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Saturday,August 08,2020 21:15 PM

Roadside muchomo? Think again!

By Vision Reporter

Added 21st March 2010 03:00 AM

GONE are the days when people used to pack food when travelling. Today, every regular traveller knows that public service vehicles make stops at roadside food markets.

GONE are the days when people used to pack food when travelling. Today, every regular traveller knows that public service vehicles make stops at roadside food markets.

By Hope Abimanya

GONE are the days when people used to pack food when travelling. Today, every regular traveller knows that public service vehicles make stops at roadside food markets.

But does any one know where and how the food is prepared?
Major highways like Kampala-Masaka, has a stop at Lukaya while on the Jinja-Kampala highway, there is Namawojjolo. Vendors sell roast cassava, gonja, maize and meat.

Once a vehicle stops, the vendors hurriedly grab their food and fight to sell to the passengers regardless of their hygiene or safety of the food. Some even rest their meat on the cars which are dusty.

Much as this highway food is cheap, have you asked yourself how that meat is prepared, how long that maize has been on the road or how hygienic the vendor is?

Simon Magara, a regular traveller, says he always buys warm muchomo straight off the fire.

“I recently ate roadside meat which tasted stale and I got diarrhoea for a week,” he says.

Kirya, a muchomo vendor in Nateete, a Kampala suburb, says he buys meat in the morning, roasts it and sells it in bars.
A stick goes for sh1,000 and in the evening, he cuts his price to sh500 in order to sell off all the meat.

“If I don’t sell all the meat, I usually keep it in a freezer and roast it again the next morning. I make sure I sell the left-overs first,” he adds.

The vendors’ hygiene can also be a source of contamination of the food and one cannot be sure if they wash their hands before selling the food.

Another traveller says: “I lost appetite for roadside meat when I saw a vendor cleaning his hands on a dirty apron before salting the meat. This put me off roadside meat.”

In towns, a stick of goat meat costs between sh500 and sh1,000 while in fast-food joints, it costs between sh2,000 to sh4,000.

Health complications
Much as the roadside meat is affordable, one can contract diseases from such food resulting from the poor hygiene.

Dr. Paul Kagwa, the assistant commissioner of health services, says: “Eating meat is okay as long as it is roasted properly and consumed hot.”

“However, the vendors should be medically examined to ensure they are not sick. If a vendor had tuberculosis, it could easily be passed on to the buyer,” he adds.

There is a possibility of contracting diseases or illnesses from consuming roadside foods. These include food poisoning, diarrhoea, dysentery and cholera.

Hospitals in Kampala charge between sh20,000 to sh40,000 to treat food poisoning.

Kagwa says during the rainy season, roadside foods are at a high risk of contamination because that is when the latrines fill up and overflow. Some vendors use this contaminated water to wash their utensils or hands which is likely to contaminate the foods.

The infection after eating contaminated food does not occur immediately.
“Signs of food poisoning range from vomiting, stomach ache and fatigue,” explains Kagwa.

“Once one realises that she has eaten contaminated food, it is not advisable to treat yourself but rather go to the nearest health centre. The first aid may be to drink a lot of fluids, especially water, then treatment,” he says.

“If one must eat roadside food, they should go where it is being prepared and first check the sanitation or get the food straight from the fire because warm food is not likely to be contaminated.

However, people should avoid eating a lot of meat as well because it contains fats that might lead to heart problems,” he stresses.

Livingstone Makanga, the Kampala City Council medical officer, says vendors should make sure that left-overs are kept in a clean container and in a lockable place to keep rats away.

He also urges vendors to first warm the food to kill germs before selling it to the customers.

Makanga says the ministry has a safety policy on roadside food, but the local governments should ensure that the food sold is safe.

“Food vendors, by law, must be registered and medically inspected to ensure good sanitation. In case someone buys contaminated food, he should report to the Police so that the case is investigated,” he adds.

Roadside muchomo? Think again!

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