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Making street foods safe

June 11, 2024 00:00:00

It is common knowledge that street food is risky but few people are aware of the risks posed by salad restaurants, including even 3-star or 5-star, serve. Also how much risky these food items are is little known. A research study titled, "Prevalence of microbial hazards in street food and ready-to-eat salad items in restaurants and their probable risk analysis" carried out by the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) confirms the general assumption and provides a definite answer to the extent of danger people are exposed to. As many as 450 samples of street foods and salads were collected for laboratory test to find if there were pathogenic bacteria in them. However, there remains one unanswered question if the samples were also collected from posh hotels and restaurants. Salads prepared in such luxurious hotels and restaurants may maintain all hygienic rules but when a large number of guests assemble for a party or seminars, the lunch or dinner time far exceeds schedule by which time those assortments of raw vegetables or fruits, particularly when there is a mix of cucumber and tomato, turn poisonous.

So far as street foods are concerned, six of those have been found to be containing high proportion of bacteria such as E-coli, salmonella and Vibro. Thousands of those bacteria were found in one plate of chola muri (mix of chickpea and puffed rice), chatpati (boiled chickpea with condiments), sugarcane juice, aloe vera syrup and sandwich. Restaurant salads are equally hazardous on account of presence of bacteria. What about other street foods and drinks such as singara, samosa, furtchka, lemon sharbat and a host of other ready-to-eat foods and beverage? Those items are not expected to be any exception. The sources of all such foods and drinks are more or less the same and the level of hygienic awareness among those who prepare the items are no different. Moreover, they are exposed to dust and other contamination in the open space.

It appears that the immune system of those who regularly consume such contaminated foods and beverages is far stronger than the average citizens. Or, else how can it be explained that only two people fall sick on account of E-coli, four on account of salmonella and only one on account of Vibro out of 10,000 who consume such foods! This also shows that the street food freaks revel in their gastronomical choices and are an incorrigible lot who could not care less if the highly tasty street foods are hygienic or not.

This, however, does not pay ultimately for many. Some of them become regular visitors to physicians' chambers and a handful of them have their lives cut short prematurely. Better it is to restrain the appetite for such unhealthy and unhygienic foods and drinks. From the economy's and the authority's point of view, the street food business cannot be done away with. It is wiser to manage them better without allowing any compromise on the hygienic way of preparation, display arrangement and serving. There are small covered vans which protect foods from dust, flies etc. Water used for cleaning plates or glasses has to be fresh and pure to avoid contamination. Let the authorities make arrangement for paid safe water at busy points of street foods. Such small but significant hygienic steps can make street foods more or less safe. Preparation of restaurant salads should follow suit.

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