Here's some great news for the dying food truck industry: A new study shows that in comparison to restaurants, food trucks are often a safer place to eat. A report by the Institute of Justice concluded that food trucks and carts tend to receive less health and safety violations than restaurants do. The group analyzed more than 260,000 food-safety inspection reports from Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, Seattle, and Washington D.C and found that in six of the seven cities "food trucks and carts did significantly better than restaurants." In Los Angeles alone, food trucks had about half as many average violations as restaurants.
These specific cities were picked because "mobile vendors are covered by the same health codes and inspection regimes as restaurants and other brick-and-mortar businesses" which allowed for a direct comparison. The authors of the report also controlled other factors like the day of the week and the season to help account for variations in weather and pests. Vox points out that in both Seattle and Washington, DC, the report also took into account how risky the food was so that, for example, "A truck serving nothing but ice cream or prepackaged cold sandwiches wouldn't have an artificial advantage over a restaurant serving nothing but tuna tartar."
This is good news for food truck owners who have been facing many challenges thanks to intense restrictions — many of which are food-safety based — from policy makers. The study points out, "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." Vox notes, however, that the reason for the study's outcome might be because "food trucks tend to run smaller, less complex kitchens, [so] they have fewer opportunities to violate the rules." See the data:
[Photo: The Institute for Justice]