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Report Shows Food Truck Meals are Safe. We Already Knew That!

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EricW //

After many years of eating home cooked meals, meals at restaurants and food from mobile food vendors, the report from the Institute of Justice that was recently released was refreshing and informative but did not really tell us anything we, involved in the mobile food industry and community, did not already know. Nevertheless. Street Eats, Safe Eats: How Food Trucks and Carts Stack up to Restaurants on Sanitation  is a 52 page study that does a credible and important  job of debunking the image that street food and food from mobile vendors is not as safe as food from restaurants or other "public" places. 

For those who have incorrectly believed, as the result of misinformation from any number of sources, that food from mobile food vendors is unsafe, unsanitary and unclean, the Executive Summary of the report does a rational and trustworthy job of summarizing the findings that clearly dispute that mistaken belief:

Street food, long a part of American life, has boomed in popularity in recent years. Yet an idea persists that food from trucks and sidewalk carts is unclean and unsafe. This report tests that common, but unsubstantiated claim by reviewing more than 260,000 food-safety inspection reports from seven large American cities. In each of those cities, mobile vendors are covered by the same health codes and inspection regimes as restaurants and other brick-and-mortar businesses, allowing an apples-to-apples comparison.

The report finds:

  • In every city examined—Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, Seattle and Washington, D.C.—food trucks and carts did as well as or better than restaurants.
  • In six out of seven cities—Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami and Washington, D.C.—food trucks and carts averaged fewer sanitation violations than restaurants, and the differences were statistically significant.
  • In Seattle, mobile vendors also averaged fewer violations, but the difference was not statistically significant, meaning mobile vendors and restaurants performed about the same.

The results suggest that the notion that street food is unsafe is a myth. They also suggest that the recipe for clean and safe food trucks is simple—inspections. Just as sanitation inspections help assure the public that restaurants are clean and safe, they can do the same for mobile vendors. More burdensome regulations proposed in the name of food safety, such as outright bans and limits on when and where mobile vendors may work, do not make street food safer—they just make it harder to get. (Source)

For us at, our knowledge is first hand. I have visited and traveled to so many food trucks in so many geographic locations, and witnessed over and over again the value, care and diligence that owners, operators and employees put into the cleanliness and sanitation, as well as the quality, of their food. In addition, one of the advantages of mobile food eating, is that you usually get a clear sight line into the kitchen area where food is being stored, prepped, and cooked....which is  interesting, fun and reassuring, in itself!

It is helpful, appeasing and supportive to see the research from the Institute of Justice confirming that food that comes from food trucks and carts is as healthy, safe and clean as from any other establishment.....and may just taste a whole lot better, tastier and fresher!