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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – September 10, 2001: Street Food Safety - 2001-09-07

This is the VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT.

Street food is food that is prepared, sold and eaten on city streets. Street food is an important part of the diets of people in developing countries. An estimated two-thousand-five-hundred-million people worldwide eat street food. This kind of food is low in cost, tasty, nutritious and easy to serve. It is designed for the lives of busy people in large cities.

But buyers must be careful about health risks. Studies have repeatedly found unacceptably high levels of harmful bacteria in street food products. Recently, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported on the problem.

Street food sellers in developing countries often lack the storage, cooking and cooling equipment necessary to prevent the formation of dangerous bacteria. Under some conditions, a single bacterium can grow into seventeen-million disease-carrying organisms in just eight hours. The lack of clean running water and waste removal systems also increases the risk of infection.

The Food and Agriculture Organization is leading an effort to make street food safer. Over the past fifteen years, it has helped officials improve street food in more than twenty cities worldwide.

For example, F-A-O officials have been working with the South African government on such a project. The U-N agency produced a food safety teaching guide for public health officials. The guide offers suggestions on how to prepare food safely. A videotape shows how producing safe food results in increased business. The F-A-O also helped publish books that food inspectors will use to educate people who sell street food.

One F-A-O official says the project in South Africa has been so successful that officials in other African countries would like to copy it.

F-A-O officials and officials in Senegal have begun to improve the safety of street food businesses in Dakar. A new market area is being built for the city. Businesses in the area will have waste removal services and fresh water. Food sellers are being taught to keep cooked food away from uncooked food. The sellers also have been urged not to prepare and sell food when they are sick.

One F-A-O official notes that sellers of street food products welcome the advice. She says they recognize that buyers will come back if they believe in the safety of the products.

This VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT was written by George Grow.

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