AUSTIN - A food safety measure authored by Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) was approved by the House Urban Affairs Committee and is heading to the floor of the Texas House of Representatives. House Bill 2507 would give clarification to the City of Houston and Harris County on their ability to enforce existing state regulations on mobile food units and roadside food vendors.
“This is a public health and safety issue,” Rep. Bohac said. “This is simply about enforcement of current law.”
HB 2507 does not change any existing law or impose any new regulations. The bill merely states that the city and county must enforce current state law regarding mobile food vendors. There has been some confusion recently over whether they can enforce certain public health rules, and the city and county have been reluctant to carry them out.
“The intent of House Bill 2507 is to make sure that mobile food vendors are complying with existing health and safety regulations regarding food preparation and service,” Bohac said. “If someone is a true mobile food vendor who returns to a commissary to cleanup and complies with current regulations, the bill will not affect them.”
HB 2507 has earned bipartisan support, including Rep. Kevin Bailey (D-Houston) and Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston) who are joint-authors of the bill.
“A number of constituents have contacted me in support of this bill,” Bailey said. “It is a health and safety issue and the legislation only calls for enforcement of existing regulations that the city and county have been lax in carrying out.”
“This is a serious health and safety issue,” Bohac added. “Improperly prepared food can be very dangerous, and in some cases, life-threatening. That is why food preparation rules and laws exist in the first place.”
A statement issued this week by the Texas Restaurant Association expressed their support for Rep. Bohac in his effort to pass HB 2507.
“Safe food handling laws protect the public,” the announcement stated. “The laws covering operations in Houston and Harris County are the same laws that are enforced in every other city and county in the State of Texas. No legitimate operator need fear a directive that these laws be enforced in the Houston area.”
HB 2507 would not treat mobile food vendors like fixed-location restaurants, which are subject to more strict requirements, such as having restrooms and running water. However, state regulations do require vendors to return to a commissary and follow basic food preparation and sanitization standards.
“It’s sad that some individuals are deliberately trying to mislead certain vendors about what this bill does,” Bohac said. “Only someone who is violating state law should worry about this bill. Given the facts and a clear understanding of the bill, it’s hard to imagine anyone being opposed to enforcing basic food preparation standards.”
“The vast majority of mobile food vendors in the Houston area are hard-working small business owners who are doing a great job and are in compliance with state regulations,” Bohac concluded. “Law abiding venders will not be affected by the passage of HB 2507. But citizens deserve to have their food prepared according to safe standards. The public’s health and well-being are at stake, and we can no longer tiptoe around this issue.”