Myth Busted: D.C. Food Trucks and Food Carts Are Safer Than Restaurants

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · June 9, 2014

Arlington, Va.—In Washington, D.C., street food is just as safe as food from a restaurant. A newstudy released today from the Institute for Justice reviewed thousands of food safety inspection reports from 2011 through 2012 and found that D.C.’s food trucks and food carts did better than restaurants.Food trucks averaged fewer than half as many violations as brick-and-mortar restaurants per inspection. Food trucks and carts are subject to the same health codes and inspection regime as restaurants.


“The support D.C. showed for food trucks during last year’s legislative fight proves the city loves its ‘meals on wheels,’” explained Angela C. Erickson, author ofStreet Eats, Safe Eatsand research analyst for the Institute for Justice. “And the results from Street Eats can put to rest any lingering doubt that food trucks are unsafe. In other words: Eat up, D.C.”

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.”