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Food trucks as safe as restaurants, study says

Food trucks line up on Dewey Square near South Station in Boston.

David L. Ryan/Globe staff/File

Food trucks line up on Dewey Square near South Station in Boston.

Food trucks in Boston and six other major cities across the country are as safe or safer than restaurants, according to a study released Monday by the Institute for Justice that examined that tabulated inspection data over almost three years.

“We keep hearing they’re not safe, they’re not clean,” said Angela Erickson, a research analyst at the institute who conducted the study. “Politicians use that argument to limit where they can operate, or when. Trucks and carts are just as safe as restaurants -- in Boston, they’re safer.”

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The study showed that Boston food trucks, on average, received 2.68 violations per inspection between 2011 and July 2013, while restaurants received 4.56 citations for violations per inspection. For “critical foodborne violations” -- defined by the city as activities that contribute to foodborne illness, such as improper labeling of ingredients -- food trucks and restaurants were roughly equivalent, with 0.87 violations per inspection for food trucks, and 0.84 for restaurants.

The Institute for Justice, based in Arlington, Va., is a public interest law firm with a libertarian perspective that has identified restrictions on food trucks as an issue of “economic liberty.”

Food trucks have proliferated across the country in the last few years as a quick, affordable alternative for everything from bacon to banh mi. Concerns about the safety of food trucks arose last year after a salmonella outbreak sickened at least 27 people who ate from Clover food trucks and restaurants.

John Meaney, director of environmental services for the city’s Inspectional Services department, said food trucks are a safe alternative for diners. “Boston is a very food truck friendly city,” he said. “We have a huge program going on. People like them.”

Bennie DiNardo can be reached at bennie.dinardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bdinardo.
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