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Insurance Article

Safety Precautions While Indulging in Roadside Food

December 03 2018
indian-street-food

This guidebook to eating street food the safe way can get you the best of both worlds – appetizing food and hygiene

No matter what part of the world it is, street vendors and the food prepared by them have always been a steady hit with the locals. Moreover, in a country like India, food that’s prepared by the roadside never fails to impress many a sophisticated palate. And that is irrespective of the strata you belong to. Street vendors have mushroomed in recent times, giving rise to a food culture that has arrived and is here to stay for good. This has particularly been because of a majority of urban dwellers who absolutely swear by their routine early morning fix of breakfast and subsequently, other meals of the day.

Considering the prices they are served at, India’s street food, according to many food aficionados, is the master-key to the main heartland’s culture and its delectable cuisine spread. A shoestring budget is all it needs, and you will be served a hearty meal. Moreover, with an initial outlay that is relatively low, street food business has hit the roof and many loyal customers have taken to Twitter and other social media platforms to campaign for their favorite vendors.

Risks that have been reported with street food

Sure the delicacies run deep, but street foods have their own share of adversities on health. Traveler’s diarrhea, cholera, food poisoning are some of the risks that you might be exposing yourself to if you eat without being sure about the safety standards and hygiene practices. According to a WHO report, roadside food items run the risk of carrying high levels of toxic chemicals, heavy metals, pesticide residue, pathogenic bacteria, contaminants such as vehicular traffic dust and unapproved food additives such as textile dyes.

A few disorders – such as cholera and acute cases of food poisoning - once contracted, can end up being chronic and in some cases, warrant immediate hospitalisation. Given the increasing costs of healthcare and how quickly they can compound to pose a major financial burden, a comprehensive health insurance cover or mediclaim policy might be of much significance in times of dire need or dearth of funds.

  • Allow time for adjustment
  • Allow yourself some time to adjust to the local spread, before you delve into the street food menu. This holds true, especially if you don’t have a palate for spices and condiments that are typical to a particular part of the country.

  • Herd mentality
  • One of the rare occasions when following the herd may be a wiser option. If you find the locals giving a particular vendor a miss, you should ideally skip on him as well. This is because crowd favorites are usually a safe bet, when it comes to both taste as well as the hygiene standards that go into preparing a food.

  • Observe before approaching
  • If you are new to the place, spend some time only observing what the vendors do in the food stalls. Notice how they clean their utensils, or whether they always keep the ingredients and food covered. Make sure the vendor has a pair of clean gloves on before he gets down to readying your order.

  • Proof is in the oil
  • The color of the oil can be a big giveaway to how safe and hygienic the food could be at any roadside stall. Know the signs well – if the color is a little cloudy or you find remnants (debris) in the oil; chances are the oil has been reheated and reused number of times. These are surefire clues to the oil being absolutely unhygienic and unclean. Stay as far as you can from such foods, no matter how scrumptious they seem.

  • Avoid cut fruits
  • While whole fruits can be a healthy option if the vendor cuts them in front of you, pre-cut fruits are usually the perfect breeding ground for common flies and other insects that could ruin your street food party. In addition to cut fruits, stay away from any fruit juice that has been stored in a bottle, unless of course you’re certain about the vendor’s hygiene standards and washing practices.

  • Choose fully cooked dishes
  • Irrespective of what the locals tell you about a typical indigenous meat preparation that tastes best when served undercooked, don’t give into them. This is because undercooked foods, particularly meat, may have certain parasite strains that are likely to adversely affect digestion and bring you down with a bout of fever and food allergies.

  • Avoid chutneys and uncooked add-ons
  • Don’t mind the ketchup. The tamarind chutney that is touted to be the perfect pair for the quintessential samosa chaat (a fried dish made with wheat flour and fillings) could well have been made from unclean water and sitting out in the open for a while. Don’t give into these flavor enhancing add-ons if you aren’t sure about what you can stomach.

    If you are in a country that has franchised takeaway food carts or street food vans, chances are they’re manned by vendors trained in basic hygiene and food safety practices.

Related Article:

Healthy Alternatives to Your Favourite Junk Food
5 Harmful Effects of Junk Foods

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