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Street foods


Street foods are ready to eat foods and beverages, prepared and/or sold by vendors and hawkers especially in streets and similar public places (FAO). 

The street food sector has been growing rapidly all over the world and South Africa is no exception.  As a matter of fact, employment generated in the informal sectors of South Africa (911000) by far exceeds that in the formal sector (40200).  Street foods are very much a part of this sector. 

The reason why the popularity of street food vending is growing rapidly has many other reasons, apart from employment generation.  These are - easy accessibility, variety in taste, low cost, fresh and nutritious food and also a social support system for the under priviledged urban population. 

Hence, there is a pressing need to support and strengthen the basic  knowledge and attitude of all the stake holders of the street food system.  The most important players are possibly the customers themselves who must have the basic know how of what to ask for from a vendor and how to become a good customer.


The informal sector has experienced tremendous growth during the past years in South Africa and the sector can no longer be ignored. 

Street Vendors constitute a major section of this informal trade, eg:- in the Durban  Metropolitan Area (DMA) itself there were 20,000 street traders in 1996.  Though compared to this, other cities and rural areas may have fewer number of street traders but an overall estimate indicate it is a rather large sector to be dealt with. 

Street food vending is a special cause for concern because of the health risks that are related to unsafe food.  It is estimated that private households in South Africa spent R 4399,4 million on food bought  for eating away from home in 1996.  Almost 47% of this (equivalent to R 2071,9 million) was spent on meals and snacks in hotels, restaurants or on street foods.  This definitely supports the concern of the Government to ensure that the foods sold on the streets or any other public places are safe and of good quality. 

Several research studies have been done all over South Africa to assess the safety of street foods, especially the microbiological quality.  These papers have been discussed in workshops as well, and the recommendations in general have duly recognized the importance of the safety of street food, training of vendors, creation of regulations and laws, generating infrastructural support systems, issue of identity cards and liscences and monitoring the street food quality on a regular basis.

The coordination mechanism of all stake holders eg:- Health, Environmental Health, Traffic, Police, Security etc: have been recognized in some cases specially in the document “Durbans Informal Policy” and also that of the vendors, through some NGO’S and other organisations like ACHIB (African Council of Hawkers and Informal Business). 

(However, the involvement of the consumers in the entire sector does not appear to be duly considered). 

Hence, it will be essential to bring together all interested partners like the Department of Health, Department of Trade and Industry (Consumer Affairs), Department of Information and Broadcasting, Vendors Union, NGO’S, consumer bodies and plan strategic intervention programmes at the local government level as per their own needs and available resources.


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