What problem did it address, where?
Aware of the significance of the informal food sector as a source of income and of physically and economically accessible foods for vulnerable populations in several urban centres in developing countries, and recognizing the food-borne disease risks due to the lack of hygiene and the unsafe practices inherent to this sector, FAO has provided assistance to many developing countries to define strategies to reorganise the sector and to integrate it in a sustainable manner into the urban development projects and programmes conducted by municipal and local authorities.
Work begins with a detailed study of the street-vended food sector in the host country, usually in the biggest urban centre of the country, looking at (1) the socio-economic profile of the vendors and of the consumers and their geo-positioning within the city; (2) the hygienic survey of the street vended foods including observation of the practices during preparation and handling of food, (3) analysis of food samples for contamination, when possible; (4) the evaluation of the sanitary infrastructures (availability of potable water, sewage disposal, electricity, etc..) in the city and mainly in major street food vending centres; and the institutional and legal framework governing the sector. Based on the study, practical and feasible recommendations are made for improving the conditions of the sector and for enhancing the safety of street vended foods, usually including tailored training sessions for vendors, inspectors, producers etc; education campaigns for consumers; and some pilot constructions (food vending booths, latrines in street food vending sites, garbage disposal containers, etc).
Following this initial work, a strategy for the reorganisation of the sector is elaborated using a participatory approach i.e. following meetings with vendors, consumer associations, national/municipal authorities, NGOs, etc. The strategy is then presented, discussed and adopted at a final national workshop with the participation of all concerned. In most cases, the strategy is submitted to government along with a cost estimate for implementation.
The following are some of the lessons to emerge from work undertaken in Burkina Faso, Philippines and Indi
- the projects conducted in several countries revealed that the street food situation is very similar in most countries within the same sub-region.
- local authority involvement is key to work improving the street food sector
- participation is also crucial - for instance, at a practical level, vendors are associated to the process of choosing the sites for pilot constructions as well as the municipality and the institutions that manage markets and vending sites which exist.
- the safety of street-vended food can also be affected by the quality of output of other small businesses such as urban and peri-urban farmers, manufacturers of cooking steel wares, fuel wood vendors, transporters and these should be involved in the reorganisation of the sector
Further national pilot work on the safety of street-vended foods will build from the experiences in Africa and South Asia.