Street Food, Safe Food?

Street Food

With more food trucks popping up all around the U.S., the question of whether or not their food is safe to eat has become more important. A study by the Institute for Justice titled “Street Eats, Safe Eats: How Food Trucks and Carts Stack Up to Restaurants on Sanitation” researched over 260,000 food and safety inspection reports in seven cities, Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., and found that in all seven cities, food trucks and carts did just as well as, or better than, restaurants. In fact, in all cities, aside from Seattle, food trucks received, on average, fewer sanitation violations than restaurants, debunking the myth that food from street vendors is unsafe.

“What we found was that food trucks and carts were treated essentially the same as restaurants in terms of the inspection regime,” says Angela Erickson, the author of the report. “I think the most important conclusion is that as long as food trucks are being treated the same as restaurants in terms of food inspection and food sanitation, then they are just as safe, if not safer than restaurants.”

Some critical things health inspectors often check for when inspecting food trucks and carts include proper handwashing, confirmation that food is from an approved source, making sure foods are maintained at safe temperatures, and checking that no cross-contact has occurred between raw and cooked products, according to Running a Food Truck For Dummies.

Food trucks are gaining massive popularity. According to a study by the National League of Cities titled “Food On Wheels: Mobile Vending Goes Mainstream,” mobile food vending brings in $650 million in revenue every year. In 2013, New York was host to 116 food trucks, Portland had 168, and Los Angeles lead the country with 366 food trucks, according to an article in The Boston Globe.

Part of the success of food trucks in maintaining high food safety standards is the collaboration of food trucks through groups like the National Food Truck Association, an association organized by a group of regional food truck association representatives with the intent of providing information and resources for other food truck owners and associations across the nation.

“We’re trying to provide support to regional associations, most importantly an exchange of knowledge,” says Matt Geller, who is on the board of the National Food Truck Association and co-founder and CEO of the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association. “At the end of the day a food truck is just a lot different than restaurants, so we’re trying to educate food trucks and regulators.”

Erickson also mentioned that an increase in the amount of food trucks and the knowledge shared between them has benefited the overall safety of food trucks.

“I think it’s kind of the more you know, over time food trucks are interacting with each other more and they are getting more knowledge, so I would say they are probably getting safer overall,” says Erickson.