Why You May Soon See Fewer Food Carts in NYC

Nov 13, 2018

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New York City food carts will be going under the health department’s microscope.

The iconic carts that dot street corners in Manhattan will undergo a new letter grading program starting in December. Similar to the restaurant grading system that the city introduced in 2010, food carts and trucks will now be graded on a point system and must display a corresponding grade of “A”, “B” or “C.”

It will take two years for all of the 5,500 authorized mobile food vendors to be inspected. Since these little restaurants on wheels are so mobile, the New York Department of Health plans to attach tracking devices to carts. The devices will be used to find the food vendors once its time for inspection.

“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 Richard N. Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health. “But everyone celebrating that diversity has a right to know that it meets uniform health standards, and the Health Department is right to implement a letter grading system for food carts and trucks to help assure that those standards are met.”

While some vendors may be nervous to have their business tarnished by a subpar grade, others are excited to strip the negative stigma associated with street carts. Ahmad Ali from The Halal Guys, one NYC’s most popular street vendors, told ABC7 “I believe this will be something good, because if you’re taking care of your business, it doesn’t matter.” Ali believes that the grading system will encourage customers to purchase food from street carts.

NYC street vendors currently face yearly health inspections, but simply receive a passing or failing grade. Under the new law, a passing, yet low grade of a “C” could be crippling to a hot dog vendor that has an A-rated competitor on the next corner. Street vendors will need to literally clean up their acts, because low-rated vendors may quickly be put out of business.

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