GMA Investigates looks at food truck cleanliness

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ABC's Mara Schiavocampo has the story. (WABC)

Food trucks -- there's nothing more convenient when you want to eat on the go. But how sanitary are they compared to regular restaurants?

The growing trend involves trucks dishing up gourmet grub coast to coast and picking up speed. According to food truck tracker Roaming Hunger, these traveling restaurants are now common in most major cities across the country.

But with skeptics dishing out nicknames like "street meat" and "roach coach," some find the concept of food trucks unappetizing.

But a 2014 independent study by the Institute for Justice found food trucks in seven major cities are just as clean if not cleaner than restaurants, citing fewer food safety violations on average in nearly 300,000 inspections of restaurants, food trucks and other establishments.

"The myth of food trucks being dirty has certainly been debunked," National Restaurant Consultants president David Kincheloe said. "A food truck is only 160 square feet. You need to keep clean."

To see just how these trucks operate, Good Morning America Investigates headed to the Arts Park Food Truck Festival in South Florida.

In Miami, one of the cities profiled, the study found food trucks had, on average, about four fewer food safety violations than the local brick and mortar restaurants the group surveyed.

Jefe's Original Fish Tacos and Burgers keeps it simple. To avoid cross contamination in such a small space, Jack Garabedian keeps all cooked and uncooked foods completely separate.

Over at Ms. Cheeziou, owner Brian Mullins says cleanliness is a top priority.

"There's sinks behind us, so we have garbage, compartment sinks, hand sinks so we can wash everything on site," he said. "The compact space perhaps lending to the ease of keeping it clean."

Most food trucks, like BC Taco, are required to have commissaries' approved
locations where they can empty waste, prep and also store their food.

"We have everything lined up for the truck ready to go," owner Brett Chiavari said. "We have our cooked chicken, short ribs, pork...We have everything basically ready to go for the night."

Next, food is loaded onto the truck, which stays running around the clock to keep refrigerated items constantly cool.

These meals on wheels are changing the meaning of fast food.

The study doesn't apply to every food truck, nation-wide, so Kincheloe says there are a few things you can do to spot a good truck. First, check out how clean the outside is. It's just like walking through a restaurant door. Also, spend a few minutes on their social media sites reading some reviews.

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