Uganda – urban street vendors and poor hygiene
Uganda: Cheap Roadside Lunch Can Be Costly
Kampala — You might think you are saving by eating the ‘cheap’ food or drink sold by vendors on the roadside. But that is where it starts and ends.
According to the World Health Organisation, vended food is prepared or sold by vendors in streets and other public places for immediate consumption without further processing. This includes fruits, vegetables and beverages.
Scholars attribute street-food vending to rural-urban migration. It is estimated that 40% of the urban poor in the developing world eat street food as it is cheap.
It is a major source of income, especially for the women, requiring low capital investment.
Most vendors, however, have very low formal education, which makes them unable to appreciate the most critical food handling practices.
Consumers have thus borne the consequences whenever the food is unsafe.
Michael Kalema, an auditor, recalls the price he paid after eating an ‘affordable’ meal at some down-town food joint in 2008. “What I thought was a quick, affordable and decent lunch of sh2,000, eventually cost me close to half-a-million shillings in medication.”
He had been diagnosed with salmonella and listeria, pathogens found in half-cooked food.
In Kampala, some popular food joints are found along Nasser Road, in Arua Park and Kinamwandu on Johnson Street.
According to John Lule, the principle health inspector at City Hall, all street food vendors are governed by Section 281 of the Public Health Act.
“This spells out mandatory requirements for all eating houses, including accessible running water, toilet facilities, refuse bins and medical examination for the food-handlers.”
This, however, is usually not the case. A number of significant public health concerns still arise from the current state of street food vending that we all need to know.
Water used for drinking, washing, cleaning and other operations is often below acceptable quality and is often insufficient.
Stationary food stalls often do not have direct access to water supply. Many vendors wash their utensils in water that has been used previously, perhaps several times.
Some cooks carry out the final frying, grilling or baking in open stalls.
During such a process, sometimes raw materials and food may come into contact with cooked food, which is then consumed without further heating.
At times, soiled equipment and surfaces such as cutting boards and knives are used.
Little attention is paid to containers of pastes, sauces and other food additives, creating fungal growth and deterioration for the utensils.
A lot of street-vended food is prepared far from town and then transported to the vending places using wheelbarrows, bicycles, pick-up trucks and passenger taxis.
This does not rule out contamination with toxic materials from the previous occupants of the vehicle used, say a pick-up truck that had earlier been used to ferry live chicken.