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Food and Agricultural Organization defines street food as ready to eat food prepared and sold by vendors and hawkers especially in streets and other similar public places.


In South Africa, both rural and urban, street food has become fashionable.


With specific particularities in their preparation and sale, street food has been rapidly developing in the last few years in the Tshitale/Hlanganani area. The significant role of street food in this area is of offering employment, activating market economy of the district, enriching food supply to communities and Government workers as well as convenience food supply to pupils and students in the surrounding communities. However, quality and safety problems, which arise from this new trend of food supply and sale was a point of concern in the local health offices and among commuters. Thus the need to control street food in order to ensure safety and to reduce the occurrence of food borne diseases in the district.


Shortage of environmental health officers in the Tshitale/Hlanganani area, as well as lack of legislation to control street vending made it necessary to conduct the survey.




The investigation was carried out in the Northern province in the Tshitale/Hlanganani district and three methods of data collection were used.


First, a site visit was conducted to observe and verify the extent of the problem and record conditions around selling points. Second, a questionnaire was sent to food vendors and consumers intended to determine knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding street food. Questionnaires were randomly distributed by the researcher and Elim Hospital environmental health officers to street vendors and consumers in order to evaluate their practices.


Three hundred questionnaires were distributed amongst street vendors and consumers respectively. Interviews were conducted in order to compare the response of the self-administered questionnaire and the investigation in order to see if there was any difference.



All the interviews were conducted on the basis of the above mentioned questionnaires by trained environmental health officers from Elim Hospital.


A total of seventy one (71) street vendors were randomly selected for face-to-face in depth interview in the respondents language which include Tsonga, Venda and Northern Sotho. The response rate to the questionnaire was 76.2% (279/300).





The majority 85-15% (195/2290 of street vendors were female whilst 14,84% (34/229) were males. Most of the vendors were peasants from Olifantshoek (18,3%), Bungeni (8,7%), Njakajaka and Mbhokota (7,8%) each, while the remaining 12 surveyed areas shared the least response rate as compared to the above.


The age and sex distribution (%) of vendors is given in table 1.


Table 1 – Age and sex distribution of vendors N = 229


MALE (14,8%)

FEMALE (85,14%)

11 - 20


2 – 18%

21 - 30


15 – 29%

31 - 40


34 – 44%

41 - 50


19 – 21%

51 - 60


11 – 35%

> 60


5 – 68%


These vendors had a relatively low level of education on the whole. At least 64,63% of street vendors are in possession of primary education, 34,93% with a secondary and only 0,44% with a tertiary level of education. However, 64,63% of the vendors indicated that they left school due to financial reasons.


The response rate of consumers was 80,3% (241/300) of whom 52,3% (126/241) were male and 46,5% (115/241) were female and were randomly selected based on the fact that they were found 50 m from the selling points.


On the average the daily intake is about R150,00. Most of the vendors are able to support their children in respect of basic needs such as education, clothing and food.


On a closer look to knowledge, attitude and perception of street food vendors and consumers it was established that most of them have no idea of proper preparation, storage environmental condition detrimental to health. On the contrary 64,4% of consumers are of the opinion that street food is sold under unacceptable conditions and need to be improved.


Most of them cited, dust, lack of accommodation lack of cooling facilities, unhygienic state of the vendors and rotten food as a major problem. However the majority (88,7%) of them are in favour of environmental health officers being in control of the sale of street food and for the industry to be run as an organized business.


The study shows that most of the consumers felt safety and quality of street food should be given a priority, (36,1%) of the males and (27%) of the females felt that street vending is of a poor quality due to exposure to dust and other physical agents such as flies and insects.


The results of the microbiological growth (+VE versus – VE) (37%) for cooked beef (n = 16); cooked chicken (n = 45); fried fish (n = 58); water (n = 60) and hand swabs (n = 62) are given in table 2 below.


Table 2 – Results (+ VE versus – VE) 37°C) of samples analysed for presence of microbiological growth



+ VE

- VE

Cooked beef



Cooked chicken



Fried fish






Hand swabs




It was apparent that beef samples were scarce in the study area due to high prices in the retail shops.


A large number of chicken specimens 42-28% (19/45) were found to be contaminated, particularly around Bungeni, Tiyani as well as Elim.


The concordant value p 70,51 for summer and winter samples for chicken, fish, water and hand swabs were 0,0.57; 0,75; 4,3 and 3,19 respectively. There was not significant increase of total count in chicken, fish and hand swabs. The reason for the low count may be attributed to the fact that food is prepared on the spot and sold to the consumers whilst still warm and that most (82,1%) of the vendors do not bring left over food to the market.






Low literacy rate and lack of employment in the area is the most important factor contributing to street vending practices.


The likely explanation for females being in the majority among the vendors is attributed to the migrant labor system, where males are working away from home and only come home during vacations.


The industry was found to be common around schools within big villages where pupils cannot reach home during breaks and street food was found to be the only source of food supply.


The number of organisms detected from different food stuffs yielded very few or low colony count and this was less than 30 (< 30) in each case.




The importance of street food as seen within the study area and also the number of people being served by this industry, coupled with its ability to assist unemployed citizens to support their families within the study area absolutely leaves no room to imagine its abolishing.



bulletThe most important tools in improving safety and quality of street food are personal hygiene and good sanitary practices as well as education of street vendors.




bulletThe best way to promote the industry will be to educate vendors and consumers and promote the industry for the good of the South African economy and the health of its people.




bulletEnvironmental health officers should establish a system of regular spot check in order to improve sanitary conditions and assist vendors with improved hygiene practices in food handling and preparation.




bulletThere is urgent need to establish legislation and code of conduct on food handling, good personal hygiene and environmental sanitation for all vendors.






Bekker, J.L. 1998: Food Hygiene : Study guide. Technikon Pretoria.


Campbell, B. 1997: National Safety and Occupational Hygiene. 1 (3) (5.1:sn)


Central statistical services, 1995. October


Household Survey. Northern Province, Pretoria


Clinton, B. 1997 Presidential address


De Haan, M. 1997. The Health of Southern Africa. Johannesburg, Jutas Co Ltd.


Department of Health, 1998. Office of Environmental Health Officers, Annual reports 1995.


Elim Hospital, 1996. Personal interview of Mr Baloyi, Secretary of Elim Hospital.


Food and Agricultural organization of the United Nations, 1989. Report of an FNO expert consuitation of street food.


Mokabane, MR, 1997 – Street vended foods in South Africa proceedings: 1st national workshop, Pretoria.


Naidoo, GP, 1993. The informal sector in South Africa. Dersitation for Masters Degree, Pretoria.


Pretorius, AWJ, 1997 – Street vended food in South Africa proceedings – first National Workshop, Pretoria.


Von Holy, A and Marais J. 1998. South African food review. Volume 25 no. 6 Edson –Clyde Press, Cape Town.


Weather Bureau, 1996, Pretoria.


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