Violence against Street Vendors
News and Entertainment

Los Angeles County Public Health Workers Throw Out Permitless Street Vendor’s Food

Street vendors are vulnerable to attacks due to the nature of their job and recently some have been killed on the job including Lorenzo Perez, who was shot “execution-style.” Now street vendors had to watch as their food was thrown out by Los Angeles County Public Health workers who said they didn’t have the required permits. While it’s legal to be a street vendor in Los Angeles, permits are still required and they can reportedly be a hassle to get and expensive costing upwards of $40,000, ABC Eyewitness News reported.

“If you’re a food vendor, you still have to go through this very rigorous process of getting a county health permit, which is really hard and actually nearly impossible for food street vendors,” said Carla De Paz with the Community Power Collective to the news outlet.

Dina is a single mother who sells empanadas at the Guatemalan food market in Westlake and told ABC Eyewitness News that she was just starting the day when she was told she can’t sell the product and her food was tossed.

“We’re not stealing the product we sell. We go to the market, buy it and bring the product to sell it,” she told the news outlet.

Another issue is the cart requirements for food prep including having sinks and refrigeration which weighs a lot. With around 10,000 street vendors in LA County, they’ve taken it upon themselves to set up a cart that meets their needs while still being manageable. L.A. Taco talked to various street vendors who made the carts work for them and many even shared they wished to have a panic button and GPS in case of an attack.

“Our jobs are not envied by any American. We’re proud to be on corners and sidewalks. We’re just asking for a fair shot,” street vendor Mario Ramos told the publication.

Because of the cart requirements and cost of permits, many go without which led to what happened when the LA County Public Health workers received a call about unpermitted food sales. In statement they released to ABC Eyewitness News they explained that they have the authority to confiscate the food if requirements aren’t met:

“If an inspector determines that a mobile food vendor’s vehicle or cart does not have the necessary equipment, such as appropriate refrigeration, a hand washing and dual compartment sink or a valid public health permit. Inspectors are authorized by the California Retail Food Code to confiscate the vendor’s food as it is presumed to be unsanitary and not safe for public consumption. Many times health inspectors have been threatened or intimidated while inspecting unpermitted food vendors. Accordingly, from an employee safety perspective it is necessary for law enforcement officer to accompany them on pre-planned sweeps of areas known for unpermitted food vending.

De Paz told the publication that for someone who is likely undocumented and making about $10, 000 to $20,000 a year the cart requirement “simply doesn’t work.”