Street food is one of the most thriving SME’s in Nigeria. From Musa’s noodles and eggs stand, to food hawkers, to Iya Basirat’s food shed, to the “Food is ready” canteens, they are everywhere. Walking down the streets, it is a common sight to see people cluster around a food seller. One startling thing however is that they don’t seem to be put off by the environment. Many food stands are located in the dirtiest of places- near bus stops, under bridges, railway lines, bus garages and even canals. The food is therefore exposed to flies, dirt, unpleasant smells and other hazards. A major challenge of street food sellers is limited access to portable water. Though some customers opt for disposable packs, others don’t mind eating in plates and spoons the food sellers provide.
Personally, I stopped eating street food some few years back when I discovered the food seller used rain water to cook. My neighbor whom we used to eat there together before would tease me and asked if I knew the kind of water they used to cook in the “so called fast foods and restaurants”. She even swore she once saw hair in a popular fast food’s chicken pie. Till today, she eats Iya Abbey’s food and she would remind me that she is still alive.
Of a truth, street foods are cheaper alternatives to fast foods and restaurants. In terms of taste, some street foods could even rub shoulders with its more expensive counterparts but I believe hygiene should never be toyed with.
The other day, my brother was telling me of an incidence that happened where he eats lunch. The place was one of those canopied food shed with wooden benches and plastic chairs, but my brother would boast that the woman’s food was one of the best around. So on this particular day, a man who was dressed in rags and looked to be mentally challenged stormed the place shouting and demanding for food. The owner shouted back at him and demanded for money. To everyone’s shock, this man brought out money, was served and attacked his food immediately.
My hyper active imagination went to work instantly, I began to imagine how many people would have used that same spoon he did and how many more people would still use it. I remember during the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014, people sanitized their hands like nobody’s business and carried their own spoons around. You’d hardly see people do that anymore.
While street food is pocket friendly, I would advise we tread with caution, be hygiene conscious and develop healthy eating habits to prevent illnesses and disease.
After all, they say health is wealth.