Street food research worldwide: a scoping review


  • 1 EPIUnit - Unidade de Investigação em Epidemiologia, Instituto de Saúde Pública, Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal.
  • 2 Faculdade de Ciências da Nutrição, Alimentação da Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal.
  • 3 Departamento de Ciências da Saúde Pública e Forenses e Educação Médica, Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal.
  • PMID: 30311276
  • DOI: 10.1111/jhn.12604

Background: Street foods vary with respect to their nutritional value and safety characteristics and contribute to a sizable proportion of food intake in many populations worldwide. Therefore, the present study aimed to describe the coverage in the scientific literature of different health-related and socio-economic aspects of street food consumption and trading.

Methods: Three electronic databases (searched from inception to 16 October 2017), a hand-search of relevant journals and backward citation tracking were used to identify eligible scientific articles with a main objective of investigating or reporting specific results on health-related or socio-economic aspects of street food. Papers published in English, Portuguese, French, Spanish or Italian, as well as English abstracts of papers published in other languages, were assessed. The selected articles were evaluated by two independent researchers and described according to year of publication, geographical distribution, definition of street food, main topics addressed and target population.

Results: In total, 441 papers were selected. The number of publications has increased in recent years, almost half of them being published after 2012. Almost three-quarter of the articles were from Africa or Asia. Most studies addressed food safety (85.5%), whereas street food availability and consumption were much less frequently investigated (30.3%). The focus of the studies was usually the food (mostly its microbiological contamination) and the vendors (mostly their food handling), whereas consumers and vending sites were seldom evaluated. More than half of the studies did not specify a definition for street food.

Conclusions: Efforts are needed for a more widespread and comprehensive assessment of different issues related to street food availability and consumption in different settings, especially regarding street food offer, nutritional composition, and patterns of purchase and consumption by the population.

Keywords: diet; food quality; food safety; nutrition; scoping review; street food.

© 2018 The British Dietetic Association Ltd.

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  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Commerce / statistics & numerical data*
  • Food / statistics & numerical data*
  • Food Handling / methods
  • Food Supply / statistics & numerical data*
  • Global Health / statistics & numerical data*
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A Scoping Review of Studies Evaluating the Healthiness of Street Food Vendors

  • Published: 08 December 2023
  • Volume 12 , pages 893–908, ( 2023 )

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street food research paper pdf 2020

  • Sadika Akhter 1 &
  • Adrian J. Cameron 1  

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Purpose of Review

This scoping review investigates the available tools for monitoring the healthiness of the food sold at street food outlets globally.

Recent Findings

Several tools were identified that have been used to evaluate the healthiness of street food outlets; however, these tools are not applicable globally, do not provide simple measures for evaluating the healthiness of foods sold, and generally have not been used across more than one study. The development of a comprehensive tool for measuring the healthiness of the street food environment that can be used across different jurisdictions and with different levels of resourcing is essential in order to understand the current street food environment and how it changes over time.

As a major source of food in low- and middle-income countries globally, the street food environment is important to understand in order to know how it might help address the growing burden of diet-related diseases.

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Article Contents

Introduction, street food and its social-economic and cultural role, microbiological aspects of street food safety, foodborne pathogens and diseases, microbiology of street food, guidance documents, vaccination as a strategy for foodborne diseases control, concluding remarks, conflict of interest, author contributions.

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Microbiology of street food: understanding risks to improve safety

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Anderson Assunção Andrade, Aline Dias Paiva, Alessandra Barbosa Ferreira Machado, Microbiology of street food: understanding risks to improve safety, Journal of Applied Microbiology , Volume 134, Issue 8, August 2023, lxad167,

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Street foods play important socioeconomic and cultural roles and are popular worldwide. In addition to providing convenient and low-cost meals for urban populations, street food offers an essential source of income for vendors, especially women, and it can reflect traditional local culture, which is an important attraction for tourists. Despite these benefits, the microbiological safety of street food has become a worldwide concern because it is often prepared and sold under inadequate safety conditions, without legal control and sanitary surveillance. Consequently, high counts of fecal indicator bacteria and several foodborne pathogens have been detected in street foods. This review provides insight into the microbiology of street food, focus on the associated microbiological safety aspects and main pathogens, and the global status of this important economic activity. Furthermore, the need to apply molecular detection rather than traditional culture-based methods is discussed to better understand the actual risks of microbial infection associated with street foods. Recognition is always the first step toward addressing a problem.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines street foods as ready-to-eat foods and beverages prepared and/or sold by vendors and hawkers in streets and other public places. This definition includes fresh fruits and vegetables sold for immediate consumption outside authorized markets (WHO 1996 , WHO 2010 ). In this sense, street foods are also sold in outdoor locations and enclosed markets, where people gather to shop or engage in recreational activities (Al Mamun and Turin 2016 ). Therefore, street food vendors can be found clustered around public locations such as schools, colleges, hospitals, bus and train stations, factories, offices, and amusement venues such as carnivals, fairs, and athletic events (Al Mamun and Turin 2016 , Malhotra 2017 ).

Street food trade has historical roots and complex socioeconomic and cultural implications for many countries, including those that have lower incomes and industrialized nations. An estimated 10 million street vendors who sell goods to the public in temporary static structures or mobile stalls constitute ∼2% of metro populations (Malhotra 2017 ).

Despite their socioeconomic value, safety-related aspects should be considered, because street foods are often prepared and sold under inadequate conditions without legal control or sanitary surveillance, which can increase the risk of foodborne diseases (Abrahale et al. 2019 ). Although chemicals can poison food and cause such diseases, microbiological (mainly bacterial and viral) contamination is a major safety concern (WHO 2010 , Gould et al. 2013 , White et al. 2022 ). Therefore, this review summarizes current knowledge about the microbiology of street foods. Microbiological safety aspects, the main pathogens associated with street foods, and the global status of these important economic products are emphasized. The need to apply molecular detection, rather than traditional culture-based methods is discussed to better understand the actual microbial risk associated with street-vended foods.

We searched PubMed and Google Scholar to identify articles published mainly between January 2010 and June 2022, and a few classical references before this period. We included book chapters, research, and review articles, and restricted the search to full-text articles or abstracts published in English. The search was based on combinations of the keywords, “street food,” “street-vended food,” “microbiological safety,” “safety requirements,” “ Campylobacter ,” “enteric viruses,” “norovirus,” “hepatitis A virus,” “ Staphylococcus ,” “ Listeria ,” “ Clostridium ,” “ Salmonella ,” “ Shigella ,” “ Escherichia ,” “ Enterobacteriaceae ,” “vaccination,” and “food safety regulation.”

Selling street food is a social, economic, and cultural phenomenon in an evolving world, especially in urban areas (Fellows and Hilmi 2012 , Abrahale et al. 2019 ). Urbanization and changes in consumer habits, including travel, have increased the numbers of people who buy and consume foods prepared in public places (WHO 2019 ). Consequently, the amount of time spent cooking meals at home has considerably decreased (Abrahale et al. 2019 ). For example, the number of street-food stalls in India steadily increased from 920 000 to 1.2 million between 2008 and 2013, indicating that more people are opting to eat outside the home (Shenoy et al. 2022 ).

Street-vended food plays an important role in ensuring food and nutrition security for urban dwellers worldwide, particularly in lower-income countries where ∼2.5 billion people consume street food daily (Jaffee et al. 2019 ). The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and WHO have found that the greatest factor in favor of street foods is that they can provide caloric and protein requirements at a cost of ∼$1 per capita (Malhotra 2017 ). Street food also accounts for >50% of the food intake in several sub-Saharan countries (Jaffee et al. 2019 ).

Street food plays important roles in providing easily accessible and low-cost meals for urban populations. It also offers essential income sources for those who do not work in formal economic sectors. Women with insufficient education, literacy, or skills in lower-income countries (Malhotra 2017 , Jaffee et al. 2019 ) such as those in Africa can constitute >80% of the street vendor workforce. The level of education among street vendors in some of these countries is generally low, as >20% are illiterate (Bouafou et al. 2021 ).

Street food trade is an important segment of the food tourism industry that deserves attention. Street foods attract tourists, as they are convenient, relatively inexpensive, and offer unique flavors and experiences that can reflect traditional local cultures (WHO 2010 , Khairuzzaman et al. 2014 ). Thus, street food contributes to the ability of tourists to enjoy authentic gastronomic experiences by linking food, venues, and tourism (Privitera 2014 ) and is thus one of the best ways to become immersed in the real culture of a community (Malhotra 2017 ). Therefore, using street food as an instrument for developing attractive regional images offers a clear benefit for creating and maintaining tourism (Privitera 2014 ).

