Myth Busted: Las Vegas Food Trucks and Food Carts Are Safer Than Restaurants

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

Arlington, Va.—Las Vegas—In Las Vegas, 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 2009 through July 2012 and found that Las Vegas’ food trucks and food carts did better than restaurants. Per inspection, brick-and-mortar restaurants averaged seven demerits; food trucks averaged three demerits; and food carts averaged two demerits. Food trucks and food carts are subject to the same health codes and inspection regime as restaurants.


“Las Vegas residents love food trucks, but the city makes it incredibly difficult for food trucks to operate. Food trucks are banned from operating within 150 feet of a restaurant and cannot stay at the same parking spot for more than 30 minutes,” explained Angela C. Erickson, author ofStreet Eats, Safe Eatsand research analyst for the Institute for Justice. “The idea that street food is unsafe is a myth, and Las Vegas’ burdensome regulations do not improve public health; they only stifle entrepreneurship and prevent 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.”