Take the 2-minute tour ×
Travel Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for road warriors and seasoned travelers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

This is actually a travel related question.

One of my nephews has recently traveled USA. He says that, in USA you can get same foods at different prices in different places(e.g. streets, restaurants, beaches, food-trucks, fast-food chains etc.) but quality differs. He says cheap foods are generally those that are cooked without washing properly or without taking necessary hygienic measures thus requiring less efforts and costs to prepare and consequently cheaper in price.

Now, is that a truth what my nephew said?

share|improve this question

closed as off-topic by Mark Mayo, Dirty-flow, Ankur Banerjee Aug 3 '13 at 15:43

  • This question does not appear to be about traveling within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Your new question is quite subjective, and doesn't match the title. Even among Americans there is debate on where to buy your food. Please check the help center on wording a non-subjective question. –  Mark Mayo Aug 3 '13 at 22:44
I got a mild dose of food poisoning from a Wendy's salad bar in the '90s and I'm sure I'm not alone even though it's surely less common than food poisoning in India for example. –  hippietrail Aug 4 '13 at 3:30
@BROY There will always be a chance of food poisoning....so don't count on it –  hagubear Aug 4 '13 at 9:15
Is this not a health and safety related question? –  Will Sep 5 '13 at 7:36

1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Bottom line: Almost everything sold in the United States is well regulated and the regulations are enforced. Failure to follow these regulations will result in fines, loss of business, and potentially lawsuits or jail time. You're safe eating almost anything that's being sold from a fixed or semi-fixed establishment.

'Cheap' foods

The cheapest 'foods' in the US are heavily processed foods: your sugary/salty snacks. The quality control and hygienic standards are very high because the FDA/CDC/USDA/FSIS/State agancies (yes, at least four entities are involved in the regulation of food) would fine them for violating the standards and, perhaps more importantly, they would have to deal with negative publicity, an expensive recall, and possibly a lawsuit if the food was not up to hygienic standards. It's also just wrong to sell food that might make people ill.

Street foods and Local Restaurants

With regards to 'street foods'. The hygenic standards for these establishments are typically set and enforced at a local level. These standards are typically very high as well: nobody wants a fine, a bad reputation, or a lawsuit. There's enough competition and information moves so easily that one incident could put a food seller out of business.

The foods usually sold on the street are prepared/cooked beforehand in a kitchen and then maintained until they are sold or expire. In many foreign countries you will have unregulated/poorly regulated raw ingredients prepared in front of you. That does not happen in the US.

Restaurant Chains and Fast Food establishments

Just as with street foods, the hygienic standards are usually set at the local level. However, the stakes are higher for chains. One error in the food supply could affect customers in more than one state.1 This can have significant negative results in company's reputation and finances. There are still people who talk about Jack in the Box's E. Coli outbreak in 1993 which almost bankrupted the company. That outbreak also resulted in even more regulation in the food industry.

Clean food

Making the food 'clean' isn't a man hours question. It's largely automated and typically includes measures like irradiation and cooking at a certain temperature for a certain time. Both measure kill bacteria that lead to spoilage (increases shelf life) and illness (sick people). The automation is largely an upfront capital expenditure and is relatively inexpensive compared to people/manual labor.

American food makes you sick?

So, although the American food supply is at least as safe as any first world country, people who are not used to the richness of the food may experience discomfort. Additionally, the lack of bacteria or other things found in food you're used to eating may also upset your stomach.

That being said, trust your instinct. If you think it's under cooked or not clean, don't eat it or ask the seller to make it right. They want to make you a satisfied (repeat) customer.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.