The poison of street food

A recent survey revealed that 88 per cent of street food in Mumbai was unfit for consumption. We find out what the risks are
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Updated on May 28, 2010 12:47 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | By Naomi Canton, Mumbai

According to experts, all street food, cooked or raw, can cause gastroenteritis, typhoid and hepatitis, depending on the bacteria or viral infection they contain. Most contamination is caused by contact with faeces. Other causes of infection are the food growing yeast, because it’s not stored properly, and flies. We interviewed city nutritionist Dr Naina Setalvad, Dr Ushakiran Sisodia of Nanavati Hospital and Dr Khusrav Bajan, consultant in critical care at the Hinduja Hospital. Here’s what they think:

Vada Pav
Setalvad: Vada pav is an unhealthy food item. The pav is made of maida and may be stale. The vada is deep fried in oil, which may be used over and over again for long periods of time.
Bajan: It attracts mosquitoes, due to the fried smell and the danger is they may sit on dirty water and then on a food item and spread diseases.

Pav Bhaji
Setalvad: Since Pav Bhaji is cooked, it is less vulnerable and there are less chances of getting tummy infections. Nevertheless, it should be avoided, as it has a high content of fat and can cause lifestyle diseases such as high blood pressure.
Bajan: Anything made with water is dangerous, if the water used is not sterile and unless it is boiled at 100 degrees, which is unlikely. There is a danger of bacterial contamination and it has little nutritional value.
Sisodia: It all depends on whether the pav is fresh and the person serving you has washed his/her hands. The plate or the potato could be contaminated too.

Bhel Puri
Setalvad: Bhel is usually made from raw ingredients and hence, is very vulnerable as it has not gone through any form of cooking. Raw food can cause a variety of diseases, such as gastroenteritis, diarrhoea, indigestion and typhoid. Most often, the bhelwallah’s hands aren’t clean and therefore contaminate the food.
Bajan: Any part of it could make you ill. You could even get Hepatatis A and C. Even if the bhelwallah wears gloves, it doesn’t serve any purpose if he wears the same gloves for several hours.

Setalvad: The water used may have been brought from questionable sources.
Bajan: All tap water in India is not safe to drink.
Sisodia: It is likely the water contains e-coli.

Chinese food
Bajan: This is one of the the worst because it’s heavily water-based, so could be contaminated.
Sisodia: Chinese food is often cooked in unhygienic conditions, sometimes prepared beforehand and not properly stored.

Pani Puri
Setalvad: The masala water that is consumed with the stuffed puri is usually not boiled and can be highly unsafe. It can be a source of typhoid or food poisoning.
Bajan: This is the worst street food you can have, because there is a lot of water content, and the chatwallahs keep putting their hands into the bowl of mint water to fill the puri with. It has no nutritional value.

Fruit platter
Setalvad: The fruit platter is a healthy option, but may be a source of disease because it is kept out for long periods of time and it usually has flies hovering around. It is healthy but the most risky at the same time.
Bajan: If the cutlery is clean, it has the highest nutritional value, but if it isn’t, you can get gastroenteritis and typhoid.

Masala chai
Bajan: If piping hot, it should be good, but otherwise it carries risks because of the water used. No streetside chaiwallah uses mineral water.

Sugarcane juice
Bajan: If the equipment is clean, it is fine, but the danger is that mosquitoes will be attracted to it because it’s sweet and then spread diseases. It contains some amount of vitamin and gives energy, but usually the equipment is never clean, so it can cause food poisoning.

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