The microbiological safety of street food is influenced by the quality of the raw material used to prepare foods for sale. Food can become contaminated with microbes throughout the production chain from processing, transport, storage, display, and preparation, to serving the food for consumption. The main problems are poor hygiene practices by food handlers, the absence of potable water, inadequate infrastructure, food storage at temperatures that favor microbial growth, exposure to domestic and other animals including rodents and insects, and air pollution (Amare et al. 2019 , Abebe et al. 2020 ).

High ambient temperatures impact the amount of microbial contamination in street foods. Total aerobic bacterial counts in ready-to-eat street food samples are maximal during the summer in Quetta, Pakistan, when the average ambient temperature reaches 37°C (Raza et al. 2021 ). The authors concluded that an increased abundance of houseflies could also help to explain why microbial contamination is maximal during the summer.

Enteric pathogens in untreated sewage used to fertilize soils or in water to irrigate crops can contaminate raw materials. Such pathogens can multiply exponentially, particularly if used to prepare street food under unhygienic conditions. Some street foods worldwide have high microbial counts and harbor several foodborne pathogens (Birgen et al. 2020 , Budiarso et al. 2021 , Ferrari et al. 2021 , Salamandane et al. 2021 ).

However, regardless of the sanitary conditions in the environment, microbiologically safe food can be prepared on the street if appropriate food-handling measures are implemented. For example, food cooked to 70°C and served piping hot poses little or no risk of transmitting foodborne pathogens (WHO 2010 ).

The microbiological safety of street foods is important to consider especially because of the risk of serious infections in children, pregnant women, and elderly, as well as immunocompromised persons. Foodborne diseases cause 2.2 million deaths annually in lower-income countries and 1.9 million of these are children; thus, the microbial contamination of food is more critical in such countries (Loukieh et al. 2018 ).

Among the main problems associated with the consumption of street food, foodborne diseases comprise a substantial preventable public health problem with a major impact on health and economy (Allison et al. 2021 ). The incidence of toxins and microbes that cause lethal foodborne illnesses is high in lower-income countries. Infection and other illnesses are caused by ingesting foods contaminated with pathogens, and by toxins produced by such pathogens. The main bacterial pathogens that cause foodborne diseases are the Salmonella, Shigella, Escherichia genera that belong to the Enterobacteriaceae family, as well as species such as Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens, Listeria monocytogenes , and Campylobacter jejuni (Hemalata and Virupakshaiah 2016 , Abebe et al. 2020 , Gohan et al. 2021 ).

Although bacteria are generally responsible for the most severe foodborne diseases, viruses cause the most infections worldwide (Bosch et al. 2018 ). Several human enteroviruses, such as norovirus (NoV) and hepatitis A virus (HAV) are transmitted by the fecal-oral route and are predominant causes of foodborne diseases. However, they are rarely diagnosed because appropriate analytical and diagnostic tools for these viruses are not widely available, especially in low-income countries (WHO and FAO 2008 , Anonymous 2017 , Bosch et al. 2018 ).

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have highlighted six highly infectious pathogens that cause severe illness and can easily be transmitted by food workers. These six foodborne pathogens are known as the “Big 6″, and include NoV, HAV, Salmonella typhi, Shigella spp., Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli and nontyphoidal Salmonella (FDA 2020 ).

This review aimed to clarify the roles of the “Big 6″ along with S. aureus, L. monocytogenes, Clostridium spp., Campylobacter spp., and viruses as important health hazards associated with street food consumption.


The Enterobacteriaceae family of Gram-negative bacteria includes Salmonella spp., E. coli , and Shigella spp. (Addis and Sisay 2015 , Al-Seghayer and Al-Sarraj 2021 ).

Salmonella spp. are rod-shaped, non-spore-forming, facultative anaerobes, and some species cause mild-to-severe infections such as salmonellosis. Salmonella is disseminated via the fecal-oral route and can be transmitted through person-to-person contact, direct contact with other animals, or contaminated food and water. Contaminated unpasteurized milk, cheese, eggs, and poultry are responsible for 94% of all Salmonella infections. The incubation period is 12‒36 hours and the symptoms are usually gastrointestinal, including vomiting, abdominal cramps, nausea, and bloody diarrhea with mucus. Most symptoms resolve within 2‒3 days but they can be more severe among elderly persons and young children (Addis and Sisay 2015 , Al-Seghayer and Al-Sarraj 2021 ).

Escherichia coli are rod-shaped, motile, facultatively anaerobic, and nonspore-forming bacteria. Some of its pathotypes cause enterohemorrhagic (EHEC), enterotoxigenic (ETEC), enteropathogenic (EPEC), enteroinvasive (EIEC), and enteroaggregative (EAEC) diseases, but all of these pathotypes cause intestinal symptoms in humans. However, their modes of transmission differ; they target intestinal cells, and symptoms are based on types of virulence factors and toxins (Kim et al. 2020 ). The incubation period vary from 72 to 120 hours. Diarrhea with abdominal cramps can become grossly bloody within a few days, and bacteremia and toxemia can occasionally develop (Clements et al. 2012 , Addis and Sisay 2015 , Al-Seghayer and Al Sarraj 2021 ).

Shigella spp. are rod-shaped, nonmotile, nonspore-forming, facultative anaerobes that cause shigellosis. Shigella infections arise via direct person-to-person transmission or contaminated water and food. Ingested Shigella spp. attach to intestinal cell walls, multiply, and produce enterotoxins and serotype toxin 1 that cause watery or bloody diarrhea. Shigella infection manifests as high fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, and tenesmus (Addis and Sisay 2015 ). The genus Shigella has four serotypes (A–D), of which Shigella sonnei (serotype D) causes a mild illness that can be limited to watery diarrhea, whereas Shigella flexneri (serotype B) and Shigella dysenteriae (serotype A) can cause dysentery that presents as bloody mucoid diarrhea (McCrickard et al. 2018 ).

Ferrari et al. ( 2021 ) analysed street food in Brazil and showed Salmonella spp. in 6.3% ( n  = 4) of the samples, 1 of hot dogs and 3 of savoury snacks. All savory snacks contaminated with Salmonella spp. were fried, suggesting that they had been cross-contaminated, or re-contaminated after frying. The absence of Salmonella spp. in 25 g of food was employed in this study as the microbiological limit.

Raw chicken portions were highly contaminated with Salmonella spp., which were also found in cooked chicken, food contact surfaces, and equipment such as knives and storage containers in Nairobi, Kenya (Birgen et al. 2020 ).

A microbiological analysis classified 121 (37.81%) of 320 ready-to-eat street food samples in Quetta, Pakistan as unacceptable for consumption due to high total counts of aerobic bacteria. Approximately 49 (40%) of 121 of food samples that were not suitable for human consumption were contaminated with Salmonella spp., of which 34 (69.39%) and 15 (30.61%) were S. enteritidis and S. typhimurium , respectively. Both species were extremely resistant to amoxicillin, all S. enteritidis isolates were resistant to erythromycin and chloramphenicol, and S. typhimurium isolates were resistant to erythromycin (Raza et al. 2021 ).

Escherichia coli was found in all analyzed samples savory snacks, hot dogs, coconut water, barbecued meat on skewers, and boiled corn, with savory snacks harboring the most counts (1.15 × 10 5 colony forming units [CFU] g −1 ) (Ferrari et al. 2021 ). Brazilian legislation states that the limit for E . coli counts in these foods is <10 2 CFU g −1 .

Salamandane et al. ( 2021 ) analysed 83 ready-to-eat street food sold in Maputo, Mozambique, and in traditional hot foods, 63% of the samples were classified as unsatisfactory due to contamination with E. coli (>2.8 log CFU g −1 ). Considering total coliforms as a hygiene indicator, this ratio increased to 76.7% (>2 log CFU g −1 ). Furthermore, 62.5% and 75% of sandwich samples, respectively, containing >2.5 and > 3 log CFU g −1 of E. coli , were classified as unsatisfactory, and 80% of ready-to-eat salad samples contaminated with > 2.4 log CFU g −1 of E. coli and >3.4 log CFU g −1 of coliforms were classified by both indicators as unsatisfactory. Despite the high counts of total coliforms and E. coli , all samples were negative for Salmonella and L. monocytogenes .

An analysis in Yogyakarta City, Indonesia revealed that all of 30 street food samples were contaminated with coliforms, most of which exceeded the threshold limit set by the National Agency of Drug and Food Control (BPOM). Furthermore, coliforms and enteric pathogens in snack foods included E. coli (16.6%), Yersinia enterocolitica (13.3%), and Shigella spp. (3.3%) (Budiarso et al. 2021 ).

