Food Trucks Actually Safer Than Restaurants, Study Finds

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A study recently released by the Institute for Justice (IJ), a non-profit legal firm, challenges the common perception that food trucks are unclean and unsafe, reports Watchdog.

Launched as part of IJ’s National Street Vending initiative, the study examined over 260,000 food-safety inspection reports from seven major American cities. According to the author of the study, Angela C. Erickson, the idea that food trucks are unsafe is a flat-out myth.

And it is this myth that public officials rely on when placing heavy-handed restrictions on mobile food trucks, or even outright banning them, according to Erickson’s research.

In all seven of the major cities examined over the past three years, food-safety regulations that applied to restaurants also applied to mobile food vendors. And the results were stunningly consistent. Across the board, food trucks and food carts were found to be as safe, if not more safe, than restaurants.

Seattle was the only exception to the rule, where mobile vendors performed at the same rate as restaurants.

On the other hand, in Washington, DC, restaurant and hotel food-safety violations were twice as high as the number recorded for food trucks.  But violations as a whole–by restaurants and mobile food vendors in all cities–were fairly low. (RELATED: Lawyer: Consumer protection laws apparently do not help consumers)

As the study notes, “In six of the seven cities, violations by food trucks and carts ranged from just one to four violations per truck or cart, while restaurants averaged just four to eight.”

“[L]imiting food trucks from operating downtown does not improve public health; it only stifles entrepreneurship and prevents hungry workers from having more lunch options,” said Erickson.

IJ deems these sorts of regulations as protectionist rackets which ensure that restaurants can minimize competition.

While this is a helpful addition to the literature, IJ admits that the study is “not sufficient for determining how mobile vendors compare to brick-and-mortar establishments. Other factors, such as variations in traffic or greater frequency of inspections, could be driving any differences.”

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