Street Eats, Safe Eats: Washington, D.C.






Washington, D.C.

The Washington, D.C., Department of Health, which inspects all food establishments for potential violations, provided inspection reports for 2011 and 2012. In that time, the department conducted 8,985 inspections of food establishments, including mobile vendors, restaurants and other establishments such as grocery stores and wholesalers. The Department does distinguish between food trucks and carts; however, the populations were too small to analyze separately and so were combined into one category.

Table 13 provides the average number of violations by establishment type. It also breaks out different types of violations as classified by D.C.—critical, non-critical and total. Critical violations refer to both foodborne illness risk factors and public health interventions, such as foods cooked improperly and failure to display consumer advisories. Non-critical violations refer to good retail practices, such as the presence of insects and rodents and improper disposal of sewage and waste water.

As Table 13 shows, violations were uncommon across all categories of food service, and D.C. mobile food vendors outperformed restaurants, as vendors averaged 1.8 total violations and restaurants 4.3. The story is similar when looking at different types of violations. Mobile vendors received fewer critical and non-critical violations than restaurants.

Statistical analysis confirms these differences, as shown in Table 14. Results show that D.C.’s mobile vendors averaged fewer total violations, critical violations and non-critical violations than its restaurants, and the differences were statistically significant. Note that while restaurants and other brick-and-mortar establishments received an estimated 10 times as many critical violations as vendors, this difference is not as large in reality as it may appear. Mobile vendors received a tiny fraction of a violation per vendor, and the other categories received fewer than two per establishment.


Table 13: Washington, D.C., Food-safety Violations, 2011-2012*

  Average (Mean) Violations   Standard Deviation   Minimum   Maximum
Total Violations      
Mobile Vendors   1.84 1.31 0 7
Restaurants 4.27 4.74 0 40
Other 3.83 3.84 0 22
Critical Violations        
Mobile Vendors 0.12 0.41 0
Restaurants  1.80 1.97 0 14
Other 1.45 1.63 0 10
Non-critical Violations    
Mobile Vendors 1.69 1.14 0 6
Restaurants 2.47 3.26 0 26
Other 2.38 2.75 0 16


*Data provided by Washington, D.C., Department of Health and based on 133 inspections of 102 mobile vendors, 7,749 inspections of 2,762 restaurants and 1,103 inspections of other food establishments.


Table 14: Estimated Differences in Food-safety Violations, Washington, D.C.,
2011-2012 (Statistically Significant Results in Italics)*

Average Violations Compared
to Mobile Vendors
Rate of Violations Compared
to Mobile Vendors
Total Violations      
Restaurants 1.63 more 94% more
Other 1.55 more 89% more
Critical Violations        
Restaurants  1.30 more 1,066% more
Other 1.12 more 934% more
Non-critical Violations    
Restaurants 0.34 more 23% more
Other 0.44 more 28% more


*Results listed derived from OLS and Poisson regressions. Full regression results for total violations can be found in Appendix B.17


17 The full regression output for the models using the number of critical and non-critical violations separately can be supplied upon request.

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