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Effects of street food culture in Nigeria

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By Usman Oladimeji

Inadequate governmental oversight raises food safety concerns.

Within the vibrant and bustling thoroughfares of Nigerian cities, street food stands proudly, offering an array of delectable options that gratify the taste buds of locals and visitors alike on a regular basis. The choices are diverse, ranging from the mouth watering suya to the fragrant jollof rice, making Street Food an indispensable aspect of Nigerian Culture. Yet, beneath these tantalizing flavours looms a crucial dilemma concerning public safety and the enforcement of health regulations. The absence of supervision and Regulation in the processing and sale of these foods has raised concerns regarding their chemical and microbiological safety. A striking majority (70%) of urban residents in Africa heavily depend on street vendors for their daily sustenance.

Insufficient governmental oversight in underdeveloped nations, like Nigeria, gives rise to apprehensions regarding the safety of food and the well-being of the public. Consuming contaminated street foods has been associated with the spread of foodborne diseases and heavy metal contamination. It is important to acknowledge that this predicament extends beyond Nigeria and Africa, as it poses a universal hurdle for numerous developing nations where street food plays a significant role in their economies. A study discovered a void in safety protocols concerning street-vended foods in Nigeria. Regardless of the food’s benefits as affordable and convenient meals, lack of proper oversight presents substantial health hazards.

Nigeria records 173m instances of foodborne diseases each year.

Public Health is greatly affected by the way street food vendors handle hygiene and food. It is a common problem to witness improper waste disposal, lack of clean water, failure to maintain proper temperatures, and a general lack of knowledge about Food Safety among these vendors. These circumstances have the potential to cause diseases transmitted through food despite their preventable nature. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 600 million people fall victim to foodborne illnesses on an annual basis, tragically leading to 420,000 fatalities. The most vulnerable group affected by this burden is children under the age of 5, accounting for over 30% of these cases.

Nigeria has witnessed sporadic instances of foodborne disease outbreaks over time, leading to fatalities. The Consumer Advocacy for Food Safety and Nutrition Initiative (CAFSNI) provides an alarming statistic, estimating that Nigeria records 173 million instances of foodborne diseases each year, with an annual death toll of 33,000. Street food vendors in Nigeria tend to adhere to traditional culinary methods like those practiced within households. According to research conducted in Asaba, Delta State, over half of the individuals involved in food processing neglect the important step of washing raw ingredients before preparing meals. Shockingly, an additional 40% of these food processors fail to wash their hands as well.

Consistent evaluations should be carried out to guarantee compliance.

Many street food vendors engage in unsanitary conditions for food processing, with their stands being infested by flies, rodents, and open waste bins. These circumstances pose a significant risk for food contamination. The absence of a hygienic and clean environment for food processing contributes highly in the presence of microorganisms that lead to the contamination of street foods. In order to tackle this issue, a variety of methods were proposed to be employed in order to achieve the desired results.

Most importantly, it is imperative for the government to establish and implement street vendor-oriented food safety measures. This entails striking a harmonious equilibrium between safeguarding public health and not impeding the vendors’ livelihoods. Consistent evaluations should be carried out to guarantee compliance with these regulations, prioritizing assistance over punishment in order to aid vendors in achieving the proposed benchmarks. The implementation of a food hygiene rating system would serve as a means to acknowledge vendors who adhere to food safety regulations, ultimately incentivizing them to enhance their sanitary conditions.

Related Link: Food safety is everyone’s responsibility

Educating consumers on the significance of food safety and equipping them with the ability to recognize sellers adhering to hygiene standards is crucial. This effort would generate a desire for safer practices, thereby motivating vendors to abide by regulations. Additionally, extensive research and cooperative efforts with food scientists and public health experts hold the potential to develop ingenious solutions specifically suited for the Nigerian setting. Ensuring the proper governance of street food in Nigeria extends beyond the mere objective of averting illnesses; it encompasses safeguarding a cherished lifestyle in a secure and environmentally friendly approach.


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