STREET FOOD: NOT A CHANCE

shiblu

Street foods refer to many kinds of foods and beverages which are made and/or sold by vendors and hawkers especially in streets around trading centers and other public places. Street-vended foods are exposed to contaminations as they are sold in the open and are often not covered. Street vendors create attraction their products to their customers, they often handle from places such as bus terminals, industrial areas, schools, market places and streets.
The ingredients of Street food are dependent on specific area and largely unregimented. In Bangladesh, the most popular and traditional street-vended foods includes jhal-muri, fuchka, vhel-puri, panipuri, bun, cake, danish, betel-leaf, chola, peaju, sweet, sheek-kabab, laddu, singara, somucha etc. However, questions have been raised about the safety and microbiological quality of these food products.
Food borne illnesses are a widespread problem globally. Developing countries bear the brunt of the problem due to the presence of a wide range of food-borne diseases.The vendors in Bangladesh lack education regarding the basic food safety issues. Vendors generally use carts and stands, where they do not have easy access to running water, furthermore dish and hand washing is done using the same bucket, sometimes even without soap. Practices used during food preparation such as handling, cleaning, sorting and grading packaging, storing and wrapping in low grade plastics are some of the critical factors that increase the risk of inadequate food safety.
Most of the people like students, uneducated labors, homeless who buy food from the vendors. The cost of street foods are comparetively cheaper than the rich foods from the retaurants and fast food outlets due to large cost of gas, oil and other elements in municipal areas where inexpensive street foods are generated than the hoom made food.
Most handlers of street-vended foods in underdeveloped countries, and the developing world at large, are largely ignorant of basic food safety issues. In Bangladesh products (from the raw material to the finished stage) are often exposed to sources of contamination like soil, dust and sand. Other common real risk factors include time, temperature abuses, hygiene and sanitation of street food vending operations. Street foods displayed on open work area can easily be contaminated by dust, exhaust smoke, insects, and hands of the buyers. In most cases, tap water is not available for washing hands and utensils at vending sites; hand and utensil washing are usually done in one or more buckets, and sometimes without soap. Toilets, waste disposal and refrigeration facilities are rarely available. Wastewater and garbage are therefore discarded nearby, providing nutrients for insects and other house hold rodents, which may carry food borne pathogens. Most traditional street foods arepresented and delivered in the open, without proper protective packaging. Available data indicate that street foods carry high levels of microorganisms, including pathogens. The presence of coliform, andsalmonellae, shigellae, staphylococci or enter pathogenicEscherichia coli in street foods are evidenced.
People are more likely to develop food borne illnesses than others. High-risk groups are like older adults, pregnant women, infant and young children, long-term chronic disease patients.
During January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2010, public health departments reported 1,527 food-borne disease outbreaks, resulting in 29,444 cases of illness, 1,184 hospitalizations, and 23 deaths. Among the 29,444 outbreak-related illnesses, 1,184 (4%) resulted in hospitalization.Salmonella caused the most outbreak-related hospitalizations (49%), followed by Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (16%), and norovirus (9%).Outbreaks caused by some pathogens were particularly severe. For example, Listeriaoutbreaks resulted in the highest proportion of persons hospitalized (82%), followed by Clostridium botulinum(67%), and paralytic shellfish poisoning (67%).

Street food vending has become a major community health issue and matter of concern for all of us. A lot of food-borne disease outbreaks are occurring every year worldwide. The reasons behind this includes lack of appropriate knowledge and supervision on street food vending, preparation of food under insanitary conditions and displaying food openly which also lead to further contamination by dust, insects, rodents and hands of intending consumers.Due attention should be given by the government to improve knowledge aboutfood safety and quality standards of street foods sold in the country. Most importantly,relevant agencies such as consumer protection rights and others need to ensure andenforce strict compliance to hazard analysis and critical control points in all foodproduction sectors in Bangladesh. Five keys to safer food like keep clean, separate raw and cooked food, cook food thoroughly, keep food at safe temperature, and use safe water and raw materials should be campaigned in the each corner of the country.

Md. Abu Bakar Siddique Bhuiyan is a pharmacy student, completing his graduation under the department of Pharmacy, East West University. He can be reached at Shiblu.pharm@gmail.com

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