Roadside foods are ready-to-eat foods and beverages prepared and/or sold by the streets/roadside. There is so much love for street foods in Nigeria. If you want to learn about Nigerian culture, its people, and their sense of taste, you need to savour the street foods. Nigerian street foods are tasty, low-priced, handy, and gives an unforgettable culinary experience. Some of these roadside foods that have become our best food memories are Akara, Moin moin, Puff puff, Abacha, Rice and Beans, Fruit salad, Sugar cane, Boli and epa, Ewa agoyin and agege bread, Suya, Roasted/boiled corn, Kuli kuli, Kilishi, etc. Frequent patronizing open roadside foods is also very common, since many people leave very early for work. So, the vendors are filling a vacuum, by providing this needed service. Consequently, this has exposed a lot of people to increased weight gain, diseases such as cholera, dysentery, meningitis, cancer, diabetes, and diarrhoea and associated risks.
Let’s critically look at the negative effects of Roadside food:
1. FOOD POISONING
By eating street foods, you get exposed to dirt, germs, and bacteria. Unhygienic handling of food may lead to diarrhoea, stomach upsets, and vomiting. Some vendors sell right beside dirty gutters and refuse dumps. It is not uncommon to see flies perching on displayed roadside food items. Afterward, when you eat from these vendors, you are likely to be exposed to different contagious diseases which include cholera, dysentery, meningitis, and diarrhoea. These pathogens can cause serious food poisoning, which can manifest itself in the form of severe stomach aches, profuse diarrhoea with vomiting, fever, cramps, and passing blood in the stool. A patient with cholera will show signs of vomiting and stooling, which will lead to dehydration and possible death, if not properly taken care of. People with a weakened immune system are particularly susceptible. Even healthy people are not spared.
Since most roadside foods are made in large quantities, it is not easy to observe strict hygiene in both preparation and serving. Asides from not knowing where the ingredients are purchased from, you observe some vendors coming out from the restroom to chop carrots without proper handwashing. Roadside foods are also exposed to flies and dust, as most people eat by the roadside after purchasing these foods. These poor hygiene practices result in food contamination and health risks. Studies have shown that most cases of typhoid can be prevented if hygiene is given premium attention. This also the case with the source of water used in preparing these foods.
3. LOSS OF NUTRIENTS
Like flavour, essential nutrients in fruits and vegetables degrade post-prep. Antioxidants are especially susceptible to degradation when they're exposed to oxygen or light, which is why antioxidant-rich foods are important not to pre-cut. Green vegetables are sometimes overcooked or even mixed with the ones of the previous day.
Common pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, and Staphylococcus aureus are easily transported to food. Food handlers’ hands are the most important vehicles for the transfer of organisms from faeces, nose, and skin to the food. For example, if contaminated water is used for drinking, washing of food items, incorporated in food as an ingredient, used in the processing of food, or used in the washing of equipment, utensils, and hands, such as a well-known vehicle for bacteria which result in multiple health hazards and even death. While eating roadside food may not be entirely unavoidable, we recommend that you avoid cut fruits.
4. HIGH CALORIE
Food ranging from Akara, bread, fried chicken, potatoes chips, cookies, puff puffs, plantains, etc if eaten in excess is unhealthy. Oils used to fry some are usually heated past their smoke point at all times which in turn makes it contain large quantities of free radicals and could lead to cancer. The packaged versions are generally made with refined sugar, wheat flour, and added fats. Eating these foods regularly can lead to an increased risk of obesity and chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and some cancers.
5. SKIN DISEASES
Diseases most often are not shown on the face nor carry tags. People are sick and food vendors are not of exemption. They come in contact with people on daily basis, from purchasing raw materials to selling processed foods a number an exchange comes to play. Diseases ranging from chickenpox, cold sores, conjunctivitis, head lice, ringworm, scabies, etc are little of such that an infected vendor could pass it to the food you are eating. However, some people develop allergies after taking some foods, which can come in the form of such reactions as skin rashes, patches all over the body, and cases of asthma, all of which have been linked to exposure to unhygienic foods.
6.DUST AND CHEMICAL CONTAMINATION
The food is on the roadside and of course vehicles, pedestrians, etc are all passing. Polluting the food is certain. The vehicles which run on fuel producing smoke in the process amongst other pollutants they emit gets on the food you take in. This is hazardous. It can cause chemical changes that can lead to depression, memory, and learning problems and increases the risk of dementia. Let’s talk about our favourite Suya, roasted corn, yam, and barbecue. They are prepared by the use of charcoal, are said to be carcinogenic. These are some of the foods that increase free radicals and help cancer to thrive, and when one allows such to continue piling up in the system, they cause cancer in the long run.
While we await a system where the authorities educate food handlers, improve environmental conditions under which the business is undertaken, as well as provide essential services to the vendors, including periodic screening and treatment to break the transmission of food-borne diseases, we recommend that you stay alert. Once in a while is okay, but do not have it as a frequent behaviour.
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