Government data v. ground observation for food-environment assessment: Businesses missed and misreported by city and state inspection records

Sean C. Lucan, Andrew R. Maroko, Courtney Abrams, Noemi Rodriguez, Achint N. Patel, Ilirjan Gjonbalaj, Clyde B. Schechter, Brian Elbel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To assess the accuracy of government inspection records, relative to ground observation, for identifying businesses offering foods/drinks.Design: Agreement between city and state inspection records v. ground observations at two levels: businesses and street segments. Agreement could be 'strict' (by business name, e.g. 'Rizzo's') or 'lenient' (by business type, e.g. 'pizzeria'); using sensitivity and positive predictive value (PPV) for businesses and using sensitivity, PPV, specificity and negative predictive value (NPV) for street segments.Setting: The Bronx and the Upper East Side (UES), New York City, USA.Participants: All food/drink-offering businesses on sampled street segments (n 154 in the Bronx, n 51 in the UES).Results: By 'strict' criteria, sensitivity and PPV of government records for food/drink-offering businesses were 0·37 and 0·57 in the Bronx; 0·58 and 0·60 in the UES. 'Lenient' values were 0·40 and 0·62 in the Bronx; 0·60 and 0·62 in the UES. Sensitivity, PPV, specificity and NPV of government records for street segments having food/drink-offering businesses were 0·66, 0·73, 0·84 and 0·79 in the Bronx; 0·79, 0·92, 0·67, and 0·40 in the UES. In both areas, agreement varied by business category: restaurants; 'food stores'; and government-recognized other storefront businesses ('gov. OSB', i.e. dollar stores, gas stations, pharmacies). Additional business categories - 'other OSB' (barbers, laundromats, newsstands, etc.) and street vendors - were absent from government records; together, they represented 28·4 % of all food/drink-offering businesses in the Bronx, 22·2 % in the UES ('other OSB' and street vendors were sources of both healthful and less-healthful foods/drinks in both areas).Conclusions: Government records frequently miss or misrepresent businesses offering foods/drinks, suggesting caveats for food-environment assessments using such records.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1414-1427
Number of pages14
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Food environment
  • Food stores
  • Mobile food vendors
  • Restaurants
  • Secondary data
  • Street vendors
  • Urban
  • Validation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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