Street Eats, Safe Eats: Seattle









The King County Board of Health, which inspects all food establishments in Seattle for potential violations, provided inspection data for 2009 through July 2012. In that time, the board conducted 34,122 inspections of Seattle food establishments, including mobile vendors, restaurants and hotels. The board uses mobile food service as a classification and does not separate trucks from carts, so they were analyzed together.

Table 11 displays the average number of violations by establishment type.16 As the table shows, Seattle’s mobile vendors outperformed restaurants, as vendors averaged 13.6 total violations and restaurants 16.9.

However, these differences disappeared under statistical analysis, as shown in Table 12. Results show that the difference between Seattle’s mobile vendors and restaurants was not statistically significant, meaning that mobile vendors and restaurants performed essentially the same.

It is worth noting that Seattle’s higher levels of violations, compared to other cities, likely result from an inspection regime that counts each violation based on the severity. For example a non-critical violation may count as two, whereas a critical violation may count as 15.


Table 11: Seattle Food-safety Violations by Establishment Type, 2009-July 2012*

  Average (Mean) Violations   Standard Deviation   Minimum   Maximum
Mobile Vendors 13.59 21.05 0 95
Restaurants 16.91 20.37 0 155
Hotels 7.06 11.47 0 65


*Data provided by King County Board of Health and based on 1,143 inspections of 139 mobile vendors, 32,230 inspections of 2,762 restaurants and 749 inspections of 63 hotels.


Table 12: Estimated Differences in Food-safety Violations, Seattle,
2009-July 2012 (Statistically Significant Results in Italics)*

   Average Violations Compared 
to Mobile Vendors
   Rate of Violations Compared 
to Mobile Vendors
Restaurants    1.51 fewer 9% fewer
Hotels 6.89 fewer  60% fewer 

*Results listed derived from OLS and Poisson regressions. Full regression results can be found in Appendix B.

16 The number of violations here is actually the number of reported demerits, where more severe violations receive more demerits.


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