Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Bacteriological Quality of Weaning Food and Drinking Water Given to Children of Market Women in Nigeria: Implications for Control of Diarrhoea

Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Bacteriological Quality of Weaning Food and Drinking Water Given to Children of Market Women in Nigeria: Implications for Control of Diarrhoea

Article excerpt


Food handling is an important factor in food safety. This includes the safety practices among those preparing and/ or serving food as well as mode and duration of food storage. Stanton and Clemens showed a positive association between frequency of hand-washing prior to food preparation and incidence of diarrhoea among consumer children, frequency of hand-washing being indicative of the level of hygiene practice (1). Black et al. reported increase in contamination of food at the household level with temperature and duration of storage (2). Henry et al. observed an increase in coliform count when there was a delay of more than 4 hours between preparation and consumption of weaning food (3). There are 2 main practices in food handling which increase the risk of food-borne diseases. First is preparation of food several hours before consumption and storage at temperatures that favour growth of pathogens and/or formation of bacterial toxins. Second is insufficient cooking or reheating of preserved food (4). Microbial contamination of food invariably makes the weaning period most hazardous, particularly with respect to diarrhoeal diseases. Rowland et al. discovered that traditional gruels used in Gambia to supplement breastmilk were often contaminated with potentially pathogenic micro-organisms, and such supplements were important factors in weaning-related diarrhoea (5).

The risk of food contamination presumably increases with mothers engaging in occupations that limit the time available for safe preparation of weaning food. Such mothers would resort to the time-saving measures, such as preparing baby's food and storing for a relatively long time or delegating caretakers or other siblings to prepare food without supervision. Women working in markets of eastern Nigeria are very good examples of this class of mothers. Some would leave their children at home with other siblings aged 7-13 years or with house-helps while engaging themselves in trading activities in the market. Others would prefer to take their children to the market, with food already prepared at home or from vendors in the market.

Microbial contamination is an indicator of the degree of safe handling of food which is a vehicle for transmission of enteric pathogens (4). Therefore, we evaluated the bacteriological quality of food and water given to children aged 2 [pounds sterling] years as an assessment of hygiene practice in child-rearing among mothers while engaging in trading activities in the market.



The present study is part of a wider study with 663 mothers to determine the nutritional status of children of women working in 7 urban markets--6 in Enugu and one in Nsukka, Enugu State, Nigeria. Of these mothers, 157 left their children at home, and 506 took their children to market. All mothers were pooled together, and irrespective of the above categorization, every third mother in the list was requested to provide food samples for bacteriological examination. Thus, randomly, 148 mothers who took their children to market and 73 who left their children at home were requested. A total of 184 mothers consented--116 among those who took their children to market and 68 among those who did not. Nine of those requested declined consent. Four of the mothers with children in the market and 2 who left children at home objected for cultural taboo of giving away a child's food to a stranger. The other 3 with children at home left instruction that strangers should not be allowed for fear of their children being kidnapped. Twenty-eight of the mothers requested neither refused nor consented but remained evasive throughout the study. Day of collection of samples was not given out to avoid deliberate improvement of hygiene.

Collection of food and water samples

All food and water samples were collected once (except for those revisited) in sterile disposable containers (Sterilin). …

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