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Nairobi street food and its health hazards

By Winnie Onyando September 17th, 2023 2 min read

Fried cuisine holds a special place in Kenyan culinary culture, drawing numerous admirers due to its visually appealing allure.

While walking in the streets of Nairobi, it is normal to find delicacies such as mutura, samosas, mandazis, and a host of other delicacies.

While some vendors earnestly strive to uphold health and safety standards, a significant majority fall short, struggling to maintain even the basic norms.

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Notably, despite the widespread habit of handwashing during the COVID-19 pandemic, a substantial portion of the population neglects hand hygiene, particularly when partaking in street food consumption, especially items served with Kachumbari.

John Omollo, a Nairobi resident, confesses to not observing common hygiene while eating street foods.

“Personally, I frequently enjoy street fare like boiled eggs and my cherished Mutura. Over time, I’ve grown accustomed to consuming it without concern.

“I have never been concerned about washing my hands before eating that mutura or samosa.

On the other hand, Jane Akinyi says, “I think we’ve grown up watching our elders eat street food without washing hands or even sanitizing them so it never feels like a big deal.”

While others assert that they consume Mutura using toothpicks, many opt to grasp these delectables directly with their bare hands.

With challenging economic circumstances prevailing, a significant portion of street food purveyors have abandoned the provision of napkins, leaving patrons to devise alternative methods for post-meal hand cleansing.

This has led some to resort to using their clothing, while the fortunate ones employ handkerchiefs.

Water scarcity is a common sight among these street vendors. Food containers are frequently covered with dust, as many vendors position themselves along busy roads with high traffic volumes to attract a greater customer base.

A concerning observation is the lack of adherence to basic food handling practices by numerous street food vendors. Gloves and hairnets are often absent, posing an increased risk to consumers.

While the country has established health guidelines regarding food handling, a considerable number of vendors disregard these protocols. Authorities responsible for oversight often display reluctance in enforcing these regulations.