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Health Alert 98% of salad by street food vendors contain faecal matter - Study

Ninety percent of the salad sampled was also considered unsatisfactory for consumption based on the Ghana Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) food safety standards.

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A new study has revealed that 98 percent of salad samples prepared by street food vendors were contaminated with bacteria known as Escherichia coli which cause food poisoning.

Ninety percent of the salad sampled was also considered unsatisfactory for consumption based on the Ghana Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) food safety standards.

Dr. Prince Antwi-Agyei, lead researcher with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, said “Apart from food contamination, we wanted to know how awareness of health risk of irrigated wastewater influence purchases and consumption of food prepared with hygiene practices.”

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He said his team “interviewed 160 consumers of street food in two neighbourhoods in Accra and also 160 customers who buy salad vegetables at three central markets, also in Accra.”

The report by a team of international scientists is published in the international peer-reviewed journal (PLOS) one and also in the Journal of Science and Technology.

The results revealed that only two percent of street food patrons consider health when deciding on where to eat or buy food.

The researchers undertook separate exercises in Accra between September and December 2012 as well as June to August 2013.

The team collected lettuce, soil and water samples from three wastewater irrigated fields.

The researchers sampled salad vegetables from three central markets and also processed ready-to-eat salad from 80 street vending stalls (“check-check” joints) and restaurants.

All collected samples were subsequently tested for the presence and levels of Escherichia coli (E. coli) at the laboratory.

The researchers found that the choice of foodstuffs and items are influenced by factors other than health.

The study revealed that 46 percent of people who eat outside buy food for taste, while 19 percent choose due to convenience or proximity to where the food is sold.

For domestic cooking, 28 percent were based on friendship and 20 percent on a good price.

Only 1.5 percent considered the clean environment of the vending site.

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The study also revealed that the level of contamination of street food was even more than contamination of raw produce which is directly irrigated with wastewater.

Even though less contaminated salad was found in restaurants with valid hygiene certificate, 60 percent of salads sold at these restaurants were also unsatisfactory for consumption.

The researchers have therefore advised public health workers to intensify food safety education.

Consumers have also been advised to buy food only from those who adhere to hygienic practices.

For hotels and restaurants, the researchers recommended that salad is prepared based on customer request or be refrigerated until ready to use.

They further advised street food vendors to prepare the salad in small quantities based on customer inflow.

The team also recommended that left-over salad should not be mixed with freshly prepared ones. What is more, prepared salad should be covered to avoid contamination.

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