In Quito, Ecuador, 22.6% of ready-to-eat street foods were positive for total thermotolerant coliforms resistant to cefotaxime. The clonal groups ST410, ST131, and ST744 were recognized as epidemic and showed that harmful commensal E. coli could be directly acquired from specific types of food (Zurita et al. 2020 ). These foods might also play significant roles in the dissemination of antimicrobial resistance (Economou and Gousia 2015 ).


Within the genus Clostridium, C. botulinum and C. perfringens are important from a public health standpoint in terms of foodborne diseases.

Clostridium botulinum is a Gram-positive, anaerobic, spore-forming bacillus that produces highly potent neurotoxins that cause botulism in humans. This toxin blocks the release of acetylcholine at neuromuscular junctions, resulting in flaccid paralysis. Respiratory failure can develop if botulism is not treated promptly and appropriately. The incubation period is 12‒36 hours. The most prevalent symptoms are vomiting, dry mouth, thirst, constipation, ocular paresis, and difficulty with breathing, speaking, and swallowing (Addis and Sisay 2015 , Pernu et al. 2020 ).

Clostridium perfringens is a Gram-positive, anaerobic, spore-forming bacillus that produces a type A enterotoxin that is directly involved in food poisoning. This toxin causes excessive accumulation of fluid in the intestinal lumen. The incubation period is 8‒24 hours, and the main symptoms are acute abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, which are usually self-limiting (Addis and Sisay 2015 , Gohan et al. 2021 ).

Meat and poultry contaminated with C. perfringens are particularly important causes of foodborne outbreaks. C. perfringens has been detected in 5.06% of cooked beef sold on streets in the Ivory Coast (2.32% and 7.17% in kidney and flesh samples, respectively). The prevalence of C. perfringens in cooked beef was the highest and lowest in Abobo (12%) and Yopougon (1.85%), respectively (Kouassi et al. 2014 ).

Listeria monocytogenes

Listeria monocytogenes is a Gram-positive, ubiquitous bacterium that can survive the harsh acidic or saline conditions and low temperatures that are usually applied in food processing for microbial control. Consequently, L. monocytogenes is difficult to manage as it can persist for long periods in food-processing environments and cross-contaminate food products (Gray et al. 2021 ). The ability to withstand food-processing environments is probably linked to resistance against common cleaning and sanitation strategies, a high adaptive capacity against physical control methods, and the ability to form biofilms on various surfaces (Carpentier and Cerf 2011 , EFSA BIOHAZ Panel et al. 2018 ).

Despite being relatively rare compared with other bacterial foodborne diseases, listeriosis is among the most serious foodborne infections of humans due high mortality rates (20%‒30%) among at-risk immunocompromised and elderly persons, pregnant women, and neonates. Clinical manifestations include febrile gastroenteritis, which can lead to severe complications, including sepsis and meningitis. Serious perinatal infections can lead to abortion, stillborn fetuses, generalized infections, sepsis, and neonatal meningitis (Lopez-Valladares et al. 2018 ).

Ready-to-eat meat, seafood products, unpasteurized milk, and other dairy products are typically associated with L. monocytogenes . However, fruits and vegetables, plant-derived foods, frozen foods, and sandwiches have also been implicated in outbreaks (Desai et al. 2019 ), indicating that various foods support L. monocytogenes growth and can contribute to the burden of listeriosis.

Listeria spp. have been identified in 24% of 576 samples of ready-to-eat street-vended foods including sandwiches and traditional dishes sold in Egypt (El-Shenawy et al. 2011 ); L. monocytogenes and L. innocua were isolated in 57% and 39% of positive samples, respectively. Most samples contaminated with L. monocytogenes had high levels of total viable bacterial counts (>10 4 CFU g −1 ). Nyenje et al. ( 2012 ) evaluated the microbiological quality of 252 ready-to-eat foods sold in Alice, South Africa, including vegetables, potatoes, rice, pies, beef and chicken stew. High levels of total aerobic count were detected in all the samples analyzed, and a high occurrence of Listeria spp. was recorded in pies (33%) and chicken stew (28%).

Two pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) types (serotypes 1/2a and 4b) of L. monocytogenes have been detected in 20% of hotdog and hamburgers samples from 10 street-vending trailers in the Porto region, Portugal. Two L. monocytogenes clones were detected in different samples/trailers, suggesting cross-contamination or a common source of contamination (Campos et al. 2015 ).

Listeria monocytogenes isolates from 6% of 261 samples of ready-to-eat salads sold on the streets in Turkey were resistant to erythromycin (23%) and cephalothin (20%) (Gurler et al. 2015 ). Listeria monocytogenes has been detected in 15% of 96 samples of ready-to-eat meat sold on the streets of Windhoek, Namibia (Shiningeni et al. 2019 ) and in 7.5% of 400 ready-to-eat artisanal foods in Chile, all of which also harbored the virulence genes hlyA, prfA , and inlA (Bustamante et al. 20 , 20 ).

The overall prevalence of L. monocytogenes was 0.13% in samples of various ready-to-eat foods collected over a period of two years from 28 large retailers and 148 canteens in northern Italy (Castrica et al. 2021 ). The authors detected L. monocytogenes particularly among multi-ingredient preparations comprising cooked and uncooked food or only raw ingredients (0.54% of 554 evaluated samples).

A global systematic review revealed that the pooled prevalence of L. monocytogenes in ready-to-eat chicken products is 22%, followed by various uncategorized, ready-to-eat foods (21%) and that the pooled prevalences of antibiotic resistance to penicillin and cephalosporin are respectively, 80% and 47% (Mpundu et al. 2021 ).

Coagulase positive staphylococci

The genus Staphylococcus comprises spherical, nonsporulating, nonmotile facultatively anaerobic, Gram-, and catalase-positive bacteria. Staphylococcus spp. are ubiquitous in air, dust, sewage, water, environmental surfaces, humans, and other animals (Hennekinne et al. 2012 ).

Staphylococcus spp. are classified as coagulase-producing (CPS) or noncoagulase-producing (CNS) strains, and the main CPS species is S. aureus (Hennekinne et al. 2012 ).

Some CPS strains (mainly S. aureus and occasionally other species), while growing in foods, produce enterotoxins that can lead to staphylococcal food poisoning. This is typically characterized by severe nausea and vomiting within 2‒8 hours of consuming contaminated food. Notably, the cooking process destroys S. aureus , but is insufficient to inactivate its heat-stable enterotoxins (Schelin et al. 2011 ).

Although enterotoxigenic potential is not a relevant feature among CNS bacteria, some strains express staphylococcal enterotoxin genes and other virulence factors (Ünal and Çinar 2012 ). Although CNS play important roles in the fermentation of meat- and milk-based products, high counts in other types of foods have been associated with ineffective hygienic-sanitary conditions (Janssens et al. 2013 ).

Staphylococcus aureus is among the normal microbiota of the skin and in the upper respiratory tracts of healthy humans and it can be transmitted to various types of food, mostly via asymptomatic handlers. Another frequent source of S. aureus is unpasteurized milk from dairy animals with mastitis. Food contamination with enterotoxigenic CPS is usually caused by either inadequate food handling or unpasteurized milk from cows with staphylococcal mastitis (Hennekinne et al. 2012 ).

Staphylococcal food poisoning is a common foodborne disease worldwide. It might involve foods that provide a suitable medium for S. aureus growth such as unpasteurized milk cheese, especially when handmade, as well as meat- or meat-based products, poultry, salads, and cream-filled pastries (Hennekinne et al. 2012 ).

Street foods can become contaminated by staphylococci in raw materials and/or poor hygiene practices during processing, cooking, or distribution. Street foods are generally associated with conditions that favor staphylococcal growth and enterotoxin production, such as nutritional content and permissive temperatures during storage (Bennett et al. 2013 ). Ingesting street foods containing sufficient amounts of enterotoxins can be poisonous.

Outbreaks of Staphylococcal food poisoning after consuming street food are probably underreported, not only because it is a short-term and self-limiting illness but also because it is difficult to identify the food responsible for carrying the enterotoxin, especially when only a few people are affected.

Coagulase-positive staphylococci were undetectable in samples from hotdogs and hamburgers sold at trailers on the streets of the Porto region of Portugal, even though 44% of those from food-handlers were positive for CPS (Campos et al. 2015 ). Poor hygiene practices have been identified in Uberaba, Brazil, where 47% of street food vendor hands were contaminated with high levels of CPS (Souza et al. 2015 ). In addition, S. aureus has been detected in 52% of ready-to-eat meat samples sold on the streets of Windhoek, Namibia (Shiningeni et al. 2019 ).

