Friday 27 January 2023

Legislators put the brakes on Food Truck law due to excessive requirements

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27 January 2023 - At The Banks - BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – Approved in first debate last week, on Thursday legislators put the brakes on the law that would regulate food trucks.

The bill was expected to receive approval in second and final debate Thursday morning. However, legislators decided to return it to the stage prior to the first debate, due to doubts raised by several legislators about an alleged excess of requirements.

Currently food trucks can only operate on private property, food truck parks like that pictured above. Photo Fifco

At the start of the legislative session Thursday, everything indicated that the bill promoted by Partido Liberacion Nacional (PLN) legislator, Daniel Ulate, would be approved in the second debate, then only requiring the president’s signature to be law.

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However, several legislators rose to announce their negative vote, starting with independent legislator Paola Vega, who criticized the fact that food truck owners must request municipal permits in each canton where they intend to operate or the requirement that these trucks have a sanitary service.

Vega was seconded by also independent legislator, Zoila Volio, and legislator for the Frente Amplio, José María Villalta, who described as illogical that a law is approved that is practically a regulation for the operation of these trucks.

At first, Daniel Ulate tried to clear up Vega’s doubts that she had about the initiative, but in the end he had to give in to the questions of the other factions.

In the end, despite two recesses and last minute negotiations between the various factions, a motion was presented to apply article 148 bis of the Legislative Regulations, which is known as rolling back a bill.

Technically, the initiative must now go through the process of motions, and its content modified, to resolve doubts, which would force a first debate vote.

Among the requirements that the law, which did not meet objections by the various food truck associations or groupings, would demand a food truck operator to obtain health and tax permits, as well as a series of aspects related to the structure of the vehicle.

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In addition, food truck operators would have to carry a work risk policy, register the business activity with the Ministry of Finance and the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS), and a permit for the use of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), except when it is not for the sale of food. Employees must have the mandatory food handling course certificate.

Regarding the structural requirements of the truck, it must have a wastewater storage tank, a drinking water tank, a portable sink for customers, a window for sale, and an access door. Added to this is natural ventilation through windows and grilles, a cooling chamber that guarantees the cold chain for perishable products, internal lighting of 500 lux and, from 6 pm also external lighting, among other items.

Food trucks Costa Rica

Municipal permits

What quickly became objectionable by food truck operators, associations and groupings was the permits would have to be taken out in each municipality, similar to a brick and mortar business, defeating the very purpose of a “business on wheels”.

In other jurisdictions, licenses are based on regions, provinces, or states. In Costa Rica, there are no regional governments, say the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM), governments are cantonal.

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