An FAO study in Calcutta found that street foods may be the least expensive and best method of obtaining a nutritionally balanced meal outside the home. An average 500 gram meal containing 20-30 grams of protein, 12-15 grams of fat, 174-183 grams of carbohydrates and providing approximately 1,000 calories in total could be purchased for only US$ 0.25 on the street.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, street foods account for 20 to 30 percent of urban household expenditure, and the sector provides a major source of employment.

In Bangkok, 20,000 street vendors provide city residents with 40 percent of their overall energy intake. A year after an FAO-supported campaign to improve the quality of street foods, food vendors in one area of Bangkok announced that sales were up 20 percent.

Women often own street food stalls or are employed as vendors. In certain regions they represent from 70 percent to 90 percent of the vendors.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission has adopted two regional guidance documents on street foods - one for Africa and one for Latin America and the Caribbean. These documents form the basis for regional codes of practice, to be adapted by each country and enforced by local authorities.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission was established in 1962. It is a subsidiary body of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization, with 165 member countries. It was established to formulate internationally accepted food safety standards to protect consumer health and ensure fair trade practices.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission is the only international forum that brings together scientists, technical experts, government regulators and international consumer and industry organizations.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission has, among other things, succeeded in:

  • Setting maximum residue limits in food for over 3,200 pesticides

  • Evaluating more than 1,005 food additives

  • Defining general principles of food hygiene, protecting the food chain from primary production to the final consumer

  • Setting rules for the safe use of food additives and establishing guidelines for proper labelling

  • Clarifying the definition of organic food to prevent misleading claims about food quality or production methods

  • Establishing internationally recognized standards and guidelines for international food trade, valued at US$300 billion a year

  • Setting up 30 specialized committees - composed of top government health professionals, scientists and representatives of the food and agriculture sectors - to provide the ongoing scientific basis for Codex standards

The Codex texts are used by governments as part of their national food safety requirements. They are also used by commercial partners in specifying the grade and quality of consignments in international trade.