The contamination of handmade coalho cheese samples with S. aureus has been associated with contaminated milk, re-contamination after pasteurization, and inadequate storage and handling (Andrade et al. 2019 ). Furthermore, CPS have been detected in ∼25% of ready-to-eat street food samples sold in Maputo, Mozambique (Salamandane et al. 2021 ).


The genus Campylobacter comprises microaerophilic, nonspore-forming, curved, slender Gram-negative rods, 0.5‒5-μm long, and have a characteristic corkscrew-like motion (Silva et al. 2011 , Facciolà et al. 2017 , Igwaran and Okoh 2019 ). When at least two of these cells come into contact, they form an “S” shape or the “V” shape of a gullwing (Silva et al. 2011 ).

Campylobacter is the most common bacterial cause of human gastroenteritis worldwide (Corcionivoschi and Gundogdu 2021 ). Campylobacter infects ∼1.5 million persons annually in the USA (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] 2019a ). Globally, pathogenic Campylobacter species infect >400 million people annually (Igwaran and Okoh 2019 , Corcionivoschi and Gundogdu 2021 ). In general, >80% of human isolates are C. jejuni , and C. coli accounts for most of the remainder (Fontanot et al. 2014 , Igwaran and Okoh 2019 ). That C. jejuni is resistant to multiple antibiotics is a matter of particular concern (Corcionivoschi and Gundogdu 2021 ).

Campylobacteriosis is characterized by diarrhea (often bloody in high-resource countries rather than the watery diarrhea that occurs mostly in young children living in low-resource areas), fever and abdominal pains, but nausea and vomiting can also occur. Most people infected with Campylobacter completely recover within one week. However, serious postinfectious sequelae, such as neuromuscular paralysis due to Guillain-Barré syndrome can arise. Campylobacter can occasionally spread into the bloodstream of immunocompromised individuals and cause life-threatening infection (CDC 2019a , Corcionivoschi and Gundogdu 2021 ).

Campylobacter spp. are commensal microorganisms that colonize the intestinal tract of warm-blooded animals and frequently infect all avian species that are suitable for human consumption. Thus, the main route of campylobacteriosis transmission in humans is through the consumption of undercooked poultry meat (Facciolà et al. 2017 , CDC 2019a ). In fact, 60%‒80% of global campylobacteriosis is caused by ingested contaminated poultry meat and its products (Igwaran and Okoh 2019 ).

Campylobacter is also transmitted by drinking untreated water and raw milk, as well as fruits and vegetables that are contaminated via contact with soil or water containing feces from cows, birds, and other animals (Carrillo et al. 2017 , Facciolà et al. 2017 , CDC 2019a ). Therefore, eating raw fruits and vegetables is inherently risky when not treated to inactivate pathogens before consumption (Mohammadpour et al. 2018 ; Bozkurt et al. 2021 ). Indeed, in the USA, for example, the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables has increased in recent years, and concomitantly, the number of outbreaks caused by microbial pathogens associated with these fresh products has also increased (Carstens et al. 2019 ).

A low infective dose (≤100 cells) of Campylobacter has been linked to human infections (Igwaran and Okoh 2019 ). Therefore, ingesting anything that has touched raw or undercooked poultry contaminated with Campylobacter can cause campylobacteriosis. Even a single drop of juice from raw chicken can contain sufficient bacteria to cause infection. Thus, infections can arise when kitchen utensils used to cut and prepare raw chicken are not washed before being applied to prepare raw fruits and vegetables (Facciolà et al. 2017 , CDC 2019a ).

Considering that improper food handling and poor hygiene practices are prevalent among street food handlers, street foods should be an important source of Campylobacter contamination. However, surprisingly there are only a few studies on the occurrence of Campylobacter in street food in the last decade. We speculated that one reason for this is that Campylobacter species are fastidious and difficult to culture (Corcionivoschi and Gundogdu 2021 ). Recovery of these bacteria from food samples is challenging because they grow slowly and competing organisms must be suppressed during isolation (Carrillo et al. 2017 ).

Most studies exploring the bacterial contamination of street food have used culture-based methods to recover and identify foodborne pathogens. Nevertheless, there is evidence that molecular methods are more effective in detecting Campylobacter than conventional methods, as molecular methods also allow detection of cells that are viable but cannot be grown on agar media due to starvation and physical stress (Chai et al. 2007 , Fontanot et al. 2014 ).

Campylobacter was not detected by traditional culture techniques in samples of ready-to-eat street-vended pork meat sold on the streets of Antananarivo, Madagascar (Cardinale et al. 2015 ). A C. jejuni contamination rate of 0.5% has been identified in raw fish samples from Morogoro Municipality, Tanzania (Nonga et al. 2015 ). In contrast, high C. jejuni counts were detected on the hands of street food vendors, and work surfaces (knife, food contact surface, storage container), as well as raw and cooked chicken sold on the streets of Nairobi County, Kenya (Birgen et al. 2020 ). Contamination with C. jejuni was the highest in raw portions of chicken products and in cooked chicken samples (range: 8.95 ± 0.94 to 4.66 ± 2.67 log CFU g −1 , respectively). Counts on storage containers, work surfaces, and hands, and between knives and cooked chicken did not significantly differ. This was attributed to cross-contamination, especially via hands and unsanitary conditions at vending sites.

A meta-analysis revealed that the overall estimated prevalence of Campylobacter in fresh vegetables and fruits from various geographical areas and origins, including ready-to-eat street foods, is 0.53%. Interestingly, the results of this meta-analysis demonstrated that the highest prevalence of Campylobacter were detected when molecular techniques were employed (Mohammadpour et al. 2018 ). Thus, these authors concluded that the lower rates of isolation were probably due to problems associated with the growth and recovery of microorganisms. In line with this notion, Chai et al. ( 2007 ) state that the lack of appropriate methods for recovering Campylobacter from produce samples could explain part of the reported low incidence of this bacterium in vegetables.

Human enteric viruses are extremely widespread causes of foodborne diseases. The numbers of foodborne illness outbreaks caused by viruses have steadily increased over the past few years in industrialized countries to the point where they have superseded bacteria as the most common cause of such outbreaks and pose a serious threat to global health (Bosch et al. 2018 ).

Human enteric viruses represent functional, rather than taxonomic groups (Gibson et al. 2019 ). Thus, viruses belonging to different genera and families are considered human foodborne agents, including NoV ( Caliciviridae ), HAV ( Picornaviridae ), hepatitis E virus (HEV) ( Hepeviridae ), rotaviruses ( Reoviridae ), enteroviruses (e.g. Poliovirus and Coxsackievirus) ( Picornaviridae ), adenoviruses ( Adenoviridae ), and astroviruses ( Astroviridae ). From an epidemiological perspective, NoV and HAV are the most significant foodborne viruses (WHO and FAO 2008 , Vasickova et al. 2010 , Gibson et al. 2019 , O'Shea et al. 2019 ).

Despite increasing knowledge about the role of viruses as widespread causes of foodborne illnesses, the literature currently provides an unrealistic appraisal of their importance as hazards associated with street food. We could not find any reports on the detection of viruses in street food. However, this does not mean that a problem does not exist. Considering that many street food vendors overlook the importance of the safety of food that they prepare and sell (Azanza et al. 2019 ), street food contamination by human enteric viruses can be a very real and serious problem.

This problem must be addressed, particularly in lower-to-middle-income countries where street food is mainly prepared and sold without appropriate hygienic measures (Raza et al. 2021 ). This is due to factors such as inadequate knowledge about food safety and practices (Birgen et al. 2020 ), the absence of toilets, and clean running water for washing hands and utensils (Malhotra 2017 , Azanza et al. 2019 ). Epidemiological evidence indicates that the consumption of ready-to-eat foods contaminated by infected food handlers is a major risk factor for foodborne viral outbreaks (Butot et al. 2009 , Bosch et al. 2018 ). Furthermore, policies and regulations for safe street food trade are very weak and poorly enforced in most lower-income countries, and nonexistent in some others (Alimi 2016 ).

In addition, the absence of information regarding the association of viruses with street food is not surprising, due to difficulties in the detection and quantitation of infectious virus particles in food matrices (Anonymous 2017 , Bosch et al. 2018 ). That infections caused by foodborne viruses have only recently started to be routinely surveilled in some industrialized countries is notable (Bosch et al. 2018 ).

