Detroit City Code of Ordinances Chapter 21 Article 10: Permitting and regulation of mobile food service establishments and food carts

Community Food Security, Economic Development, Food Retailers
Policy type

Detroit’s City Code requires that mobile food vendors must comply with state law to operate a mobile food service establishment by obtaining a license from the local health department. Mobile food vendors are limited to selling the following items in the city: beverages, frankfurters, and non-potentially hazardous food that have been prepared at a licensed commissary. Additionally, the ordinance contains other specifications related to sanitation, waste, and vermin control that mobile vendors must meet to be able to legally operate on public property in the city.

Relationship to food access, food insecurity, or local food economies

In addition to a state license, mobile food vendors may sometimes need to obtain additional permitting from local government. However, researchers suggest that changes to the permitting process can promote the sale of healthy foods among these vendors (Tester et al. 2010, PHLP & NPLAN 2009). While fruits and vegetables may be considered to be non-potentially hazardous foods, Detroit’s ordinance limits vendors from preparing these foods during a sale.

Scale of Governance
Michigan Good Food Charter Priority

Priority 6 – Use policy & planning to increase food access


Tester, J. M., Stevens, S. A., Yen, I. H., & Laraia, B. L. (2010a). An Analysis of Public Health Policy and Legal Issues Relevant to Mobile Food Vending. American Journal of Public Health, 100(11), 2038–2046.

PHLP & NPLAN (Public Health Law & Policy and The National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity). (2009). Healthy mobile vending policies: A win-win for vendors and childhood obesity prevention advocates. Retrieved from: LINK.