The NYDN Article About Street Vendor Food Poisoning is the Kind of Rat Shit You’d Probably Get Food Poisoning From Eating


I’ll try to make this short and sweet because we all have better things to do than read about how poorly researched a New York Daily News article is… but a lot’s been made of the report yesterday that between June of 2011 and June 2014 the city of New York received 359 reports of food poisoning to their 311 hotline. The article goes on to insinuate that this is because street food carts are dirty and unregulated, unlike restaurants which get regular visits from the Department of Health.

As a noted lover of street food, my initial response was to wonder if 359 is a lot.  On the surface it seems like that’s a lot of food poisoning… but in a city of over 8 million people, with 5000+ street food carts and 24,000+ food businesses covered under the department of health, is that number a lot?  There’s no mention in the article of how many complaints were received about brick and mortar businesses.  Just a lot of anecdotes involving tainted chicken, a green spotted hot dog, and the inexplicable chest hair “wafting onto the grill”.  (That’s some pretty long chest hair!)

Nobody likes chest hair in their food, but we’ve got some bad news for those of you who think street food is dirtier than food served underneath and roof, surrounded by four walls. It’s not.  And it wasn’t too hard to find the data to prove it.

A quick google search and I found this site which compiles all the data from 311 calls in New York City.  According to the site, since 2010 there have been 635 reported cases of food poisoning from food cart vendors.  In that same period, do you know how many complaints were lodged against restaurants, bars, delis and bakeries? (They’re all lumped into one category on the site.) 11,057.  I’m no Nate Silver, but even accounting for the fact that there are more brick and mortar businesses selling food than there are street vendors, it seems like you are just as likely to complain about food poisoning from eating at a street food vendor as you are from a restaurant, bar, deli or bakery (if not more likely.)

Obviously we won’t get a retraction, because the specific stats they posted were true.  But let’s hope the authors of the article and those they got quotes from (we’re looking at you Daniel Biederman, president of the 34th Street Partnership) feel at least a little ashamed that they blatantly cherry picked statistics to further the horrible myth that street food vendors are any more dirty than regular food establishments.


  • Knowing the Daily News, they’re probably getting paid by someone to write a deliberately slanted article.

    We’ve all seen those NYPD chasing people away stories, the excessive fines from Bloomy and Quinn, that ‘terrorism threat’ thing ML wrote about a while back, the crackdown of licenses….and I only went back less than 2 years in archives.

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    Actually, complaints of food poisoning are drastically under-reported, so when you consider that, 359 is a potentially huge representative number. Suggested reading and viewing by The New York Times and Fox5:

  • That wasn’t a chest hair btw.

    I recently got sick from a breakfast sandwich picked up from a local deli prepared by a Mexican guy. Got so sick, i had to stay in the bathroom for an entire hour…so coworkers probably thought I died in there.
    I am sure my breakfast sandwich had something more than a chest chair. don’t even want to think about it…since then I can’t eat any egg based breakfast sandwich.

  • I’d expect this article to come from the NY Post but typical tabloid going after the group that cannot defend themselves as well as brick and mortar places. I’m sure certain neighborhoods would like to do away with street carts and help spread such stories.

    Speaking from personal experience, I have found more “hair” in my food from brick and mortar places than from street food.

    • Let’s remember that the Daily Ruse and Lupica are the greatest libtard offenders against small business and street carts, as well as being the greatest apologists of Obama incompetence of all time. Some of us were early adopters against the latest group-think of such kind if any of y’all recall. Tryin real hard not to call y’all dumbasses. Tryin.


  • “‘I saw green spots on it, and it tasted bad,’ the complainant said”


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    Here are two questions nobody seems to answer and why I am sure there is a higher chance of getting food poisoning from a cart as opposed to a brick-and-mortar restaurant:

    1) At least in a brick-and-mortar restaurant, there are sinks and bathrooms and running water. Where do the guys at the cart wash their hands after putting raw chicken on the grill? The sad answer is probably nowhere.

