It happened in high school one fateful morning, I and my course mate needed to attend to our “stomach infrastructure” before leaving for class. We resolved at taking rice and spaghetti  from “iya afeez” a roadside food seller close to the hostel. We ate the food and attended the class, but few minutes after the class ended, something happened. We both started having rumbling stomach and the urge to visit the toilet. We got to the hostel with the speed of light!. Now this is the experience of many persons who buys food from road side food vendors. WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED?

Food Poisoning

What happened was food poisoning. Food poisoning is any illness that occurs as a result of consuming already spoilt food, foods that are contaminated with pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites, as well as their toxins or food that have been contaminated with toxins and chemicals.

Food Pathogens are any infectious agent  that contaminate food. According to the centre for disease and control (C.D.C), food pathogens are a major threat to food safety.

Roadside Food is food already prepared by food vendors or hawkers, sold by the road side,  along the street or in a public place in general.

They are usually cheaper than  foods sold in restaurants or eateries.  It is a very common culture especially in Nigeria for people to stop by the road side to buy food from food vendors.

There are numerous type of food sold along the roadside in Nigeria, from fried fish, rice and beans, spaghetti, moi-moi roasted meat, roasted corn, boli,  fried yam, noodles and egg, the list is endless.

The Safety of Roadside Food has become a major concern to the public health because many roadside food vendors are  usually not educated, or have a basic knowledge in food safety practices, but because roadside food is usually ready-to-eat, many Nigerians still keep up with eating them without considering the health risk associated with it.

The Risk of  Eating Roadside Food

There is a potential risk of coming down with food poisoning by consuming roadside food. According to Opeolu et al, (2010) his study shows that roasted plantain in the low income area had the highest level of heavy metals contaminants such as Pb, Cd, Zn and Fe. Another study also reported elevated levels of lead in street vended smoked fish in a Nigerian market.

Bacillus cerus, Staphylococcus aureus, Shigella spp., E coli, Salmonella spp., and some other pathogenic microorganisms were found to be present in ready-to-eat food samples including  meat pie, doughnut, eggroll, fried fish and roasted groundnut in another research. All these microorganisms causes one illness or the other when consumed, ranging from stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, within hours of eating the contaminated food, to diarrhea, dysentery, cholera and more severe illnesses.

So, when next you decided to consume food from road side food vendors, think carefully. You might be at risk of coming down with mild food poisoning to live threatening diseases such as cholera.