What’s a safer place to eat: food trucks or restaurants?
While at first glance it might seem like restaurants would be the upholders of strict food safety standards, food trucks may actually be even safer, according to a new report.
Researchers at the Institute for Justice took a look at more than 260,000 food safety inspection reports in seven large American cities. In all of the cities, Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, Seattle and Washington, D.C., food trucks performed just as well, if not better, than traditional restaurants. In fact, only in Seattle did food trucks and restaurants perform the same; in all the other cities the food trucks had fewer violations than brick-and-mortar restaurants.
Each of the cities where data was analyzed have the same health codes and inspections applied to restaurants and food trucks, something that the study shows works in ensuring food safety.
“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. 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,” the authors of the study wrote.
In other words, bans don’t necessarily help, which is why the IJ is currently pushing for a removal of the ban on sidewalk vendors in Los Angeles.
“The idea that street food is unsafe is a myth, and L.A.’s ban on sidewalk vending does not improve public health; it only stifles entrepreneurship and prevents people from deciding where they want to eat,” said Angela C. Erickson, author of the study Street Eats, Safe Eats in a press release. “The recipe for clean and safe food trucks and carts is simple: inspections.”
Vox points out that to be really sure about the safety of food trucks, there’s room for more research, noting that “safety violations is a handy indicator, but it isn’t the same as having actually been less safe for customers. A more direct measurement of safety would be reports of actual illness.”
Considering that 1 in 6 Americans gets food poisoning every year, it’s no surprise that officials are concerned with safety. But the new report highlights that maybe food truck bans aren’t the best way to deal with it. If regular inspections lead to food trucks that are safer than restaurants, then maybe we need to start looking at better brick-and-mortar regulations instead.
Photo Credit: Gerry Dincher