Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz introduced legislation last week requiring food trucks and carts to be inspected and display Health Department letter grades.
Currently, the 24,000 city restaurants earn either an A, B or C grade. The Health Department has been requiring restaurants to display the letter grades since 2010.
At least once a year, unannounced inspections occur at restaurants. The inspectors check for compliance in food handling, personal hygiene, vermin control and food temperature.
According to the Health Department, after receiving a letter grade inspectors found restaurants had fewer key violations 18 months later. Specifically, fewer restaurants have violations associated with food-borne illnesses.
Koslowitz believes the grading system would work for food trucks and carts as well. She noted that the letter grades would also be beneficial to the public so consumers can make an informed choice as to whether to eat at a particular food cart.
“You go to a food cart and you really don’t know its sanitary condition,” Koslowitz said. “The consumer has a right to know to what degree a cart is in compliance.”
Sean Basinski, director of the Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project, said the group supports the legislation. There are as many as 20,000 street vendors in the city, and the group represents about 2,000 vendors.
Vendors are given the same violations as restaurants, and it’s “time to receive the same benefits,” Basinski suggested.
“People don’t realize that street vendors are often inspected more often than restaurants, sometimes on a monthly basis,” Basinski said. “The letter grades would help customers feel safe and comfortable, and we will also be more respected by city government.”
He further asked that Koslowitz support efforts for street vendors to receive more permits around the city.
“Vendors make New York City what is is, our workers include Muslims and undocumented workers, and this bill can positively affect their business,” Basinski said.