City Food Carts Will Start Having Letter Grades This December

Jarrett Lyons


How often do you let the giant letter displayed in New York City restaurant windows dictate whether you’ll eat there? Soon, you’ll be able to take letter grades into account when you want a quick bite from a food cart or truck on the street.

“New Yorkers are known around the world for always being on the go – and New York is known around the world for the amazing diversity of its street food, ranging from halal hot dogs to curry in a hurry,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health in a recent press release.

The Assembly Member also outlined that though they should be celebrated, food carts should also meet uniform health standards, just like brick and mortar restaurants have to. 

The Health Department published their rules in the city record for the implementation of a letter grading program for mobile food vendors. Like the regulations used in restaurants since 2010, vendors will receive points for health code violations which will dictate whether there’s an “A,” “B” or “C” hanging on their cart or truck.

“Letter grades on food carts and trucks will help New Yorkers see how these businesses fared on their latest inspection, right when they want to place an order,” said Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “Just as diners appreciate letter grading in restaurants, we expect this program to be popular among customers.” 

All of New York City’s whopping 5,500 authorized food carts and trucks will be required to post their grade. The Health Department plans to attach location-sharing devices on each unit in order to keep track of when a vendor is due for inspection.

The project is estimated to take about two years to roll out, similar to the 2010 restaurant grade roll out. The department says this information will be protected and only accessible to their staff or a court order.

“I cannot imagine someone not looking for a restaurant’s letter grade from our city’s Health Department before deciding whether or not to patronize a restaurant. The letter grade has become absolutely essential as it relates to restaurants.” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz,a prime sponsor of the new law.

To prep for the roll-out, the Health Department will be hosting food safety education workshops for mobile food vendors. The classes will acclimate vendors to the grading program, a refresher of food handling and common food safety violations that are easily avoided. According to the department’s website, the schedule of Spring classes will be posted in early 2019.

“Yet, every day, countless numbers of people in New York purchase food from a street vendor without knowing to a general degree the cart’s compliance with the NYC Health Code,” said Council Member Koslowitz. “I believe that the customers who buy food from a street vendor deserve to have the same ability to make an informed decision as do patrons of restaurants.”

Bushwick Daily will continue to report on how this will potentially affect Bushwick’s many food vendors. 

Cover photo courtesy of  Roman Arkhipov

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