India: Street food a source of infection

Sep 06 2018


Water used at these stalls is not filtered and sourced from unhygienic places. Especially during the summer, due to a rise in temperature and humidity, there is an increase in viral and bacterial infections. Although water source is a big aspect, using undercooked meat and tinned food can also be sources of salmonella infection


When it comes to taste, street food rocks. Just before you dig into your favourite snack, make it a point to check if it is fit for consumption. Street vendor often overlook basic norms of hygiene and cleanliness while preparing and serving food. Casual raids by the health authorities on eateries fail to act as a deterrent. Be it schools, colleges, hospitals, bus terminals, railway station or popular markets, roadside vendors are present in the entire city.


Most of them are found running the stalls in most busy localities bustling with traffic exposing the food to dust and pollution. Owing to the booming city population, vendors have no qualms about running their stalls near public toilets, public waste disposal sites and open drainage. Although the Health Department maintained that they kept collecting samples of eatables from time to time, the ground reality speaks otherwise. “Samples of eatables are collected from roadside dhabas,” said Dr Abnash Kumar, District Health Officer. “Proper food hygiene implies that food is handled, stored, prepared and served in such a way and under such conditions so as to prevent contamination,” said city based Dr Harmandeep Singh.


“The vendors use the same oil for frying repeatedly till it gets exhausted which can have adverse impact on the health of consumers. The piece of cloth used for cleaning the surface, utensils and covering food items is also used by the vendor for cleaning hands. My family does not eat out be it a roadside stall or a restaurant, we prefer preparing dishes at home,” said Swati, a resident. Another city based doctor said street food could lead to gastroenteritis, diarrhoea and jaundice. “Vendors use baking soda as a cooking substitution, which can lead to acidity, vomiting and even hyper-acidity in some cases,” he said. Even if some of these preparations are served hot, it does not mean that the germs are destroyed. Germs can be transferred by serving food in dirty plates and when vendors don’t wash their hands. “It is true that the food that is prepared and served by these street vendors is unhygienic.


Infections due to unhygienic food

Salmonella bacteria infection is a major food-borne illness that one can get by eating at unhygienic places. This infection can lead to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea along with fever. One is also susceptible to other bacterial and viral infections such as rotavirus by eating street food. These unhygienic food stalls can become a source for disease outbreaks like cholera.