A health study has revealed that 98 per cent of salad samples prepared by street food vendors were contaminated with bacteria known as Escherichia coli which cause food poisoning.
The researchers also found that 90 per cent of the salads sampled were considered unsatisfactory for consumption based on the Ghana Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) food safety standards.
“Apart from food contamination, we wanted to know how awareness of health risk of irrigated wastewater influence purchases and consumption of food prepared with hygiene practices,” lead researcher with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, Dr. Prince Antwi-Agyei, said.
“We, therefore, interviewed 160 consumers of street food in two neighbourhoods in Accra, and also 160 customers who buy salad vegetables at three central markets, also in Accra,” he added.
The group recommended that public health workers should intensify food safety education as the research revealed that people who eat outside pay little attention to hygiene.
Results of a study suggested that only two per cent of street food patrons consider health in making a decision on where to eat or buy food.
The researchers undertook separate exercises in Accra between September and December 2012 as well as June to August 2013.
They collected lettuce, soil and water samples from three wastewater irrigated fields.
The team also sampled salad vegetables from three central markets and also processed ready-to-eat salad from 80 street vending stalls (“check-check” sellers) and restaurants.
All collected samples were tested for the presence and levels of Escherichia coli (E. coli) at the laboratory.
Interestingly, the researchers found 46 per cent of people who eat outside buy food for taste, and 19 per cent because of convenience or proximity to the vending site.
While 28 per cent were based on friendship and 20 per cent on good price, only 1.5 per cent considered the clean environment of the vending site.
Surprisingly, the level of contamination of street food was even more than contamination of raw produce directly irrigated with wastewater such as drain water.
Less contaminated salad was found in restaurants with valid hygiene certificate, though 60 per cent of salads sold at these restaurants were also unsatisfactory for consumption based on the FDA food safety standards.
For regulators, the research team recommended intensified hygiene inspection and monitoring.
The study also prescribed certification and improved environmental and food hygiene practices.
At hotels and restaurants, the researchers recommended that salad is prepared based on customer request or be refrigerated until ready to use.
Street food vendors should also prepare the salad in small quantities based on customer inflow.
They are urged to use disinfectants, avoid mixing left-over salad with freshly prepared ones and cover prepared salad to avoid contamination.
Consumers on the other hand, according to the research, can also contribute significantly to restoring food safety by buying food only from those who adhere to hygienic practices.
Source: Today Newspaper
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