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90% of street food unsafe: survey
Sunday, 16 January, 2011, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Nandita Vijay, Bangalore
A random survey conducted by Metropolis Healthcare Ltd, India’s only multinational chain of diagnostics centres, to examine the hygiene levels of the food served on the streets of Bangalore, found that 90 per cent of it is unfit for human consumption. The pilot study was conducted to determine the microbiological profile and level of microbial contamination of the ‘ready to consume’ street food at different locations in Bangalore. According to experts, the same applies to street food in all the metros.

The quantitative bacterial analysis test, conducted between October 2010 and November 2010, at their central laboratory at Bangalore, and by a team of medical professionals from Metropolis, by using ‘Food Pathogen Screening’ found that of the 50 street food samples tested, 47 were contaminated with bacteria.  The food samples, measuring about 50-100 grams, were collected in separate sterile containers and transported to the laboratory on ice within one hour of collection. 

The food analysis was conducted as per the guidelines of the Bureau of Indian Standards and the World Health Organisation. Food samples were collected from five different locations across Mathikere, Malleswaram swimming pool extension and north Bangalore areas which are basically commercial areas with a number of offices and schools in the vicinity. Each location was coded and each site was sampled for similar type of food product. 

A total of 50 samples were processed. About 100 grams of food samples were collected in sterile container and transported immediately to the laboratory.  Delayed samples were refrigerated.  All samples were processed as per the Standard Operative Procedures defined and plated on the appropriate media in dilutions.  After the defined period of incubation, the organisms were identified and the colony count was noted. The food samples were screened for the presence of the food borne pathogens like Enteric coliforms, E.coli, Klebsiella, Enterobacter. and  Enterococcus,  Enteric pathogens: Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrios and  Food poisoning related organism:   Staphylococcus aureus.

The research team picked up food samples of coconut chutney, chow chow bath, bhel puri, pani puri, milk sweet, lemon rice, pulav, aloo chat, fruit chat, fruit juice with Ice etc. Interestingly, the food analysis revealed that cooked foods contained high colony counts and were found to be very unhygienic for consumption. The study showed that more than 90% (47/50) of food that was screened were heavily contaminated with enteric bacteria.  The coliforms - chiefly E.coli, was the predominant organism isolated from all types of food.  Of major concern was the isolation of 2 salmonellae which are the enteric pathogens.  Fruit juice with ice and pani puri were found to be the risk food items for this organism. The milk sweets were found contaminated with Staphylococcus which is known to cause food poisoning.   

According to Dr Indumathi, Head of Department for Microbiology and Serology at Gokula Metropolis Clinical Laboratory, the risk factors for food contamination in this study were found to be the poor hygienic practice and lack of awareness among the street vendors.  Since organisms such as Salmonella were isolated from certain locations, it is very important to screen for the carriers among the food handlers”. 

 “Mushrooming of food joints across Bangalore is raising serious concerns about food safety. Food poisoning is usually brought about by ingesting harmful bacteria or toxins, often from foods that were not safely handled or that spoiled without proper refrigeration here is also a need for implementation of good sanitation and licensing of street food vendors, stated Ms. Ameera Shah, Executive Director and CEO of Metropolis Healthcare Ltd.
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