III Socio-economic aspects of street foods
6. While reviewing the information from various street food projects and activities carried out in Asia, Latin America and Africa, the meeting recognized the socio-economic, nutritional and cultural significance of street foods. The meeting reiterated that street food vending provided food at the work place as well as at other important locations in the city; and its variety and form depended upon local eating habits, socio-economic environment and trends in style of living.
7. Street foods, defined as "ready-to eat foods and beverages prepared and/or sold by vendors and hawkers especially in street and other similar public places", can be found in clusters around places of work, schools, hospitals, railway stations, bus terminals etc. They are inexpensive when compared to food from the formal sector and in fact are often less expensive when compared to home cooked food. They also fill the need of providing food at places where people work or otherwise congregate. A major concern is that while they play an important socio-economic role, their tremendous unlimited and unregulated growth has placed a severe strain on city resources and through congestion and littering adversely affected daily life.
8. The meeting recognized that setting up as a street food vendor involved a low-cost investment. Further, it required no special training other than the domestic experience of preparing food and provided employment. Street food operations often involved entire families in the procurement of raw materials, preparation and cooking of meals and their sale. The role of women in the street food sector and the potential for their employment in this sector was most significant. The overall economic implications of street foods were immense. It was recognized that in many cities of the world, the equivalent of millions of US dollars exchanged hands each day as a result of the vending of street foods. The impact on local agricultural production is in many cases immense.
9. The meeting discussed how cultural, ethnic and religious differences had influenced the variety and nature of street foods around the world. The food might be cooked at home and distributed or alternately prepared on the spot depending upon the space available. There are fixed stalls, a variety of types of push-carts, road side stands, hawkers with head-loads, and other arrangements depending upon the ingenuity of the individual, resources available, the type of food sold, and the availability of other facilities either acquired officially or appropriated from the city.
10. The meeting reaffirmed that street foods have significant nutritional implications for consumers, particularly for middle and low income sectors of the population who depend heavily on street foods. In this, a number of factors that influence the consumer's choice play an important role. These include cost, convenience and type of food available, the individual's taste and the organoleptic qualities of the food (smell, texture, colour, appearance). The nutritional value of street foods depends upon the ingredients used and how they are prepared, stored and sold. The meeting urged the development and use of proper technologies in order to preserve the nutritional value of street foods. On the basis of the information so far available, the meeting was of the opinion that the eating of a combination of street foods did provide the consumer adequate opportunity to meet his or her daily nutritional requirements at an affordable pace.
11. The meeting pointed out that an important aspect of street foods that deserved particular attention related to their safety. It was recognized that street foods raise concern with respect to their potential for serious food poisoning outbreaks due to microbiological contamination, improper use of additives (in particular the use of unapproved colourings) and the presence of other adulterants and environmental contaminants. Surveys in Africa, Asia, and Latin America suggested that these concerns were real and needed to be addressed to protect consumers. Improper food handling practices could be a serious cause of contamination. There were also problems with potable water supply, the quality of raw materials used (for example rottenvegetables or spoiled meat) and unsuitable environments for street food operations (such as proximity to sewers and garbage dumps). Inadequate facilities for garbage disposal posed further hazards.