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County to Finalize Food Truck Letter Grading System Next Week

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Fry Smith visits Sherman Oaks | Photo by polaroid-girl via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr

Fry Smith visits Sherman Oaks | Photo by polaroid-girl via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors this week approved the expansion of its letter grading system for (.pdf) food establishments to include food trucks and carts. That means your favorite mobile eatery could soon be displaying an acceptable "A," a bummer of a "B," or a cautious "C."

But a number of things must first happen before this actually is a reality. Because ordinances must be voted upon twice, a second vote is scheduled (.pdf) for next Tuesday. If approved -- and that is expected -- it will then become law 30 days later.

Meanwhile, city councils in each of the county's 88 cities must then adopt the ordinance to make it law within their jurisdictions, thus allowing health inspectors to enforce the regulation (unincorporated areas like Marina Del Rey and Alatadena will automatically have it go into effect). In theory, there could be a patchwork of laws, where for example food trucks would have to display a letter grade in Los Angeles, but not in neighboring Burbank. That, however, is not a likely scenario as county officials expect all cities to follow suit.

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Also, come mid-November when letter grades officially apply to mobile eateries, don't expect to see them hanging in windows right then. Inspections will have to take place in some 3,200 food trucks, a process that's expected to take through the end of next June. Then comes phase two: inspecting the estimated 2,800 food carts throughout the county (watch out, bacon-wrapped hot dogs!).

The new ordinance also establishes an annual certification inspection for food equipment and, most interestingly of all, a requirement for owners to detail the whereabouts of their mobile eatery, including "the arrival, departure and exact location... where the retail food business is being conducted."

How that last regulation will exactly work has not been detailed in county documents, but it could put a hamper on the spontaneity of how mobile eateries operate. In general, however, the concept of letter grades has been welcomed by operators.