ASSESSING KNOWLEDGE, ATTITUDE, AND PRACTICES OF FOOD VENDORS ON HYGIENE AND SANITATION IN THE MOLYKO COMMUNITY
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1.1 Background Of The Study
Food is a silent vehicle for microbial, chemical and physical hazards. There is concern about transmission of multiple antimicrobial resistant bacteria via the food chain. Several devastating outbreaks of food borne diseases have been reported in the African Regions.
In 1998, the Regional Office, in collaboration with partners, established the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) in the African Region. Food poisoning, food borne diseases and food safety have been declared a major public health concern by international health agencies and street foods have in many studies been associated with microbiological contamination and low hygiene standards (WHO 2006).
Food vendors are of massive importance for public health since they alone have influence on the health of thousands of people every day. The International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) cover events of international importance involving contaminated food and outbreaks of food borne diseases. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), street foods are ready to-eat foods and beverages prepared and or sold by vendors and hawkers especially in the street and other public places.
However, Sharit K. Bhowmik (2005) defines a street vendor as a person who offers goods for sale to the public without having any permanent built-up structure from which to sell. These represent a significant part of urban food consumption for millions of low-and-middle-income consumers, in urban areas on a daily basis.
Street foods may be the least expensive and most accessible means of obtaining a nutritionally balanced meal outside the home for many low income people, provided that the consumer is informed and able to choose the proper combination of foods. In developing countries, street food preparation and selling provides a regular source of income for millions of men and women with limited education or skills, especially because the activity requires low initial investment.
The problems of food safety in the industrialized world differ considerably from those faced by developing countries. Whereas traditional methods are used for marketing fresh produce in the latter countries, food processing and packaging are the norms in industrialized countries. In developing countries, a large proportion of ready-to-eat food is sold on the streets. A study conducted by SHarit K. Browmik (2005) reported that most of the street foods vending activities are sparked by reasons such as unemployment and poverty in rural areas.
Mostly, these street vendors move from rural to the urban areas in search for greater opportunities. Street food vending is a rapidly growing sector and a source of employment in most developing countries like Sierra Leone. Tinker I. (2003) attests to this statement by stating that the number of street food vendors and their customers has increased as economic crises have become more frequent in developing countries. Street food may be consumed where it is purchased or can be taken away and eaten elsewhere.
The consumption of street food is common in many countries where unemployment is high, salaries are low, work opportunities and social programs are limited, and where urbanization is taking place. Street food vendors are often unlicensed, untrained in food hygiene and sanitation, and work under crude unsanitary conditions.
They benefit from a positive cash flow, often evade taxation, and can determine their own working hours. In selling snacks, complete meals, and refreshments at relatively low prices, they provide an essential service to workers, shoppers, travellers, and people on low incomes. People who depend on such food are often more interested in its convenience than in questions of its safety, quality and hygiene. The hygiene aspects of vending operations are a major source of concern for food control officers.
According to WHO (1989), food handling personnel play an important role in ensuring food safety throughout the chain of food production and storage. For example, Kiosks are often crude structures, and running water may not be readily available. Also, toilets and adequate washing facilities are rarely available.
The washing of hands, utensils, and dishes is often done in buckets or bowls. Disinfection is not usually carried out, and insects and rodents may be attracted to sites where there is no organized sewage disposal. Finally, food is not adequately protected from flies and refrigeration is usually unavailable.
This study will concentrate on how safe are foods in the Molyko community. Studies have already confirmed that the street food sector is facing serious challenges in maintaining hygiene and safety of foods (Mensah 1999). The Department of Health published statistics relating to food poisoning in 2006. The report looked at a number of reported food borne illnesses and fatalities between 2001 and 2005. The main aim of this research is to assess knowledge, attitude and practice of food vendors on food hygiene and sanitation.
1.2 Problem Statement
The emergence of street food vendors has become very rampant, therefore there is an assumption that by their nature, street food contamination is inevitable, yet, millions of people depend on this source of nutrition. Education of food industry personnel in hygiene matters has been recommended as a means of improving food handling practices and thus the safety of food.
There is, however, a lack of documentary evidence of improvements in food hygiene standards which can be directly related to education or training. It is thus imperative than an assessment be conducted to assess what information street food vendors have, in relation to food safety. Such an assessment has potential to identify areas that require strengthening or attention in the training programme with regard to ensuring the safety of street foods, especially for vulnerable groups like schools.
Additionally, legislative changes that may be necessary in the light of such an assessment could be suggested. This study is therefore aimed at assessing the knowledge, attitudes and practices of street food vendors regarding food hygiene and safety and factors predisposing food contamination.
As in many developing countries, a policy decision has to be taken by local authorities to allow people to earn their living from street food vending in areas under their jurisdiction. Street food vendors are ubiquitous and conspicuous presence in most cities and they sell a variety of wares ranging from snacks and drinks to full meals.
Despite this, the attitude of many governments towards the street food trade has been indifference with little or no interest in the role that it may play in either the economy or the food supply of the city. The rise in consumption of street foods has been identified by some as deleterious trend (Gorpalan 1992), but this bias against street foods and also the street food trade is largely unfounded.