Saturday, February 27, 2010


Street vending of foods is a fairly common sight in towns and cities through out India and those who swear by the taste of the foods served, mostly through vending carts or improvised serving places, are literally addicts, patronizing these road side eateries regularly. It is another matter that most of the foods catered by the street vendors are considered unsafe because of the contaminated water used, unhygienic environment, soiled utensils and serving plates and serving personnel of indifferent health. Still food poisoning arising from foods consumed from them is far and few, probably due to development of immunity in regular consumers through frequent exposure over a period of time. How about the reaction from a tourist regarding the prevalence of street vending in India. Here is a typical response from a foreign tourist after observing the food service on the roadsides in some areas of Kolkata.

"The temptation is real. But talk to anyone who has visited India, and you're likely to hear at least one tale of gut-busting food trauma. More intrepid travelers, though, will be tempted to test their luck anyway. I particularly craved phuchkas, a dish Kolkata is famous for, a one-bite shot of spiced potatoes in a tiny sphere of fried bread, doused with tamarind water".

It is understandable that people coming from many developed countries may not be familiar with the phenomenon of street foods as they are used to eating in well protected restaurants having cleaner environment and food safety norms stipulated by the concerned authorities. Their immunity to many common bugs is either nil or minimal exposing them to possible food borne infection when street foods are consumed. Past attempts by national and international agencies to improve the safety of street foods in India have sensitized many such vendors as reflected by improved awareness perceptible amongst some of them. But establishment of an institutionalized program in regional languages, spanning the entire country, to provide some rudimentary training to these vendors will go a long way to make their products much more safer than what they are to day.

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