Our Country has a rich tradition of street food that often reflects local culture. Easy availability of street food coupled with its wide variety and delicacy of the offerings, not to forget the comparative low prices, have made street food popular with all sections of society, including the elite and foreign tourists. Street food is, however, often perceived as unhygienic and a major health risk. Hence there is a need for capacity building of street food vendors that should lead to their behavior change. Many initiatives have been taken up in the past, but these were all sporadic and did not take up all vendors in any area, as a result, were not sustainable. Project Clean Street Food is one of the initiatives taken up by FSSAI under a 360-degree approach to Food Safety and Healthy Nutrition. This would involve training and capacity building of the street food vendors and ensure proper regulatory oversight over them under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
Harm caused by foodborne illnesses underscore the global threats posed by unsafe foods.World Health Day celebrated on 7 April 2015, with WHO highlighted the challenges and opportunities associated with food safety under the slogan “From farm to plate, make food safe.” Street foods have become an important part of changing dietary pattern. People consume street foods without paying attention on hygiene and sanitation. Vendors of street food constitute a major source of health risk, especially through oro–faecal transmission of pathogens, and vendor related risk is particularly high in poor resource community. For this reason, the study has been conducted by researchers to document the hygiene practices and food safety knowledge among street food vendors in Kashmir. Various parameters were assessed including personal hygiene, acquisition of cooking skills, handling of food,food contamination knowledge, location, utensils used, care of equipment and other practices were recorded through an observation. The study revealed that majority of street food vendors were men (86.6%) who fell into the average age group of 41–50 years. Around (56.1 %) had not received any education indicating majority of them were illiterate, (92.3%) street vendors admitted that they washed food before cooking.It was marked that 80%of the vendors used same surface for cooking the food more than twice. Only (19.04%) vendors used aprons and cent percent served food with bare hands.The study also revealed that 73.3% of the vendors blew air into the packing before handing it over to the customers. Data obtained from the street food vendors showed that many wrong practices (intentional or unintentional) followed by them which can pose a serious health risk to the consumers. The study concluded that street food vendors in Kashmir did not had correct knowledge of handling the food necessitating the importance of organizing training workshops for them.
Improving the standards of food safety and hygiene in street food vending is a key challenge and also an opportunity to earn public trust in matters of food safety and hygiene in the country. While, the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 requires even petty food vendors such as street food vendors to obtain FSSAI registration, but registration and enforcement are unlikely to serve much purpose. Training and capacity building of street food vendors and encouraging and facilitating them to improve their standards are perhaps more important interventions. It is in the above context that the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has given high priority to training of street food vendors. In place of piecemeal approach, FSSAI has taken up an area-based approach to training of street food vendors. In this approach, all street food vendors in particular areas are first sensitized, mobilized and then trained. Help is taken from various stakeholders including the State Food Safety Commissioners, local administration and municipal authorities and the corporates. Convergence with other government programmes such as ‘Skill India’ also holds great promise.
In Kashmir alone There is a diverse scope of street food vending hotspots having the tourism related importance viz Makai Park famous for Barbeques, Roasted corn(Bhutta), Dargah Hazratbal market is also famous for crispy snacks (Nader Monje, Pakodas, Samosas and manymore), Likewise at every corner street food is preferred more by economy class citizens on a daily routine. The major problem persists in the way street food is being cooked, use of oil for cooking, banned food colors, Raw materials, utensils, Packing or wrapping in used Newspapers, which is also proven harmful for human health.There are some important and basic things which a customer and street food vendor should be aware of as notified by Regulatory authority (FSSAI) from time to time.
It is pertinent to mention here that majority of the street food vendors are violating the food safety norms by wrapping the freshly heated food in newspapers thus posing a threat to human lives. ‘The ink contains multiple bioactive materials and might lead to adverse health issues’. Printing ink may also contain harmful colours, pigments, binders, additive and preservatives. Besides chemical contaminants, pathogenic microorganisms in used newspapers pose potential risk to human health. newspapers and even paper/cardboard boxes made of recycled paper may be contaminated with metallic contaminants, mineral oils and harmful chemicals like phthalates which can cause digestive problems and also lead to severe toxicity.Older people, teenagers, children and people with compromised vital organs and immune systems are at a greater risk of acquiring cancer-related health complications, if they are exposed to food packed in such material.In view of the above harmful effects, newspapers should not be used to wrap, cover and serve food or to absorb excess oil from fried food. The Food Business Operators (FBOs) are requested not to use newspapers as food packaging material. Instead, they can use alternative packaging materials such as plantain leaves.
