The “hidden” burden of street foods
Street-vended foods (or street foods) are an indispensable component of the food system in many cities of developing countries, increasingly emphasized by the rapid urbanization process, and significantly contribute to the food security of people who rely on their daily and widespread availability. Due to their easy accessibility and diversified supply of meals, street foods also represent an inexpensive and accessible means for low income communities of meeting their basic nutritional needs. Despite the nutritional, social and economic benefits that may originate from it, the selling of street foods raises serious concerns for the health of urban population. The major concern is related to food safety, in particular due to biological agents and chemical substances in food products presented to the public. Over the years, the microbiological hazards have been deeply examined, though proper management and communication would require further efforts; on the other hand, a lot still needs to be clarified about chemical/toxicological hazards and, in particular, on the measures that can be taken in order to prevent them or reduce the probability of their occurrence. The purpose of this opinion paper is to present an overview of chemical/toxicological risks of street cookery (to be considered as the activity of preparing and cooking foods exclusively on the street) in order to: identify the main chemical hazards for foods and characterize the toxicological risks for the general population. Starting from the intrinsic vulnerability of the food matrices to different chemicals, points of particular attention are considered -from the location through the handling, storage, processing and sale of meals- in order to produce recommendations addressed to the food vendors, thus protecting the healthy value of their goods….
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OPINION by Ilaria Proietti
PhD in Food Quality and Safety, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.