In many developing countries foods that are readily available for purchase and immediate consumption by the road side and other similar places like parks, hawkers, mama put, bukkaterria at affordable prices to the lower and middle income groups and even the high income earners in rare cases is what is referred to as road side foods. Some of these road side foods include roasted plantain popularly known as bole in some part of Nigeria and boli in other parts, bean cake (akara), roasted meat (suya), wanke, roasted groundnut, roasted yam, roasted corn, puff puff even the swallow we buy and eat from mama put such as amala, semo, eba etc, mei-shai noodles, bread and eggs, tea.
However, the road side foods form an integral part of Nigeria culture, in fact if the food isn’t by the road side it isn’t authentic because it keeps up with the ever changing consumer demand for food availability, new flavors, and new taste of food with little or no knowledge of its side effects on health. A typical Nigerian would tell you that road side foods are delicious, cheap and has varieties unlike when he/she cooks at home where they can’t afford varieties.
70% to 75% of Nigerians buy and eat road side foods. According to a study conducted in 2007 by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 2.5 billion people globally eat street food every day.
However, the problem doesn’t lie in the food itself but the situations and conditions surrounding the preparation of such food. Studies have shown that the road side foods are exposed to dusts, dirt and exhaust smoke of moving vehicles due to frequent opening of the container while serving customers.
Majority of these road side vendors have their shops or tents in dirty and unkept environment i.e. they lack the basic hygiene that is required to handle food. Road side food vendors are often poor, uneducated, and lack knowledge in safe food handling, they don’t sell in approved places by health workers they just get a table, umbrella and chairs and they are good to go.
In this current era of viruses such as corona virus that is passed on via body fluids like sweat, saliva, body contact etc. one should make a deliberate effort to dig deep into what he/she consumes, a conscious effort to prevent consumption of anything detrimental to the health is essential. For instance, imagine a drop of sweat from an infected person into a pot of soup sold to over 50 people. Oh Well!
The risks of serious food poisoning outbreaks linked to road side foods cannot be underestimated. Diarrheal diseases and cholera are common food poisoning cases.
Here, our argument isn’t to terminate road side foods but to help provide safe and effective ways of enhancing the safe consumption of these foods prepared by the road side. Road side food consumers should prioritize their health by trying to cut down eating out even if it can’t stop completely.
Because of the possibility of microbiological, chemical and physical contamination therae should be efforts to educate the vendors on how to improve the environmental conditions in which the food is made.
New policies and regulations should be made to make sure each vendors are selling safe and healthy food to the society, compulsorily customers should make sure they purchase foods only in hygienic places. Since no agency recognized by the government regulates these food vendors, they are operating at will so they sell food beside open canals, gutters and blocked drainages where deadly bacteria and microbes thrive.