L.A. food trucks vs. restaurants: Which is a safer bet?

Are food trucks as sanitary as restaurants? A new study says statistically, they are.
Are food trucks as sanitary as restaurants? A new study says statistically, they are.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Are food trucks as safe as eating at a regular, sit-down restaurant? One recent study says they are, and in some cases, even safer.

A recent study by the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm based in Virginia, found food trucks in Los Angeles to be as statistically safe as restaurants in the city.

The group looked at more than 260,000 food inspection reports in seven cities across the country, including Los Angeles. In each city included in the study, the food trucks and restaurants have to abide by the same rules and regulations.


The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health provided information from 45,611 inspections of food trucks, carts and restaurants that took place between 2009 and July 2012. According to the data, food trucks, mobile carts and hot dog stands received fewer violations than restaurants. Trucks averaged 3.6 violations; restaurants averaged 7.8.

“The results suggest that the notion that street food is unsafe is a myth,” the study says. “They also suggest that the recipe for clean and safe food trucks is simple — inspections.”

The food trucks and carts in Boston, Las Vegas, Louisville, Miami, Seattle and Washington, D.C., were also found to be statistically as safe as the cities’ restaurants.

But according to Angelo Bellomo, director of environmental health for the county Department of Public Health, around 40% of L.A.'s food trucks and carts have never been inspected in the field by health officials, reported The Times’ David Lazarus earlier this year.

If you’re wondering about your next food truck excursion, you can look up inspection information for some L.A trucks on the county’s public health food facility rating page.

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