Requirements for Mobile Food Units & Pushcarts

In addition to the Food Code provisions outlined in the FDA Food code Mobile Food Establishment Matrix, mobile food units/pushcarts must comply with the following:


All mobile food units/pushcarts must be licensed by this department. Applications for licenses are available from the Food and Consumer Safety Bureau, Department of Inspections and Appeals, Lucas State Office Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0083. The unit shall be inspected by a representative of the department and determined to be in compliance with the rules and regulations of the department prior to the granting of the license.


  1. The person in charge shall take appropriate action to ensure that no person, while infected with a disease in a communicable form that can be transmitted by foods or who is a carrier of organisms that cause such disease or while afflicted with a boil, an infected wound, or an acute respiratory infection, shall work in a mobile food unit/pushcart in any capacity in which there is a likelihood that the person will contaminate food or food-contact surfaces with pathogenic organisms or transmit disease to other persons. The person in charge shall require food employee applicants and food employees to report information about the employee’s health and activities as they relate to diseases transmissible through food.
  2. Employees shall have clean garments, aprons and effective hair restraints. Smoking, eating or drinking in the mobile food unit/pushcart is not allowed. All unauthorized persons are to be kept out of the mobile food unit/pushcart.
  3. All employees shall be under the direction of the person in charge. The person in charge shall ensure that workers are effectively cleaning their hands, that potentially hazardous food is adequately cooked, held or cooled, and that all multi-use equipment or utensils are adequately washed, rinsed and sanitized.


  1. Approved Food Source: All food supplies shall come from a commercial manufacturer or a source that complies with both state and federal laws. The use of food in hermetically sealed containers that is not prepared in an approved food processing plant is prohibited.
  2. Food Preparation: Food employees shall have no bare hand contact with ready to-eat food. Food employees shall use single-use gloves, utensils, deli tissue, spatulas, tongs or other dispensing equipment.
  3. Date Marking: All ready-to-eat foods that are potentially hazardous (Time/Temperature Control for Food Safety) shall be date-marked, if held more than 24 hours, and discarded after seven days if the food is kept at an internal temperature of 41°F or below.
  4. Food Protection: All food shall be covered and stored off the floor. Condiments such as ketchup, mustard, coffee creamer and sugar shall be served in individual packets or from squeeze containers or pump bottles. Milk shall be dispensed from the original container or from an approved dispenser. Ice used as a food or a cooling medium shall be made of drinking water and be manufactured in an approved source. Fruits and vegetables must be washed before used or sold. All food shall be protected from customer handling, coughing or sneezing by wrapping, sneeze guards or other effective means. All cooking and serving areas
    shall be adequately protected from contamination.
  5. Consumer Advisory Requirement: If raw or undercooked animal food such as beef, eggs, fish, lamb, poultry or shellfish is offered in ready-to-eat form, the license holder (person in charge) shall post the following language as a reminder to consumers:

    "Thoroughly cooking foods of animal origin such as beef, eggs, fish, lamb, pork, poultry, or shellfish reduces the risk of food are consumed raw or undercooked. Consult your physician or public health official for further information."

    Identification of the animal-derived foods shall be disclosed by asterisking them to a footnote on the menu that states that the items are served raw or undercooked, or contain (or may contain) raw or undercooked ingredients.
  6. Food Storage Location: During operation, food shall not be displayed or stored in or served from any place other than the licensed mobile food unit/pushcart.

Food Temperature Requirements

  1. Cooking Temperatures: As specified in the following chart, the minimum cooking temperatures for food products are


  • Poultry and game animals that are not commercially raised
  • Products stuffed or in a stuffing that contains fish, meat, pasta, poultry or ratite
  • All products cooked in a microwave oven


  • Rabbits, ratite and game meats that are commercially raised
  • Ground or comminuted (such as hamburgers) meat/fish products
  • Raw shell eggs not prepared for immediate consumption


  • Raw shell eggs prepared for immediate consumption
  • Fish, pork and other meat products not requiring a 155°F or 165°F cooking temperature as listed above
  1. Cold Storage: Refrigeration units shall be provided to keep potentially hazardous foods (Time/Temperature Control for Food Safety) at 41°F or below.
  2. Hot Storage: Hot food storage units shall be used to keep potentially hazardous food (Time/Temperature Control for Food Safety) at 135°F or above. Steam tables or other hot holding devices are not allowed to heat foods and are only to be used for hot holding after foods have been adequately cooked.
  3. Thermometers: Cold food storage units shall have a numerically scaled thermometer to measure the air temperature of the mobile food unit/pushcart accurately. A small diameter probe that is designed to measure the temperature of thin masses shall be provided where necessary to check the internal temperature of both hot and cold food. Thermometers must be accurate and have a range from 0°F to 220°F.

