Street foods are ready-to-eat foods and beverages prepared and/or sold by vendors, especially on streets and other public places (Muleta and Ashenafi 2001). There is a noticeable increase of food vendors in Owerri, capital city of Imo State in Nigeria as a result of dwindling economy and unemployment. Also there have been rapidly growing and changing food demands by the urban dwellers needing cheaper food in the face of a harsh economy. Types of vending sites encompass stalls, a variety of push-carts, roadside stands, and hawkers depending upon the ingenuity of the individual, resources available, type of food sold and the availability of other facilities (FAO (1990). In spite of numerous advantages offered by street foods, there are also several health hazards associated with this sector of the economy. Multiple lines of evidence reveal that foods exposed for sale on the roadsides may become contaminated either by spoilage or pathogenic micro-organisms (Bryan et al 1992; Ashenafi, 1995; WHO, 1984). Evidently, street vended foods have shown epidemiological links with illness (El-Sherbeeny et al 1985; Saddik et al, 1985; Abdussan and Kafertein 1993). FAO (1997) further stipulates that street foods raise concern with respect to their potential for serious food poisoning outbreaks. The rise of street food vending has created health problems like improper and unhygienic handling of food. According to studies done in Africa on street foods, their tremendous unlimited and unregulated growth has placed a severe strain on city resources, such as water, sewage systems and interference with the city plans through congestion and littering adversely affecting daily life (Canet and N'diaye, 1996; Caulliac and Gerbouin-Renolle, (1996). The present study was carried out to determine the food safety and hygienic practices of vendors of street foods in Owerri, Nigeria. This paper sought to address various aspects of hygienic practices like preparation skills, place of preparation of food, environment and location of street food vendors, handling and storage of food; personal hygiene and storage of leftovers.
A descriptive survey design was used to extract answers to questionnaires concerning the current status of food hygiene and sanitation practiced by street food vendors in Owerri, Nigeria. Hygiene, food safety and sanitation were determined by the use of structured interviews, semi-structured questionnaires as well as through observations. Practices such as acquisition of cooking skills, handling of food, place of preparation of food, personal hygiene, environmental conditions, methods of washing utensils and preservation methods of food were studied. Location of the street vendor, utensils used, environment surrounding the street food vendors, general processing of the food and hygienic practices were observed and recorded through an observation checklist. Data was analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) program version 11. Descriptive statistics such as means and frequencies were used to present the findings.
Table 1 shows that majority of the street food vendors were women (66.67%) who fell into the average age group of 31-40 years (42.85%) with mean age of 41.23 years. Educationally (52.38%) of them had secondary education., 28.57% college education while 19.05% had primary education and below. 95.24% of the vendors operated from stalls along the streets while only 4.76% of those surveyed were
The vending sites were spread between wooden stalls (28.57%0, canopies (28.57%) or metal containers (19.05%). One third of the street food vendors surveyed said that they prepared the food they sold at the stalls (Table 2). Knowledge for food vending was acquired by self teaching by trial and error in (47.62%) of the street vendors. Only (4.76%) of the vendors surveyed admitted to formal training in food handling and vending while 47. …