Food Truck Explosion: It's Happened Before

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The video was horrifying: a massive flash-explosion of a family-run food truck in Philadelphia. Ten people were injured and no doubt thousands who saw the caught-on-camera moment thought, "Are food trucks safe?"

It's happened before.

In 2012, a food truck was destroyed by a tank explosion while on the grounds of the Canadian National Expedition in Toronto. Luckily, it occurred at 4 a.m. and no one was injured. Last fall, a food truck caught fire and exploded before a high school football game in Fresno, Calif. Three people were injured. And in 2011, two people were sent to a hospital with burns when a "Frites 'N' Meats" truck exploded in New York.

Philadelphia authorities say this week's explosion onboard the Guatemalan food truck occurred when grills ignited propane leaking from an unused tank.

While explosions are terrifying, they are also rare. It's likely that more people are concerned about the sanitation of these meals on wheels outfits. A recent study issued by the Institute for Justice (IJ), a civil liberties law firm, reviewed 260,000 food-safety inspection reports from seven major American cities. The results were reassuring.

"In each of those cities, mobile vendors are covered by the same health codes and inspection regimes as restaurants and other brick-and-mortar businesses, allowing an apples-to-apples comparison," writes Angela C. Erickson, author of the research. "In every city examined -- Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, Seattle and Washington, D.C. -- food trucks and carts did as well as or better than restaurants."

In six out of seven cities -- Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami and Washington, D.C. -- food trucks and carts actually averaged fewer sanitation violations than restaurants, and the differences were statistically significant, the report claims.

The IJ claims the results suggest that the notion that street food is unsafe is a myth – at least when it comes to sanitation. But what about the hazard of using propane in close quarters in mobile food facilities?