Research shows that sale and patronage of ready-to-eat(street) food is actually rampant in many urbanized cities of the world, Lagos inclusive. ‘Mama put’ joints would not come off as unknown to many Nigerians, neither would the women who fry snacks like ‘buns’, ‘puff puff’ and even ‘akara’. The same applies with hawkers, especially in times of traffic congestion. Thus, it would equally be safe to say, that many of us find refuge in these roadside food sellers especially when we need to quicky grab a bite in the mornings or rescue ourselves from the pangs of hunger after the day’s work. It also doesn’t hurt that the aroma of these meals are usually appealing.
It may however interest us to know that what would hurt is the fact that these meals are more often than not, prepared under less than hygienic conditions; which translates to mean that partaking of such foods prepared under poor conditions would inevitably be detrimental to our health, exposing us to food borne diseases. Upon establishing the fact that it is dangerous to consume such, together with the knowledge that laws of the State are made generally to protect it’s citizens from harm in any possible way, a fundamental question that would arise in the mind of any concerned citizen would be “What provisions have been made by the law in ensuring that such scenarios of poor and unhygienic sale of food is prevented and if possible, totally scrapped?” Although the question of whether it can be totally scraped is uncertain, it is good to know that there are actually measures that have been put in place legally and ought to be followed strictly by anyone seeking to go into public sale of meals, at any level, be it restaurants or canteens.
Using Lagos State as a case study, some of the regulatory requirements would include:
1) A local Govt Food/Business Permit: This must be issued by the local government of the area where the food business is intended to take place. Once the place is inspected by officials and deemed fit as hygienic enough, then the license permit would be given and business can commence. Inclusively, it is possible for there to be other levies that would be paid to the local government.
2) Business Registration: The food business ought to be registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) for authenticity as well as NAFDAC seeing as it is the agency in charge of authorizing food intake. Furthermore, the business as it progresses must readily have evidence of tax payment as a requirement of the Lagos State government.
3)Waste/Trash Disposal Arrangement: This is arguably the most important requirement because it would go a step further in enhancing the hygiene of the environment where meals are prepared. In this era of Lagos state government where there are issues arising on waste disposal, it is paramount to ensure that there is a proper method already put in place to dispose the wastes.
The problem however still persists in the sense that “How many of these roadside food vendors(excluding most restaurants of course) actually know or operate under these regulations or even have a permit to operate?” The answer to this is quite obvious; little or none. This would seem to explain why majority of them sell food in dirty areas populated by flies and stagnant water. Some of them even go as far as compromising standards by using adulterated food items to prepare their meals and with street hawkers, personal experiences attest that they actually sometimes sell expired snacks or adulterated drinks and get away with perpetuating such wrong acts because nobody looks out to curb them.
The sad truth here is that although there are laws, they do not strictly guide this set of food sellers. Rather, the laws and inspection go thoroughly after well established food outlets forgetting that people actually patronize the roadside vendors more often owing to the fact that it is close by and more pocket friendly.
It has now become increasingly important for the government to device a means of eradicating these acts by putting more measures in place and enforcing them.
But temporarily, we can do ourselves the favour of patronizing only food vendors operating in clean areas, take out time to observe how their food is prepared and then decide whether or not the conditions are hygienic enough. It is all for the sake of our health and health they say, is wealth.
Ayomide Ogunsakin is a Law student, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State.