Social / Feature



The Silent Killer on our Streets
Masahudu Ankiilu Kunateh, Ghanadot

Accra, Jan 27, Ghanadot - There has been a phenomenal increase in the activities of street food vendors in Accra, Kumasi, Sekondi-Takoradi, Cape Coast and Tamale and other urban centres over the last few decades. The influx of working people and students into the national and regional capitals, with majority of such people traveling long distances between their work places/schools and their residences compels them to rely on street vended foods, which are more convenient and ready to eat. Such foods are normally patronized in the afternoons and in the evenings.

In Ghana,  examples of some common street vended foods are waakye , fufu, Ga kenkey, rice balls (Omo Tuo), Fanti kenkey, cooked rice, fried plantain, roasted yams, cooked beans and boiled yams.

These vended foods abound in Nima, Mamobi, Ministries area, Kasoa, lorry parks, school compounds and campuses, beaches and market places. Khebabs, bread and salad and fruit juice, are also vended foods.  All these contribute significantly to the Ghanaian economy.

The street food sector alone employs more than 60,000 people in Accra, according to a study. An estimated annual turnover of US$100 million and profit of US$24 million are realised from this sector.

Instructively, 94% of the vendors are women with little education. About 75% of them do not belong to the Ghana Traditional Caterers Association, and therefore hardly pay tax.

Street food, when managed properly could contribute to food security and nutrition in the country.

The phenomenon of working couples with the women having little or no time for traditional cooking skills, gives room for partial or total dependence on cooked street food for the family. Most bachelors, spinsters, married men and women also depend heavily on street foods.

However, the lack of attention, and ignorance of hygiene, poor access to clean water, the problem of sanitation and disposal of waste and conditions in which some of these foods are prepared and handled have often turned these convenient, good looking and delicious meals into sources of food poisoning.

There is a general deterioration in the hygienic levels of vended foods in Accra, Kumasi and other urban centres.

A number of food vendors in Accra operate around areas where they have limited access to clean, potable water and good toiletry facilities, and sometimes are close by garbage mounds as well as open gutters.

Additionally, most of them also engage in practices that increase the spread of microbes. Majority of these food vendors handle food with bare hands with a few washing their hands during food handling.

There has been a scenario where E. coli, a pathogenic considered dangerous to children and the elderly is found in vended foods indicating faecal contamination.  This arises through the use of contaminated water, inferior food products, poor hygiene of food vendors, and through the help of flies or other insects.

A study conducted by the Food Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, in collaboration with the National Resources of the University of Greenwich and sponsored the Department for International Development (DFID) of UK, on safety, quality and economics of street vended foods in Accra recently, revealed a worrying evidence regarding the safety and quality of some the street foods.

According to the study, 40% of waakye samples contained heavy metal lead above the Codex recommended maximum limit of 0.2mg/kg. Lead contamination can result in learning difficulties and behavioural problems in children. About 70% of food samples contained the organophosphorous pesticide, and chloropyriphos.

Even though, this was low, it said non-hazardous levels of mycotoxins and the heavy metal cadmium were detected in many of the street food samples.

All food samples analyzed were below the maximum aflatoxin levels recommended for foods for human consumption by the European Union. Aflatoxins have also been previously detected in fermented maize products, such as kenkey. They are highly toxic fungal metabolites.

The ingestion of these toxins can have a deleterious impact on the health and productivity of man and result in death when consumed in sufficiently high quantities. Good quality maize should be made available to food vendors.

The fact is that the street food sector has not been accorded the needed the attention it deserves by present and successive governments and agencies entrusted with the responsibility of managing the cities and maintaining hygiene and good sanitation, such as the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies, the Food Research Institute, the Ghana Standard Board and the Food and Drugs Board.

Although, a comprehensive data on the food poisoning situation is not yet available, there have been some media reports of people poisoned after eating some street foods.







Web www.ghanadot.com

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