Food vendors in Lagos have devised creative ways of making their ready-made products available to more consumers but health experts have warned against the health hazards associated with patronizing them
| By Chinwe Okafor | Mar. 3, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
ARINZE Onwuka, is a teenage food hawker in Lagos. But unlike others, he has a creative way of selling his ready-made foods which he carries in a mobile cart along the Anifowoshe/Awolowo Way axis in Ikeja, Lagos state. He said he ventured into the business when there was no means of livelihood after his secondary school education because his parents couldn’t afford the money to further his education.
“I had the passion to cook so I felt it was a good business in which I could excel. I go the extra mile to make sure I prepare my food in the best healthy environment and I also cover them properly whenever I am out on the street. I know the health risks involved in preparing and selling foods in an unclean environment and I try my best to prevent such incidents from occurring,” he said.
Onwuka is not the only person in this business. Temitayo Balogun, does her own business with a car along Medical Road in Ikeja. She sells ofada rice alongside other delicacies. She moves in her car beckoning on customers to come and patronize her. She said that mobile catering business is a good business idea especially if one is an entrepreneur with a passion for food and cooking. “If you can come up with some delicious food, then people will not hesitate to patronize you. The best thing about selling food in a mobile way is that you are not limited to selling in only one area. Mobile kitchens will allow you to reach more customers because you can serve them from different locations using your car or mobile catering cart or truck,” she said.
Although the foods are delicious and inviting, some people fear that they are not hygienic enough because of the unhealthy environment in which most of them are prepared. However, most people who patronize the mobile food sellers their foods are readily available, very affordable and tasty, are apparently ignorant of certain health risks which might be associated with the unhygienic environment in which they are prepared. Experts have also warned that most of such foods pose a great danger to the health of those who patronize them.
Obiora Okafor, a health practitioner, said that people who patronize street food sellers need to be aware of the dangers of eating or buying foods prepared in an unclean environment because such foods could be contaminated by microorganisms which are present in the air, water and even in the hands of those who prepare or sell them.
These microorganisms, he said, contaminate foods and anybody who eats them stands the risk of contacting food- borne disease. He said that a lot of Nigerians patronize street food vendors when they are out of their homes because they see the ready-to-eat food or drink, cheap, compared to restaurant meals.
Njideka Agu, a medical doctor in Imo State, said the consumption of badly exposed foods could be harmful as a result of other factors even unrelated to hygiene. Agu, therefore advised food or fruit vendors to cover them properly as they move about hawking. Despite such warnings from experts, some people still can’t do without patronizing mobile vendors. Deborah Igwe, a sales girl at the Ikeja computer village, Lagos, said she loves eating rice for lunch and that she normally buys the food from a mobile cart food vendor.
She said she enjoys the food because it is less expensive compared to those served in regular restaurants around town. “I prefer eating from a food vendor because I enjoy the food and it’s very cheap to buy. I cannot afford to buy from the big restaurants because of the meager salary I earn,” she said. Likewise, Igwe, Chinedu Nduka, a barber in Ikeja, also patronizes the mobile food vendor. He enjoys buying his lunch from the food vendor because it’s less expensive. He said that he enjoys the food so much that he doesn’t bother to cook even at his leisure time. “I am already attracted to the food and I keep enjoying it all day,” he said. Igwe and Nduka, are patrons of local food vendors like millions of others.
But Samson Agada, a corps member, said he is very mindful of where he eats outside. “Even when I want to patronize mobile food vendors, I make sure the person selling the food washes his or her hands properly before serving me the food. I am aware of the diseases I can contact when food is contaminated,” he said.
Regardless of the attendant health risks, street foods remain very popular, especially among youths not just in Nigeria but in many other developing countries. Foods often found with mobile hawkers include, rice, beans, spaghetti, fish, salad and meat among others.