- Hygienic and safe food is essential in building the bridge of trust and goodwill between the vendor and the customer.
- Food, if not handled properly, can easily get contaminated/spoiled. This renders the food unsafe for consumption.
- Unsafe working conditions like unclean utensils and laddles, high temperature,uncovered hairs and beard, improper storage, uncovered food and dirty platforms can lead to contamination of food.
- Serving safe food helps in increasing business, following law, and to build customer’s trust.
- All food handlers shall remain clean, wear washed clothes and keep their finger nails trimmed, clean and wash their hands with soap/ detergent and water before commencing work and every time after touching food or using toilet.
- The person suffering from infectious disease shall not be permitted to work.
- All food handlers should avoid wearing loose items that might fall into food and also avoid touching or scratching their face, head or hair.
- Eating, chewing, smoking, spitting and nose blowing shall be prohibited within the premises.
- The location of the vending unit should be in a place approved by the local authorities and not blocking traffic or pedestrians or near unhygienic locations.
- Potential sources of contamination like rubbish, waste water, toilet facilities, open drains and stray animals shall be avoided.
- The surfaces of the Vending carts which come in contact with food or food storage utensils shall be built of solid, rust/ corrosion resistant materials and kept in clean and good condition. They shall be protected from sun, wind and dust. When not in use, food vending vans shall be kept in clean place and properly protected.
- Water used for cleaning, washing and preparing food shall be potable in nature.
- All the packaged raw material must be FSSAI licensed/ registered. Never use adulterated/ substandard raw materials
- Use utensils after washing with clean water and drying and keep all foods covered.
- Person cooking, handling or serving food should use hand gloves and aprons, where necessary. He shall wear head gear and cover his mouth always while at work.
- Cooking, storage and serving shall not be done in utensils of, cadmium, lead, non food grade plastic and other toxic materials. Never blow into plastic bags, wrappers or packages used for food
- Utensils shall be cleaned of debris, rinsed, scrubbed with detergent and washed under running tap water after every operation. Wiping of utensils shall be done with clean cloth. Separate cloths shall be used for wiping hands and for clearing surfaces, cloth used for floor cleaning will not be used for cleaning surfaces of tables and working areas and for wiping utensils
- Rubbish bin with cover shall be provided by food stall or vending cart owners for any waste generated in the process of serving and eating by consumers. Separate waste into WET and DRY which makes it easier to handle later.
- The customer must be greeted and told about the dishes offered at the shop.
- The customer communication should help in demarcation of Veg & Non veg, handwashing and drinking water and the essential do’s and dont’s in a food zone.
The major concern about Street food vending is to know about street food vendors itself. Street vending is a global phenomenon and the most visible aspect of the informal sector. Like other informal sector, street vending is characterized by low level of income, easy of entry, self-employed and it involves large number of people. In Rural and Urban areas thought the world millions of people, earn their living by selling wide range of goods and service on the street. Despite a general belief that street vending will recede as economies develop and income rise, it is actually on increase in many places. Street vendors are very important part of the informal sector in the country. It is estimated that around 60% percent of the population are engaged in street vending profession. Street vending is not only a source of self-employment to the poor but also a means to provide “affordable” as well as “convenient” services to a majority of the population. Street vendors are often those who are unable to get regular jobs in the remunerative formal sector on account of their low income. They try to solve their livelihoods problems through their own meagre financial resource.The importance of this sector cannot be undermined, especially considering that the government does not have the capacity to provide jobs to the millions of unemployed and underemployed people. Even the corporate sector is able to absorb only a tiny proportion of our expanding work force. In Kashmir Corporate sector is not fully developeddue to which employment for educated youth is actually declining. This means most people have to fend for themselves. They contribute significant role in local economic growth and development of the urban economies. Public authorities at times consider street vendors as a nuisance and as encroachers of sidewalks, footpaths, pavements and do not appreciate the valuable services that street vendors provide to the general public. Street vendors provide valuable services to the urban masses while making out a living through their own enterprise, limited resources and labour. Street vendors have been demanding protection from civic agencies and the state government so they can earn their livelihood without fear. The biggest challenge for Street vendors is usually associated with encroachment of public spaces, causes traffic congestion, inadequate hygiene, and poor waste disposal. Safety of food has been increasingly become a concern in regard to street vendors. Even Government agency is authorized to verify the content of food as they are being regulated by any FSSAI.