For instance, the numbers of foodborne viral disease outbreaks since 1998 have significantly increased in the USA (Gould et al. 2013 , White et al. 2022 ). Rather than a true increase in the number of foodborne virus outbreaks, this was likely caused by increased capacity to diagnose NoV (leading cause of foodborne illnesses) in state health department laboratories and improved strategies for collecting specimens for diagnostic tests. Thus, the number of outbreaks of unknown etiology decreased proportionately as the number of viral etiology outbreaks increased (Gould et al. 2013 ). The association between viruses and foodborne illnesses is likely to increase as current methods of detecting viruses improve and novel detection strategies are developed (Bosch et al. 2018 ).

However, even in high-income countries, outbreak investigations are costly and require time, resources, and commitments from competing priorities. Thus, most jurisdictions prioritize investigations associated with pathogens that might cause more severe illnesses. Thus, in the USA, most jurisdictions prioritize investigations associated with pathogens that may cause more severe illness and consequently may intentionally deprioritize NoV outbreaks (White et al. 2022 ). Challenges for outbreak investigations are significantly more pronounced in lower-income countries, and this can help explain the divergent data regarding the association of NoV with foodborne disease outbreaks between high-income countries and lower-to-middle-income countries. The results of surveillance in the USA from 2009 to 2018 showed that NoV caused 47% of outbreaks with a single confirmed or suspected etiology (White et al. 2022 ), whereas it accounted for only 2.5% of outbreaks with identified etiological agents between 2000 and 2018 in Brazil (Finger et al. 2019 ).

The lack of data on foodborne viral infections associated with street food might also be associated with the fact that most of these infections, such as those caused by NoV, either do not lead to clinically obvious diseases or lead to gastroenteritis, which is usually an acute and self-limiting disease. Therefore, because most infected individuals do not consult a medical practitioner; most infections have not been reported or followed up (Vasickova et al. 2010 ).

Laboratory analyses of street-food samples for microbiological purposes have traditionally relied solely on bacterial cultures. Consequently, many authors have documented high levels of total coliforms in some street food samples in addition to pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella spp. (Birgen et al. 2020 , Ferrari et al. 2021 ), S. aureus (Shiningeni et al. 2019 ), C. perfringens (Kouassi et al. 2014 ), and Campylobacter spp. (Birgen et al. 2020 ), as already discussed here. However, published findings of foodborne disease outbreaks indicate that reliance solely on routine bacterial culture is inadequate for monitoring the microbiological quality of street food (Gould et al. 2013 , White et al. 2022 ). The presence or absence of bacterial faecal indicators in food such as E. coli , has proven to be unreliable to indicate presence of enteric viruses, since various studies have shown that some foodborne viruses are more resistant than vegetative bacteria (Bosch et al. 2018 ).

The environmental stability of viral particles is crucial for the persistence and transmission of enteric viruses to new hosts. One of the most important factors affecting their survival is a viral envelope. Nonenveloped viruses, including most of those that cause foodborne diseases, are more resistant to drying or desiccation and therefore spread more easily than enveloped viruses (which are less stable in the environment). In contrast to some enveloped viruses that remain infectious for a few hours to days, foodborne enteric viruses can survive for several weeks to months on various surfaces (Vasickova et al. 2010 ).

Human enteric viruses are also resistant to a wide range of popular food processing, preservation, and storage methods (Gibson et al. 2019 ). For instance, frozen berries, including blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries, have been implicated in several foodborne illness outbreaks. In such cases, the hazard of concern has been viral, since freezing maintains viral infectivity (WHO and FAO 2008 , Bozkurt et al. 2021 ). Enteric viruses in freeze-dried blueberries can also resist inactivation by dry heating at 100°C for 20 min (Butot et al. 2009 ). Foodborne viruses can survive beyond the shelf life of fresh produce, and in shellfish enteric viruses are known to persist for several weeks or months (Bosch et al. 2018 ).

Therefore, the chain of enteric viral infections is difficult to analyze. In addition to the environmental resistance of viral particles, enteric viruses are shed in high numbers in the feces and/or vomitus of infected individuals (Gibson et al. 2019 ). Viruses can be shed for up to two weeks postrecovery (O'Shea et al. 2019 ). This means that a food handler who returns to work after acute symptoms of an enteric virus infection have subsided, but before the infectious period has ended, poses a risk of contaminating food products during preparation (Hardstaff et al. 2018 ). Furthermore, infected asymptomatic persons can spread enteroviruses (O'Shea et al. 2019 ), although they tend to shed fewer viruses than those who are symptomatic (Hardstaff et al. 2018 ). For example, HAV can be transmitted by asymptomatic people via feces for up to 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after symptoms appear (Fleetwood 2021 ).

Unlike bacteria, viruses are obligate intracellular parasites that do not replicate outside their host cells and low numbers are frequently found in contaminated foods. However, enteric viruses are generally highly infectious (Bozkurt et al. 2021 ). For example, current estimates suggest that the NoV infective dose (number of NoV particles required to cause detectable infection), might be 1‒10 (Bosch et al. 2018 ). Thus, although the viral load is frequently low in contaminated foods, it could pose a significant public health risk (Gibson et al. 2019 ). In addition, the finding of enteric virus particles in the hands of food handlers indicates easy transfer among utensils, work surfaces, and foods (Hardstaff et al. 2018 ).

Guidelines specific for street-vended foods have not been fully established worldwide. The Codex Alimentarius normative guidelines, which could assist governments in developing standards consistent with international norms, do not specifically cover traditional markets (defined as spaces for purchasing fresh food for home preparation or food prepared on the street). However, the Codex has developed four regional documents that include codes of practice and guidelines for managing safety risks in street foods. These normative codes were developed in 1995 for the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region (revised in 2001 by the Codex Regional Coordinating Committee for LAC: Codex Alimentarius 2001 ), 1997 for the African region (Codex Alimentarius 1997 ), 2013 for the Near East region (Codex Alimentarius 2013 ), and 2017 for the Asian region (Codex Alimentarius 2017 ), and have been extensively compared (DeWaal et al. 2022 ).

All regional guidelines provide important standards that can be used to improve the safety of street vendors and other foods sold in traditional markets. However, given the different approaches among the regional guidelines, global standardization for managing food safety in traditional markets should be considered by international organizations such as the Codex, WHO, and FAO to assist national, regional, state, and local governments (DeWaal et al. 2022 ).

Traditional tactics such as improving basic sanitation, supplying safe drinking water, proper hygiene, and educational programs for food handlers are crucially important in reducing the transmission of foodborne pathogens. However, they might be insufficient to guarantee the microbiological safety of street-vended foods (Deng 2015 , Seo et al. 2020 , Shenoy et al. 2022 ). Indeed, sanitation programmes are harder to implement broadly and take longer to achieve modest improvements (Deng 2015 ).

A study of street food vendors in India revealed that although most of them were familiar with the terms, “food hygiene” and “foodborne illness,” less than one-third of them had acceptable food preparation practices, mainly attributable to an indifferent attitude towards food safety (Shenoy et al. 2022 ). Therefore, a high prevalence of general awareness of hygiene and food safety principles among food handlers does not guarantee that such principles will be implemented during food preparation.

Considering this, effort has been directed towards supplementing traditional approaches to reduce the health and economic impact of foodborne pathogens (Deng 2015 ). Vaccines might an effective and practical preventive approach against some common viral and bacterial foodborne pathogens, particularly in resource-limited countries or regions where the implementation of sanitation systems and the supply of safe drinking water are not quickly achievable (Seo et al. 2020 ). Vaccination is popular because cost-effective results are immediate and immunity is rapidly build in populations (Deng 2015 ).

The development of effective vaccines targeting enteric pathogens is challenging due to many factors (Seo et al. 2020 ). These include genetic and antigenic heterogeneity among strains (many genotypes, serotypes, or pathotypes), the absence of suitable animal models to verify vaccine efficacy, and the absence of suitable or cost-effective cell culture systems to attenuate viral pathogens such as human Calicivirus. Superficial knowledge about pathogen virulence or disease mechanisms (such as those of nontyphoidal Salmonella or Campylobacter ), short-lived protective immunity, and inability to achieve satisfied efficacy among some populations (such as young children in endemic regions) are also factors. In addition, multiple pathogens in individual patients during enteric infection complicates the effectiveness of vaccination. This limitation might be addressed by developing vaccine combinations targeting at least two enteric pathogens and in silico predictions combining computational biology and protein modeling.

However, vaccines are commercially available only for HAV (Fleetwood 2021 ) and S. typhi (Seo et al. 2020 ) among the “Big 6″ foodborne pathogens that cause severe illness and are transmitted by food workers.