Equipment Requirements

  1. Mobile food units that handle unpackaged food shall have a three-compartment warewashing sink or have daily access to a three-compartment sink located in another licensed establishment, where utensils can be adequately washed and sanitized. The warewashing sink shall be large enough for complete immersion of the utensils and have an adequate means to heat the water required to wash, rinse and sanitize utensils or food-contact equipment.
  2. Chlorine bleach or another approved sanitizer shall be provided for warewashing sanitization and wiping cloths. An appropriate test kit shall be provided to check the concentration of the sanitizer used. The person in charge shall demonstrate knowledge in the determination of the proper concentration of sanitizer to be used.
  3. A hand-washing sink, equipped with pressurized hot and cold running water, shall be installed on all mobile food units/pushcarts that handle unpackaged food. The sinks must have a hand cleanser and sanitary towels.
  4. Wiping cloths shall be stored in a clean, 100ppm chlorine sanitizer solution or equivalent. Sanitizing solution shall be changed as needed to maintain the solution in a clean condition.
  5. Mobile food units/pushcarts shall provide only single-service articles for use by the consumer.
  6. All equipment, utensils, food preparation and food-contact surfaces, including the interior of cabinets or storage compartments, shall be safe, smooth, durable, nonabsorbent and easily cleanable.

Water Supply and Sewage

  1. Safe Water Supply: An adequate supply of clean water (potable) shall be provided
    from an approved source.
  2. Water Supply Tanks: Standards for water supply tanks are as follows:
    (1) Materials shall be safe, durable and easily cleanable.
    (2) The water supply tank shall be sloped to drain at a discharge outlet that allows complete drainage of the tank.
    (3) An access port for inspection and cleaning shall open at the top of the tank, flanged upward at least one-half inch and equipped with a secure port cover, which is sloped to drain.
    (4) A fitting with V-type threads is allowed only when the hose is permanently attached.
    (5) If provided, a water tank vent shall end in a downward direction and be covered with 16 mesh when the vent is not exposed to dust or debris or with a protective filter when the vent is exposed to dust or debris.
    (6) The tank and its inlet and outlet shall be sloped to drain. The inlet shall be designed so that it is protected from waste discharge, dust, oil or grease.
    (7) Hoses used shall be safe and durable, have smooth interior surfaces and be clearly identified as to their use for drinking water.
    (8) A filter that does not pass oil or oil vapors shall be installed in the air supply line between the compressor and the drinking water system.
    (9) The water inlet, outlet or hose shall be equipped with a cap and keeper chain or other adequate protective device. This device must be attached when the system is not in use.
    (10) The water tank, pump and hoses shall be flushed and sanitized before being placed into service after construction, repair, modification or periods of nonuse.
    (11) Water supply systems shall be protected against backflow or contamination of the water supply. Backflow prevention devices, if required, shall be maintained and adequate for their intended purpose.
    (12) The water supply tank, pump and hoses shall be used to convey drinking water and shall be used for no other purpose.
  3. Wastewater Disposal: The sewage holding tank shall be 15 percent larger in volume than the water supply tank and shall be sloped to drain. The drain hose (1inch) shall be larger than the supply hose (3/4 inch). Liquid waste shall be removed at an approved servicing area. The liquid waste retention tank shall be thoroughly flushed and drained during the servicing operation. Wastewater shall be disposed of in an approved wastewater disposal system sized, constructed, maintained and operated according to law.

Physical Facility

  1. Floors, Walls, and Ceilings Floors, walls and ceilings shall be designed, constructed and installed so they are smooth and easily cleanable. Exterior surfaces shall be weather-resistant materials. The mobile food unit/pushcart shall be designed and maintained so that outer openings are protected against the entrance of insects and rodents.
  2. Lighting: Adequate lighting shall be provided. Lights above exposed food preparation areas shall be shielded.
  3. Garbage Containers: An adequate number of cleanable containers shall be provided.
  4. Toilet Rooms: An adequate number of approved toilet and hand-washing facilities shall be provided in the area.
  5. Clothing: Personal clothing and belongings shall be stored at a designated place, adequately separated from food preparation, food service and dishwashing areas.

Toxic Materials

  1. Only those toxic items necessary for the operation of the mobile food unit/pushcart shall be maintained or used.
  2. Toxic materials and poisonous materials shall bear the manufacturer’s label. Working containers of toxic items shall be identified with the common name of the material.
  3. Toxic materials and poisons shall be adequately separated from food, equipment, utensils, linens, and single-service and single-use items.
  4. Only those toxic materials or poisons permitted by law in food establishments shall be used. These materials shall be used according to the manufacturer’s use instructions.


The mobile food unit/pushcart may operate no more than three days at one location. If adequate facilities are not maintained for cleaning and servicing the unit must report to a home base of operation each day. Servicing areas shall be provided with overhead protection except those areas for the loading of water or discharge of sewage or liquid waste.