Street foods are ready-to-eat foods and beverages prepared and/or sold by vendors or hawkers especially in the streets and other similar places.
They represent a significant part of urban food consumption for millions of low-and-middle-income consumers, in urban areas on a daily basis. Street foods may be the least expensive and most accessible means of obtaining a nutritionally balanced meal outside the home for many low income people, provided that the consumer is informed and able to choose the proper combination of foods.
In developing countries, street food preparation and selling provides a regular source of income for millions of men and women with limited education or skills.
Today, local authorities, international organisations and consumer associations are increasingly aware of the socioeconomic importance of street foods but also of their associated risks. The major concern is related to food safety, but other concerns are also reported, such as sanitation problems (waste accumulation in the streets and the congestion of waste water drains), traffic congestion in the city also for pedestrians (occupation of sidewalks by street vendors and traffic accidents), illegal occupation of public or private space, and social problems (child labour, unfair competition to formal trade, etc.).
The risk of serious food poisoning outbreaks linked to street foods remains a threat in many parts of the world. A lack of knowledge among street food vendors about the causes of food-borne disease is a major risk factor.
Although many consumers attach importance to hygiene in selecting a street food vendor, consumers are often unaware of the health hazards associated with street vended foods.