The vaccination of high-risk populations can prevent foodborne infections. The WHO considers food handlers as a risk group for HAV (Shenoy et al. 2022 ), because only a single food handler with HAV is needed transmit the virus to many people, thus creating a substantial economic burden on the public health system (Fleetwood 2021 ). Because people infected with HAV are most contagious before they become symptomatic, and because children and immunocompromised people can remain contagious for up to 6 months, mandating symptomatic workers in food services to remain home is insufficient (Fleetwood 2021 ). Thus, vaccinating food handlers is considered an important step in preventing HAV transmission to susceptible individuals (Shenoy et al. 2022 ).

The current body of evidence about the topic should be a wake-up call for policymakers in low- and middle-income countries with high and intermediate endemicity to make vaccination against HAV mandatory for food handlers and not rely merely on standard interventions such as investigation, education, appropriate sanitation, and hygiene (Shenoy et al. 2022 ).

India is of particular interest because it is currently transitioning from high to intermediate HAV endemicity due to rapid socioeconomic development in some areas. Consequently, a growing proportion of the population is no longer exposed during childhood when the infection is usually asymptomatic and provides lifelong protection against the disease. Consequently, adolescents, and young adults (who constitute the majority of food handlers) are presently more susceptible than in the past, HAV infection is more severe, and the number of outbreaks has increased compared with before (Agrawal et al. 2019 ). Therefore, vaccinating food handlers in India could prevent HAV infection as well as its complications and transmission. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) and Association of Physicians of India (API) recommend HAV vaccination for food handlers (Shenoy et al. 2021).

The value of immunization for food handlers has also been proven in high-income countries such as the USA. Several HAV outbreaks in St. Louis, MO, USA led to the implementation of mandatory HAV vaccinations by food handlers. Subsequently, the rate of HAV infections dropped from 3 to 1 per 100 000 population. The Alabama Department of Public Health, Immunization Division, recommended statewide HAV vaccination during 2019 for all food workers in response to a local outbreak (Shenoy et al. 2021). However, mandatory HAV vaccination for food service workers is only ethically justifiable based on scientific evidence of transmission from workers to consumers in high-income countries (Fleetwood 2021 ). The endemicity of HAV infection is associated with hygiene status and sanitary infrastructure; hence all high-income countries have very low endemicity (Suwantika et al. 2013 ). Thus, transmission from food handlers to customers is rare with practice of good food hygiene (Fleetwood 2021 ).

Few vaccines against foodborne bacterial pathogens have been licensed. The heterogeneity of the serogroups or pathotypes, as well as difficulties with identifying appropriate antigens to target enterotoxins remains a key challenge. However, several vaccine candidates are under investigation, including live attenuated or killed whole-bacterial cells, glycoconjugates or bioconjugates, and bacterial polysaccharide- and protein-based subunits (Seo et al. 2020 ). Most are in the preclinical stage, but a few vaccine candidates have undergone phase I, II, or even phase III trials.

Only two typhoid vaccines against foodborne bacterial pathogens are commercially available. They help to prevent typhoid fever caused by S. typhi that is common in many regions of the world, including parts of East and Southeast Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. One each of these vaccines is based on killed, and live attenuated bacterial cells. Although not recommended as a routine procedure and despite being unable to provide 100% protection, typhoid vaccination is recommended for those traveling to endemic areas, people in close contact with typhoid carriers, and laboratory workers who work with S. typhi (CDC 2019b ).

Recent socioeconomic changes in an evolving world have driven significant growth in street food sales. Urbanization and population growth are associated with difficulty in finding employment in the formal sector, particularly in lower- income countries, and this is predicted to continue. Consequently, the street food sector will likely expand as it provides a livelihood for numerous workers/families and offers business opportunities, making it a significant part of the urban food supply chain.

Despite their popularity and social, economic, and cultural implications, street food vending activities are mostly outside government regulations, and street foods can be vehicles for several foodborne pathogens, which remain a threat to public health. The microbiological quality of street foods is poor in various countries, particularly those with low incomes, where high levels of contamination by pathogenic and/or fecal indicator bacteria are often detected. A finding of particular concern is antibiotic resistance among pathogenic foodborne bacteria isolated from street foods. Such foods might play a significant role in the spread of antimicrobial resistance.

Microbiological safety is primarily analyzed using culture-based methods that focus on the isolation and quantitation of bacteria such as the the Enterobacteriaceae family, specifically Escherichia and Salmonella genera, and Staphylococcus species. Thus, the prevalence of microorganisms that are detected in street food using molecular techniques is probably underestimated. This is true for all human enteric viruses, but also for some fastidious bacteria such as Campylobacter spp. Therefore, the application of reliable and standardized molecular techniques to detect such microorganisms in street foods has become increasingly important.

The supply of potable water, sanitation systems, personal hygiene, training programs to improve knowledge of basic food safety measures, and good food handling practices should be stimulated and implemented to improve the microbiological quality of street foods. Vaccinating food handlers against common viral and bacterial foodborne pathogens is recommended when available.

None declared.

Anderson Assunção Andrade (Conceptualization, Formal analysis, Supervision, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing), Aline Dias Paiva (Conceptualization, Formal analysis, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing), and Alessandra Barbosa Ferreira Machado (Conceptualization, Formal analysis, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing)

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Consumer Eating Behavior and Opinions about the Food Safety of Street Food in Poland

Associated data.

The data presented in this article is available on reasonable request from the corresponding author.

Street food plays an increasingly important role in the nutrition of the inhabitants of European cities. Our study aimed to analyze Polish consumers’ attitudes toward food offered in street food outlets, consumers’ eating out behavior, and the factors that determine their choice of meals from street food vendors. A survey was conducted of 1300 adult respondents who eat street food in Poland. The research enabled a detailed and comprehensive assessment of consumer behavior toward the use of street food outlets, as well as consumer opinions on vendors’ functioning, including hygiene and meals offered. Factors determining the frequency of street food consumption, preferred food types, and factors influencing the use of such outlets were identified. The most important factors were the quality of services and meals, personal preferences and price. Using cluster analysis, consumer profiles based on the types of street food outlets and food preferred were identified. Four main street food consumer preference profiles were identified: ‘burger-enthusiasts’, ‘kebab-enthusiasts’ and ‘ice-cream enthusiasts’, and ‘no specific-oriented consumers’. The Internet and social media were identified as information and promotion channels for this form of gastronomy. Results also revealed Polish consumer behavior and opinions about the food safety of street food in Poland. In summary, in Poland the habits of eating typical Polish homemade dishes is being replaced by eating meals in street food outlets, which can be classified as fast food. Increasing consumer knowledge and awareness of the quality and safety of street food may counteract improper hygiene practices of sellers.

1. Introduction

Street food terminology defines food and beverages as either ready for direct consumption or not and includes food that is ready-to-eat and food that is minimally processed, prepared and/or sold by vendors and handlers. This is an inexpensive food for all workers of all socio-economic classes and occupations [ 1 , 2 ].

Street food plays an increasingly important role in the food intake of Europeans [ 3 ]. Street food has been historically popular especially in cities of third world and developing countries, for low and middle wage-earning classes of people [ 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 ]. This form of gastronomy, which has been popular in Asian and African countries and in Latin America for a long time, began to penetrate into Europe and North America with an influx of migrants and European and American tourist trips. It has become a channel of food novelty [ 8 ].

Currently, food-trucks are a restaurant marketing strategy in Brazil and in Paris [ 3 , 9 ]. Street food is an alternative to delivering food to or near places with high traffic, such as schools, parks, gardens, markets, avenues, office buildings, and tourist areas. It allows vendors to implement a unique menu while using simplified techniques for preparing meals and provides an alternative to homemade food. Many authors [ 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 14 ] have identified features of street food, including practicality, saving time in the preparation of dishes, convenience, seasonality, lack of restrictions, and low costs of entering the market, as well as relatively low meal prices for consumers. Moreover, they are quick alternatives to restaurants, even during late hours after other food establishments are closed. Street food usually represents local culture and traditions [ 10 , 11 , 15 , 16 , 17 ], and the menu is distinguished in each country by its regional specificity.

