Myth Busted: Boston Food Trucks and Food Carts Are Safer Than Restaurants

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · June 10, 2014

Boston—In Boston, street food is just as safe as food from a restaurant. A new study released today from the Institute for Justice reviewed thousands of food safety inspection reports from 2011 through July 2013 and found that Boston’s food trucks and food carts did better than restaurants. Per inspection, food trucks averaged less than three violations; food carts averaged one violation; and brick-and-mortar restaurants averaged more than four violations. Boston’s food trucks and food carts are subject to the same health codes and inspection regime as restaurants.


“Boston residents love food trucks, but the city makes it incredibly difficult for food trucks to operate. Food trucks are banned from roaming on public property and can only operate in one of 30 city-designated spots,” explained Angela C. Erickson, author of Street Eats, Safe Eats and research analyst for the Institute for Justice. “The idea that street food is unsafe is a myth, and preventing food trucks from going to where people want them the most does not improve public health; it only stifles entrepreneurship and prevents hungry workers from deciding where they want to eat lunch.”

The newly released report is part of IJ’s National Street Vending Initiative. The study compares food truck, food cart and restaurant health inspection scores in seven major cities: Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

“In six of the seven cities, mobile vendors performed better than restaurants during inspections. In the seventh, Seattle mobile vendors performed just as well as restaurants,” said Erickson. “The health departments in these cities use the same food-safety criteria for mobile vendors as they do for brick-and-mortar restaurants. The recipe for clean and safe food trucks and carts is simple: inspections.”