PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland is known for its food carts. There are more than 900 in Multnomah County alone and the industry is booming.
According to data from Multnomah County, there’s been a lot of growth in the food cart industry, about 200 percent over the last decade.
But Multnomah County’s environmental health officials say those carts aren't subject to the same standards as restaurants, and they want to address safety and sanitation issues.
The idea is to form a group made up of food cart owners, land owners, and the public to come up with recommendations.
One possibility is to increase the space between food carts, creating less of chance for a fire to spread.
“It doesn't take much for it to spread from cart to cart especially with the little flimsy walls and everything we have,” said Hillary Humphrey, who is the manager at the 808 Grinds food cart near the corner of Southwest Washington Street and 9th Avenue.
Potential recommendations could also include requiring lot owners to provide a place for food cart tenants to get rid of waste water, oil, and trash instead of just leaving it on the street.
“Some of the carts can be a little messy,” said Humphrey.
“I do everything by the book and someone needs to be here to hold the people that don't do things by the book accountable, because I can't police my peers. It just doesn't work like that,” said Sam Mouzon, who owns the Dinner Bell Barbeque food cart.
Mouzon’s only reservation is if future changes could increase costs for cart owners. He said it could be devastating especially for some cart owners who may be just breaking even.
Other people, like Portlander Anna Swanson, are worried about new entrepreneurs' ability to pursue their dreams. She wants to make sure new regulations don’t create barriers for marginalized communities.
Steven Mayock, who works downtown, said new entrepreneurs should also be represented in whatever group the county puts together. Swanson added that she wonders who will pay for the formation of the work group.
“If that money is coming from other sort of, like, services or resources, that concerns me,” said Swanson.
Other possible recommendations could include bathrooms or hand-washing stations for diners
County environmental health officials plan to submit recommendations to the board this fall.