Due to their locations on the street, the hygienic conditions of preparing and selling food by street vendors are often unacceptable [ 16 , 17 , 18 , 19 ]. Studies about street food focusing on food safety and on vendors’ food safety knowledge and use of hygienic practices, as well as on the microbiological quality of street food products, are still limited to continents such as Africa [ 20 , 21 , 22 ], South America [ 23 , 24 , 25 , 26 , 27 , 28 ], central America [ 29 ], and Asia [ 30 , 31 , 32 , 33 , 34 , 35 , 36 ]. Studies conducted on European street food evaluated the hygiene of street food vendors and the microbiological quality of food products [ 3 , 28 , 31 , 32 , 37 , 38 , 39 ]. Because of this, current assessments of street vendors are largely based on data from developing countries. Many authors [ 29 , 40 , 41 ] have indicated that vendors are very often poor, uneducated, and unconcerned about the safe handling of foods, and vendors could provide neither proof of food safety training nor a valid license for street trading. Street foods have been implicated in outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, in particular Salmonella infections [ 16 , 33 ], as well as contamination with coliforms [ 34 ], bacterial contaminations, and other infections as a result of transmission from vendors’ [ 29 , 42 , 43 , 44 ].

Due to the poor hygienic conditions and the lack of vendor awareness, foodborne infections from street food occur in both developed and undeveloped countries [ 25 , 45 ]. This is associated with poor food safety knowledge and food safety attitudes, as well as poor hygienic practices of food vendors, which in many cases are associated with the lack of running water facilities, and exposure of utensils and foods to insects and dirt [ 22 , 26 , 27 , 29 , 36 , 46 , 47 , 48 , 49 , 50 , 51 ]. In a few cases, hygienic production in street food facilities is not properly established or monitored by national food sanitation groups, especially in developing countries [ 35 , 52 , 53 ]. Despite the food safety practices and requirements for street food in more advanced developed countries [ 54 , 55 ], food-borne illnesses and related risks are experiencing a rise [ 56 ]. This is due to globalization, and a wide variety of ethnic and local foods from throughout the world being sold by street food vendors [ 57 , 58 , 59 ]. Few publications exist referring to street food outlets and their specifications in European countries, especially in Poland, where street food has become popular in the last two decades. Therefore, further research is needed to examine the characteristics and safety of street food, as well as consumer behaviors related to street food in developed economies. Our study fills a research gap in the literature on this topic by investigating Polish customer opinion about street food, taking into consideration food safety, customer eating behavior and preferences, as well as factors determining the choice of street food.

Studies of street food establishments primarily focus on food choices and the frequency of using street food [ 5 , 9 , 11 ], determine the nutritional value and risk of developing diet-related diseases [ 12 , 25 , 52 ], assess the risk of health hazards to consumers [ 15 , 16 , 19 , 24 , 34 , 35 , 44 , 48 , 49 , 50 , 51 ]. Such information rarely reaches consumers and will not influence their behavior. Therefore, it is important to consider a quick, visual assessment of food production and distribution conditions not only by sanitary services, but also by consumers.

Consumers do not exert pressure on street vendors to improve food preparation conditions [ 60 ]. Sanitary inspections are insufficient for ensuring safety. Some authors [ 58 ] suggest that consumers should be aware of the risk of consuming street food. Many Greeks and Poles have been served low-quality meals and have made complaints [ 19 ]. According to Okumus and Sonmez [ 61 ], prior to consuming food, customers should carefully observe whether food truck operators have a license, check the personnel’s hygiene (such as clean hands, clean and short nails, gloves use, covered hair, beard, mustache, and appropriate clothing: apron, uniform), check the temperature of dishes (hot food hot, cold food cold), as well as check the service area for sanitary conditions (including clean table, clean service utensils and garbage container availability). If food is not prepared according to these ‘critical control points’, consumers should avoid consumption there.

Three decades ago in Poland, people usually ate homemade meals. Currently, the lifestyle and habits of consumers have changed and influenced foodservice sector development. Among other factors, global trends such as demographic changes (growth of 1–2 members households), economic changes (average household income growth), as well as consumers’ knowledge growth (on topics: food, nutrition, health) have all contributed to changes in consumer food consumption [ 62 ]

Over the two last decades, the amount of money in Polish households allocated to catering services has increased, and the share of food spending and total expenditure doubled, despite the amount being low. The average individual Polish spend on food out of home varies between 26.2 PLN (about 8$ in 2013) to 60.20 PLN (about 16.5$ in 2015), which accounted for 8.5% of their total food budget and 1.9–3.0% (2015–2020) of the total consumption expenditures. For 27 European Union (EU) countries the average share of consumption expenditure equals 7%. The share of household expenditure devoted to catering services was the largest in Ireland (14.4%), Spain (13.0%), Malta (12.6%) and Greece (12.4%), but the lowest in Poland (only 3% in 2017). This indicates a low preference of Poles to eat away from home [ 62 , 63 , 64 , 65 ].

Therefore, our research aimed to analyze consumer attitudes toward street food (kiosks, stalls, food trucks) and eating out behavior, as well as the factors determining the choice of meals in street food outlets.

The following research questions were formulated:

  • What are the motives (factors) of consumers choosing street food outlets?
  • What consumer profiles can be identified according to the frequency of using street food outlets?
  • How do consumers evaluate street food outlets in terms of food, including food quality, service, and hygiene?

2. Materials and Methods

2.1. data collection.

We designed a questionnaire based on available questionnaires [ 66 , 67 ] and our previous research related to street food [ 3 ]. The questionnaire was assessed by determining its repeatability. The reliability of the questionnaire was validated using its internal consistency. Cronbach’s alpha test was used to measure internal consistency and reliability. Cronbach alpha coefficient was above 0.7, which indicated acceptable internal consistency. Therefore, the questionnaire and scale used is valid. A pretest of the questionnaire was performed through a pilot study ( n = 12) within the population of interest. This group was not added to the main research. All problems were identified, and the questionnaire was completed and corrected. The data were collected by the authors using the PAPI (pen-and-paper interview) method.

Inclusion criteria of respondents for main study were as follows:

  • Each respondent who agreed to participate in the survey was invited to complete the questionnaire. If necessary, explanations were provided.
  • Everyone, independent of age, using the offer of the street food did not suffer from diseases requiring a special menu offer.

The exclusion criterion of respondents was people who don’t use street food outlets. The participants in the study were a convenient sample of consumers. They were free to participate in the questionnaire.

The questionnaire consisted of two parts ( Appendix A , Table A1 ). The first part of the questionnaire included nine questions, relating to consumer behavior in various street food facilities and consumer attitudes toward food offered in those places. Consumer behavior was analyzed based on the frequency of use of street food outlets, factors influencing the use of those facilities, choice of street food products, assessment of hygienic factors in the outlets, and customers opinion of the street food. The second part of the questionnaire was related to respondent sociodemographic details: gender, age, education, dwelling place, respondents self-reported financial status.

2.2. Data Analysis

The statistical analysis of the results was performed using Statistica software (version 13.3 PL; StatSoft Inc., Krakow, Poland). The analysis of variance (ANOVA) test and multi-dimensional cluster analysis were used. Significance of differences between the values was determined at a significance level of p < 0.05.

A multi-dimensional cluster analysis calculation- was performed: hierarchical cluster analysis. The goal of our cluster analysis calculation was to build a tree diagram where the answers given by participants were most similar in a specific cluster. In order to avoid high correlated variables distortions on results, the variance inflation factor (VIF) has been calculated for the possibility of using cluster analysis. For cluster validation statistics we used internal measures for cluster validation, e.g., the matrix and Euclidean distance. The Ward method, as a hierarchical clustering method, was used to create groups, where the variance within the groups is minimized. We used the cluster analysis to determine consumer profiles based on the reasons for using and not using street food outlets and their opinions about these. In the cluster analysis of consumer opinion profiles, features such as price, service, hygiene, promotion, organization, and quality were taken into account, as well as individual component variables.

3.1. Characteristics of Respondents

The characteristics of the respondents are presented in Table 1 ; 1300 people, including 54.2% of women, took part in the study. The study included young females and men between the age range of 19 and 30 years (70.2%) with secondary (52%) and higher education (39.5%), living in cities. Participants mainly reported ‘very good’ and ‘good’ financial status (60.2%). A smaller percentage of the respondents declared their financial status as ‘not good, not bad’ (29.6%), and as ‘bad’ (10.2%). Street food was used by all respondents.

Characteristic of respondents.

3.2. Use of Street Food Outlets by Polish Consumers

Many respondents ( n = 1131, 87%) regularly used street food services. The others ( n = 169, 13%) used this form of gastronomy occasionally, e.g., at street food festivals, outdoor events, etc. A statistically significant influence of gender ( p = 0.00076), age ( p = 0.00006), education ( p = 0.0031), dwelling place ( p = 0.00016), and financial status ( p = 0.00001) on using street food outlets was found. This form of gastronomy is significantly more often used by men, people aged 19–30 years, with lower than secondary education, living in the countryside or in cities up to 250,000 of residents, and a ‘bad’ financial status.

