Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Roadside food vending is very popular in many countries especially in India, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam etc but the customers are not very sensitive to safety issues involved in eating foods prepared on the road side where there can be lot of contamination possibilities. Dust generated by the traffic, drizzling rain conditions, winds sweeping across the open places where they are located are all sources of extraneous matters, some of which can be injurious to health. Customers hooked on to street foods are overwhelmingly attracted because of the perceived extraordinary taste of foods served. In a country like India these food outlets, often on movable push carts, do not take any license or are not registered with local civic authorities putting them beyond the surveillance jurisdiction. In contrast strict compliance rules are in force for these small scale eateries in some countries and those who violate attract stringent punishment in the form of fines.

"The new Law on Food Safety forces businesses to apply for food hygiene certificates every three years, a stiffening of the previous Ordinance on Food Safety, under which the certificates were valid indefinitely. The new law just approved by the National Assembly was announced by the President's Office at a press briefing in Hanoi on July 8. It will come into effect in January next year. The Law on Food Safety's chapter three prescribes food safety standards for sidewalk eateries. It says that all food at small-sized businesses must have clear origins, be put in clean boxes, and be well protected from dust and insects. The law says that violators of these conditions would receive fines".

It is a paradox that the road side vendors in India have to pay protection money to the local police for continuing to do business while the public health department officials chose to close their eyes to the existence of these eateries. While environmental hazard can be minimized by protective measures like covering the cart, preparations and pre-prepared serving plates and bowls, what poses greater danger is the quality of water used during preparation and cleaning utensils and plates, drinking water served, personnel hygiene of servers and disposal of waste water and solids. Past attempts in training the eatery owners in some basic aspects of food safety and modifying the design of push carts have resulted in some improvements but lot needs to be done to spread the message and right practices.


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