DOST, German agency warn against street foods in Davao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 January) – The Department of Science and Technology (DOST), in a joint study with a German non-profit organization, has discovered that most of the samples taken from the street foods sold here in the urban center are unsafe.

Dietmar Speckmaier, food safety consultant of Centre for International Migration and Development (CIM), said on Tuesday in a press forum at Medispa in SM City Davao that the street foods contained salmonella and E. coli bacteria based on the initial results of the study with the DOST. At present, the study is still ongoing and the results would be finalized by next month.

“We are not trying, however, to destruct the sector but find ways to improve the group,” he said, adding that they are planning to conduct trainings on food safety for the street food vendors in the city.

CIM is a human resources provider for German Development Cooperation.

At least 40 food samples of street foods like kwek-kwek, fishballs, juices and ice cream were examined by the team. The study started in November last year. The team has surveyed 120 street food vendors in areas near the schools in San Pedro, Bankerohan and Bolton streets.

Salmonella can be acquired through contaminated food, poor hygiene, feces, or uncooked food. The bacteria can survive many weeks and months in optimum conditions and cause diseases like typhoid fever, paratyphoid fever or other food borne illnesses. Death is not uncommon in salmonella infection.

E. coli, meanwhile, refers to the bacteria that lives in the intestines of humans and animals. Though most of the strains are considered as harmless, others can cause kidney damage and severe diarrhea and even death.

The food samples were analyzed through determining the aerobic plate count, yeast and mold count and the number of presence of pathogens. Pathogens are caused due to poor personal hygiene and unclean environment for the products.

Anthony Sales, regional director of DOST-XI, said the study would be the basis in crafting the food safety ordinance. The proposal intends to strictly monitor the street food vendors by imposing additional requirements.

One provision that the DOST-XI wanted to include in the proposal is to require vendors to let their food samples be examined first before securing a sanitation permit. At present, the vendors are only required to submit their sputum in getting the permit.

The proposed ordinance will be submitted to the city council within the year.

The DOST-XI is also planning to provide interventions to ensure food safety among products sold by the street food vendors in the city. Among these interventions are trainings to vendors as well as developing a stainless steel street food cart with water and fuel provided by the agency either through grant or installment payments.

The Department of Health has constantly released an advisory urging the public to be extra careful in buying food and drinks from street vendors.

In its website, the DOH said consumers of street foods are susceptible to food and water-borne diseases caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites as well as non-infectious diseases caused by chemical and plant toxins.

The common causes of food and water-borne diseases are dirty drinking water, unhygienic practices and unsafe food preparation and handling, the DOH noted.

Early this year, however, the regional office of the DOH said there are no reports yet of food poisoning caused by street foods. (MindaNews)