Monday, June 16, 2014
Rant: The Safety Of Food Trucks
There has been a vocal group in the Boston area who have railed against food trucks, claiming they are less safe than brick & mortar restaurants. What is the truth though? We may now have evidence to show that overall, food trucks actually possess better food safety records than brick & mortar spots. Hopefully that will convince some critics that their position is not supported by the evidence.
The Institute for Justice, a civil liberties law firm, recently published a report, Street Eats, Safe Eats, which details their study of over 260,000 food-safety inspection reports from seven cities, including Boston. The other cities included Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, Seattle and Washington, D.C. In all seven cities, they found that food trucks and carts did just as well, if not better, than restaurants.
Specifically for Boston, they analyzed 29,828 inspection reports from the period of 2011 to July 2013. They concluded that food carts averaged only a single violation, food trucks averaged only 2.7 but restaurants averaged 4.6 violations. For critical foodborne violations, food trucks and restaurants received roughly the same amount, averaging less than one violation.
Though the report does not address it, I think that we must also consider that the food truck phenomenon is relatively new in Boston, with a large surge starting around 2011. There is a learning curve involved, as all these new businesses learn to handle the challenges, including food safety, of operating a food truck. As these businesses acquire more knowledge and experience, I expect the number of violations will decrease. It will help if food truck operators work together to share information, to help each other resolve problems and issues.
The report also made an interesting conclusion, indicating the best path to increased food safety: inspections. As Angela Erickson states in the report, "...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."
Don't worry about dining out at a food truck.