storage unit
must have an accurate thermometer available.
- Live or dead fish bait
shall be stored separately from food or food
- A product (stem type)
is needed to check internal temperatures of
potentially hazardous foods.
- All food and equipment
must be stored on the mobile unit.
storage units or buildings may not be used
to store food service equipment or food.
Only single service (plastic or
paper) utensils, tableware, plates, etc. shall
INSECT AND RODENT CONTROL
All mobile food establishments shall be
constructed in such a manner as to prevent the
entrance of flies, dust, dirt, or other foreign
matter. Mobile food establishments must be
provided with tight fitting, solid, or screened
doors or windows.
If restroom facilities are not provided on the
mobile food establishment, the facility shall be
located within 300 feet of the establishment.
Written permission to use the restroom facility
must be given by the property owner and may be
included in the notarized letter for permission
to operate on property, if applicable.
The written permission must remain on the mobile
food establishment at all times. The
mobile food establishment may not operate when
the restroom facility is closed. Toilet
facilities must meet all requirements of the
Texas Food Establishment Rules.
Port-a-cans are not acceptable restrooms.
- Floors shall be constructed of smooth, easily cleanable materials
such as ceramic tile, linoleum, or laminated
- Sawdust, wood shavings, peanut hulls, etc.
- Mats and duckboards shall be non-absorbent
and cleaned daily.
WALLS AND CEILINGS
- Wall and ceilings shall be light
colored, smooth, non-absorbent and easily
- Walls and ceilings (including doors,
windows, skylights, etc.)
- Construction studs and joist rafters shall
be exposed in food preparation or storage
- Food preparation areas must have 50-feet
candles of light.
- All lights in food preparation areas must be
The ventilation system shall be installed and
operated according to law.
Live animals shall be excluded
from the surrounding areas of all mobile food
- A two-compartment sink with
hot and cold running water under pressure is
required. However, a three-compartment
sink is recommended.
- The hand lavatory must be accessible
FRESH WATER AND WASTE WATER SYSTEMS
- All mobile food establishments must have
potable (drinking) water and the storage of
potable water must be according to law.
Fresh water must come from a source
approved by Harris County Public Health &
- All mobile food establishments must have hot
and cold running water under pressure.
Hot water at a temperature of at
least 100°F shall be provided to all
fixtures at all times while the unit is in
- Fresh water must be provided in a self-contained system within the
mobile food establishments
- The water inlet shall be capped
when not being used to fill a water tank.
- Wastewater must be disposed in one
of the following ways: at an
approved servicing area or removed onsite by
an approved waste hauler.
- Wastewater shall be stored in a permanently
installed retention tank that is sized at
least 15% larger in capacity than the water
supply tank and is sloped to drain.
The drain pipe must be at least 25
millimeters (1 inch) in inner diameter or
greater and equipped with a shut-off valve.
- All mobile food establishments where
food and/or drink preparation is conducted
on the unit must return to an approved
commissary or servicing area in the 24 hours
preceding each day of operation for cleaning
and other services.
- Documentation or a receipt showing
that the mobile food establishment has been
serviced in the 24 hours proceeding each day
of operation must be kept on the unit.
COMMISSARIES AND SERVING AREAS
- Food - All mobile food establishments must
report to a permitted commissary or other
permitted, fixed food establishment for food
supplies. The commissary or other fixed food
service establishment, used as a base of
operations for mobile food units, shall be
constructed and operated in compliance with
the Texas Food Establishment Rules.
- Cleaning, water, and wastewater - All mobile
food establishments must report to an
approved servicing area for cleaning within
24 hours of each day of operation. The
approved servicing area must provide a
location for the flushing and drainage of
liquid wastes separate from the location for
fresh water servicing and for the loading
and unloading of food and related supplies.
An approved servicing area may be located at
a commissary or fixed food establishment.
- The surface of the servicing area
shall be constructed of a smooth,
non-absorbent material such as concrete or
machine-laid asphalt and shall be maintained
in good repair, kept clean and graded to
TO OPERATE ON PRIVATE PROPERTY
- All mobile food establishments shall be
readily identifiable by business name,
printed in bold black letters not less than
3 inches in height, not less than one and
one half inches in width, permanently
affixed, and prominently displayed upon at
least 2 sides of the unit.
- All mobile food establishments shall
maintain a current Texas motor
vehicle inspection sticker and a current
Texas motor vehicle license plate
All mobile food establishments must have
notarized, written permission from the property
owner to operate on the property.
The notarized, written permission must be
in the unit and in plain view of the public at
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Last updated: May 23, 2011
Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services
2223 West Loop South
Houston, TX 77027
Tel: (713) 439-6000