Food hygiene and safety practices of food vendors at a University of Technology in Durban
Khuluse, Dawn Sihle
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Introduction: Food vending is becoming a very important and a useful service. Moreover, socioeconomic factors and lifestyle changes forces customers to buy food from street vendors. Since the food industry is growing worldwide, good hygiene practices coupled with food safety standards is of vital importance. Currently there is inadequate information or scientific data on the microbiological quality and safety of vended foods in South Africa more especially in Durban. To date limited research has been conducted on the food handlers (FH’s) operating as food vendors in different areas of Durban, and a lack of documented evidence about the knowledge that food vendors have on food safety and food hygiene has resulted in the interest in this research. Aim: The aim of this study was to ascertain food hygiene practices and knowledge, food safety practices and the nutritional value of the food served by various food vendors at DUT in Durban. Method: A total number of 15 food vending stalls (comprising of 15 managers and 39 food handlers) situated within the Durban University of Technology (DUT) Durban campuses participated in the study. The study was conducted on all food vendors who prepared and served food items on site. Data collected was of a quantitative nature with two sets of questionnaires (Managers questionnaires and (FH’s) questionnaires), observation sheets to observe FH’s during food preparation and cleanliness, and weighing and recording of menu items prepared and served in order to determine portion sizes and the nutritional content. All the administration of data was completed by the researcher on a Microsoft Excel spread sheet and analysed on the SPSS software version 20. Recording and weighing of menu items was done using an electronic food portion scale. A statistician was consulted to assist in the interpretation of the data. Results: The majority (66.67%) of vendors were females with the educational level that was fairly high, (73.33%) had secondary education. Most of the respondents (80.00%) had been in the food vending business for more than 3 years. The availability of proper infrastructure was poor, 40.00% of the vendors obtained running water from the kitchen taps within the stalls and 60.00% obtained water from a communal sink tap outside the food stalls. Most vending stalls 66.67% had no proper storage facilities; perishable stock was stored on refrigerators, while non-perishable food items were stored on built-in shelves, on top of fridges, on the floor, in storage containers, and on tables due to shortage of space. Thirty three percent of the vendors had designated storerooms for non – perishable items. Food preparation and cooking space was very minimal as a result the researcher observed that in some stalls white and red meat was grilled in the same griller and that increases the chances of cross-contamination. The researcher also observed that the area where most of the vending stalls were situated had no shelter and paving, as a result during food preparation and service, food was exposed to dust, air pollution and flying insects. Most managers 73.33% and FH’s 56.41% attended hygiene and food safety training but observational findings indicated that important hygiene practises such as washing of hands before serving food were not practised. Another concerning observation regarding personal hygiene was that students did not wash hands prior to eating food despite the availability of tap water within the dining area. The majority of managers had contracts with suppliers, and grocery items were mainly purchased from wholesale stores, meat items from formal retailers. A large number of managers 73.33% bought and delivered perishable products themselves using own cars, while 13.33% used refrigerated trucks from the suppliers for the delivery of perishable goods. In that way delivery temperature of food items was not monitored and maintained. The nutritional value of food served by vendors was imbalanced with the majority of the meals exceeding the recommended energy contribution from fat of 15–30%, the carbohydrates (CHO) contribution was lesser than the stipulated percentage of 55-75%, and the mean energy contribution of protein was within the recommended percentage of 10-15%. The mean energy contribution made by fat in all meals was higher than the recommended percentage 15-30%, with the highest contribution of 63.59% and the lowest of 34.12%. High fat meals were of great concern as prospects of cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart diseases were high. The CHO content of meals was below the stipulated percentage of 55- 75% with the maximum percentage of 49.86% and the minimum of 31.04%. The mean energy contribution of protein was 15.36% which was generally within the recommended percentage of 10- 15%. Furthermore, the study revealed that out of the 12 881 kJ recommended for men and 10 093 kJ for females; male students on an average were consuming approximately 14% more kJ than recommended, and female students were consuming approximately 27% more kJ than recommended from the meals. Frequent consumption of such high energy meals can lead to overweight and obesity among young adults. Conclusion: The results of the study revealed the urgent need for basic infrastructure such as a decent food kiosk with adequate working space, proper washing and storage facilities to improve food safety and hygienic practices. Even though food vendors claimed to have received hygiene training, knowledge attained was not effectively practiced or demonstrated; and that placed students at risk of foodborne illnesses. Furthermore, the nutritional value of food served by vendors was imbalanced with the majority of the meals exceeding the recommended energy contribution from fat of 15–30% and the CHO contribution being lesser than the stipulated percentage of 55-75%. Recommendations: Extensive training programme and regular supervision should be put in place by management of the Institution to ensure that proper hygiene practices are in place and also to ensure the quality of food served to students is of acceptable standard. All vending stalls to be provided with basic infrastructure. Food court yard to be well sheltered to avoid food being contaminated by air pollution, dust and pests. DUT management, together with the Department of Health, should organise nutrition awareness programmes to enlighten students about the dangers of unhealthy eating habits.