    2) Where is the uncooked food stored on a cart? I don’t see a built-in refrigerator or even a food warner. In a brick-and-mortar restaurant there are refrigerators and food warmers in which to store the food.

    • Who doesn’t answer those questions?

      1. The cart guys use gloves when handling food. At least the ones doing it the right way, which is pretty much every truck and cart I’ve ever patronized. They also tend to have agreements with nearby places so they can use the bathrooms when needed, also.

      2. The uncooked food at a cart is either in a cooler on ice in the car/van they drove to work, or there’s a compartment within the cart full of ice, or there’s a cooler next to the cart full of ice.

      Carts get inspected, too.

      • I can verify that the guys from Mr. Khan’s would walk over to 46th street for their business, not sure if it was the hotel or one of the restaurants by the courtyard. I used to eat there sometimes twice a week and never got sick. Come to think of it, I get sick from brick-and-mortar places about once a year, but I can’t remember anytime I actually got sick from a cart. You just have to choose carefully, and I think it’s easier to tell if a cart is clean than a brick-and-mortar

    • That might be true NYCGuy, and perhaps there are ways to objectively determine whether or not street food carts are more unsanitary than a restaurant or deli/bodega with prepared foods (which have issues of their own.) If the writers were actual journalists, they would could have posed some of these questions to the Street Vendor Project, who I’m sure could have given a satisfactory answer.

      But to base an entire article on these cherry picked statistics is not journalism. And most importantly, it’s unfair to the thousands of street food vendors who work incredibly hard to serve delicious and perfectly clean food.

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    Thanks for the reply, Zach. Wish I had your iron stomach so I could eat fearlessly at the many carts that do smell delicious around Midtown!


  • Dan Biederman’s response, emailed to Zach Brooks:

    Dear Mr. Brooks,
    Midtown Lunch, according to its credo, “loves street food, and the challenge of eating in places that most of our co-workers would consider ‘dirty.’” We understand that, but also believe that the proliferation of unsanitary and unregulated food carts serving ill-prepared food does not contribute to the quality of any diner’s experience.

    Your post published yesterday fails to mention that brick and mortar restaurants receive NYC Department of Health sanitary inspection letter grades. This provides consumers with at least some point-of-purchase information about food safety and cleanliness. There is no such information available at food carts. In fact, many food items sold at carts, such as chicken, are marinated or partially cooked at shadowy commissaries. Most food carts don’t maintain supplies of clean water and soap for use by cart operators. Vendors can often be observed not wearing required rubber gloves and smoking while preparing food. A local TV station even recorded a food cart vendor at Sixth Avenue and 43rd St. blowing his nose, and then using the same tissue to wipe down his grill.

    The temperature that raw food is held at, and the period of time involved, is critical to the increase in harmful bacteria in raw and partially cooked food. The critical temperature range is 40 degrees F to 140 degrees F. Chicken is particularly critical as raw chicken is susceptible to high bacteria counts due to production, slaughtering, and handling procedures to begin with. With sidewalk food vendors, raw chicken is held at undetermined temperatures in unsupervised commissaries then transported in ambient temperatures to remote off-premise food carts on city sidewalks where it is kept, quite possibly for hours, in a raw and then partially cooked state (at temperatures within the critical range) on a cart griddle before being sold and finally consumed. The food handlers typically have no means to keep their hands, surfaces, and tools hygienic.

    In a typical restaurant situation the transition from refrigerated storage to preparation, cooking and consumption is much swifter, maybe minutes, and is supervised all the way by trained and experienced professional cooks working in hygienic premises that have been regularly inspected and rated by the Department of Health. Which situation is most likely to encourage the growth of harmful bacteria? And which food is more likely to make you sick?

    Since it’s well known that food poisoning is drastically under-reported, it is quite impressive that 359 complaints to the city’s 311 lines have come in. The 311 calls also don’t reflect visits to the city’s hospital emergency rooms or private physicians, and people who just suffer by toughing it out at home.

    Dan Biederman
    34th Street Partnership

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