Food trucks are safer than restaurants, study says

The Thai-fusion Yum Yum Bowls food truck at UCLA.

The Thai-fusion Yum Yum Bowls food truck at UCLA.  (UCLA / Alison Hewitt)

If you’re worried about getting food poisoning, avoiding street food isn’t the answer.

According to a new study, food trucks are as safe as or safer than restaurants.

A report called Street Eats, Safe Eats from the Institute for Justice concluded that food trucks and carts tend to receive less health and safety violations than restaurants do. The study compared food trucks to restaurants by analyzing health department reviews of more than 260,000 eateries in seven major U.S. cities — Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

The group made the direct comparison between brick and motor places and trucks because the study specifically picked cities where “mobile vendors are covered by the same health codes and inspection regimes.” The authors of the report also controlled other factors like the day of the week and the season to help account for variations in weather and pests.

The popularity of food trucks has exploded over the past several years, yet operators have faced regulations and rules that put restrictions on when and where they can do business.

The  Virginia-based libertarian law firm institute opposes what it calls "burdensome" regulations, including bans or restrictions on food trucks. 

Authors of the study say that "burdensome regulations proposed in the name of food safety, such as outright bans and limits on when and where mobile vendors may work, do not make street food safer—they just make it harder to get."