Nobody can say the food cart movement has had it easy with state and local regulators and opposition from owners of brick-and-mortar restaurants. However, it’s been hard enough that a civil liberties law firm has taken up their cause by checking the “rap sheets” that food carts and trucks have complied. While their opponents might paint food trucks and carts as being unsafe and not sanitary, a new Institute for Justice study pored through 260,000 food safety inspection reports from seven American cities. Called “Street Eats, Safe Eats,” the study found the notion that these food outlets are unsafe is a myth. In each of the seven cities, the study found that mobile vendors are covered by the same health codes and inspection regimes as restaurants and other brick-and-mortar businesses, allowing for an apples-to-apples comparison. “’Street Eats, Safe Eats’ finds that 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,” the authors said. “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.” Among the findings:
- 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 those 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 that mobile vendors and restaurants performed about the same.