The respondents visited street food outlets with varying frequency. This form of catering was used by a small percentage of consumers every day and four or five times a week ( n = 73, 5.6% and n = 179, 13.8%, respectively). The highest percentage of respondents visited two or three times a week ( n = 309, 23.8%) and once a week ( n = 216, 16.6%). The remaining respondents chose these facilities less frequently: once a month ( n = 182, 14%), once every 2 or 3 months ( n = 213, 16.4%) or less often ( n = 128, 9.9%). The frequency of using this form of gastronomy depended on gender ( p = 0.00011), age ( p = 0.000001), education ( p = 0.00014), dwelling place ( p = 0.00006) and financial status ( p = 0.000001). Men, and people under the age of 18 years, with the lowest education, living in the countryside or in small towns, and with a ’bad’ financial status used this form of eating outside the home significantly more often, visiting this type of facility every day or several times a week. It is probably the cheapest form of dining away for them when they are at school or at work.

The choice of street food depended on gender ( p = 0.0010), age ( p = 0.000001), education ( p = 0.000001), financial situation ( p = 0.00001), and dwelling place ( p = 0.0014).

Based on the cluster analysis, the profiles of preferences of consumers using street food were determined ( Figure 1 ). Four profiles were identified:

  • - burger-enthusiasts (I), young consumers (aged 19–30 years), mainly men, highly educated, with ‘good’ and ‘very good’ financial status (26.6%, p = 0.05) who used street food for three or four times a week;
  • - kebab-enthusiasts (II), young respondents (aged 19–30 years), mainly men (22.6%, p = 0.05), who used street food for three or four times a week;
  • - ice-cream enthusiasts (III), consumers with various sociodemographic groups (13.3%, p = 0.05), who used street food once a month;
  • - no specific-oriented consumers (IV), respondents, mainly women, secondary educated, who used street food with different frequency.

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Object name is nutrients-13-00594-g001.jpg

Consumers’ street food profile taking into consideration meals (* percentage of responses; others—Asian, Italian, Tex-Mex meals or just places with good food).

Consumers consumed burgers ( n = 346, 27%), kebabs ( n = 294, 22%) and ice cream ( n = 173, 14%) most often. Other consumer profiles were represented by small groups of respondents (between n = 39 to n = −99, between 3% to 8%).

3.3. Reasons for Using Out-of-Home Eating and Choosing Catering Establishments

Among the reasons for eating outside the home, respondents mentioned social gatherings, convenience, reluctance to prepare meals oneself, and discovering new flavors ( Table 2 ).

Reasons for using out-of-home eating.

Scale: 1—definitely do not agree, 2—moderately do not agree, 3—undecided; 4—moderately agree, 5—definitely agree; SD—standard deviation.

The respondents use various sources when choosing a catering establishment. Most often these were the opinions of friends, family ( n = 425, 32.69%), or social networking sites and internet forums ( n = 399, 30.69%). They also used websites with restaurant reviews ( n = 180, 13.85%), articles on the Internet ( n = 137, 10.54%), articles in the local press and in weeklies ( n = 47, 3.62%), blogs ( n = 72, 5.54%), and others ( n = 40, 3.08%). The following other sources were listed: TV and advertisements such as leaflets, folders, phone applications, radio, advertising on the roads, vlogs, Google Maps, and the website The choice of the source of information about catering establishments depended on gender ( p = 0.00001), age ( p = 0.000001), education ( p = 0.000001), dwelling place ( p = 0.0001), and financial situation ( p = 0.000001).

Based on the results and cluster analysis, the factors indicated by the respondents were grouped into factors that determine ( Figure 2 a) and discourage consumers ( Figure 2 b) from choosing catering establishments. Factors from both groups were divided into four clusters of factors, of which factors in groups I and II were high or medium decision power, while factors from groups III and IV had a little influence on consumer decisions. The choice of a catering establishment was determined by the following factors: I—preferences and quality, II—economic and food safety, III—socio-economic, and IV—operational. Among discouraging factors for visiting catering establishments, the following were distinguished: I—quality factor, II—economic and hygiene factors, III—location of premises factor, and IV—operational factors.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nutrients-13-00594-g002a.jpg

Factors determining ( a ) and discouraging ( b ) the selection of street food outlets (* factor importance on a 5-point scale, ** consumer % answer on the factor importance).

The most important factor determining the selection of establishments was the preferences and quality factor, which took into account the quality of services and personal preferences (score 4.2 on a 5-point scale). Similarly, the most important discouraging factor was the quality factor. It was indicated by over 65% of consumers. Other components of individual factors in both groups are presented in Figure 2 a,b. The figure also shows the results of the scoring scale calculations for determining factors and the percentage of consumer responses when disincentives are present.

The presence of the ‘preferences and quality’ factor in decisions for choosing a catering establishment is confirmed by the calculations of descriptive statistics, i.e., mean, SD, and medians. In the case of the expectation of the quality of service and the satisfaction of an individual’s own preferences (factor I, Figure 2 a), the obtained mean was the highest and the median equal to the highest value of the scale (mean = 4.20, SD = 1.09, median = 5.0; and mean = 4.19, SD = 1.13, median = 5.0, respectively).

As a discouraging factor, over 65% of consumers (SD = 4.75) have indicated ‘quality’ (factor I, Figure 2 b). The factor moderately influencing the choice of premises was the ‘economic and food safety’ factor (factor II, Figure 2 a). The mean of the components of this factor was smaller and ranged between 3.50–3.71 (median 4.0). High price, along with the lack of hygiene and the quality of service, was a factor that moderately discouraged people from visiting the premises again (mean 15.5% of responses, SD = 3.8), and is labelled ‘economic and hygiene’ (factor II, Figure 2 b).

The other factors, i.e., ‘socio-economic’ and ‘operational’ (factor III and IV, Figure 2 a), had a slight influence on consumer decisions (mean = 2.88, SD = 1.23, medians 2–3). Similarly, factors of social significance, i.e., ‘location of the outlets’ and ‘operational factors’ (factor III and IV, Figure 2 b), were not-important in decisions to re-visit the premises (mean 4.1% of responses, SD = 3.0).

3.4. Consumer Opinion about Street Food Outlets

When asked for their opinion on street food establishments, the respondents agreed that this is a new type of cuisine which is becoming more and more popular (median 4, Table 3 ). They perceive these establishments as different than fast food, but in their opinion, it is neither a healthier version of fast food, nor a cheaper offering (median 3, Table 3 ). According to them, this type of catering establishment has good hygiene and food quality similar to typical catering establishments. However, the consumer opinions presented in our study, in most of the responses was between ‘undecided’ and ‘moderately agree’. Respondents did not agree with the following statements: ‘unnecessary outlets that worsen the image of the city’; ‘facilities with a low hygiene level’ and that ‘food quality worse than in typical (non-street) catering establishments’. It should be mentioned that statements used in our questionnaire were based on the literature, consumer opinions presented on the Internet, and on preliminary research.

Consumer opinion about street food outlets.

1: definitely do not agree; 2: moderately do not agree; 3: undecided; 4: moderately agree; 5: definitely agree.

The respondents ( n = 397, 30.5%) sometimes complained about the quality of the dishes. A small group of respondents ( n = 148, 11.4%) very often reported complaints about catering services. Other respondents almost never ( n = 483, 37.2%) and never ( n = 272, 20.9%) made any complaint about the quality of the dishes. Complaint about food quality depended on the age ( p = 0.00001), education ( p = 0.000001), dwelling place ( p = 0.00181), and financial situation ( p = 0.000001) of the respondents. People aged 31–55 years, with vocational and elementary education, living in cities of up to 250,000 inhabitants, and with ’bad’ financial situations made complaints significantly more often.

Consumers’ opinion on hygiene in street food outlets was examined ( Table 4 ). The questions inquired about the necessary hygiene requirements in food production and the requirements specified in the Codex Alimentarius [ 68 ].

The opinion of consumers about the sanitary conditions of street food facilities.

* References to criteria of assessment regarding Regulation (EC) 852/2004 [ 69 ].

Although the respondents were not experienced hygiene auditors, based on their observations regarding the recently visited street food outlet, they indicated irregularities in the field of hygiene, specifically in the areas of personal hygiene of staff, hygiene conditions of food production, as well as hygiene of food production and distribution ( Table 4 ).

In the respondents’ opinion, employees of street food outlets did not protect hands from injuries (79.5% responses). They wore jewelry on their hands during work (51%), and they had no or did not change disposable gloves frequently enough (41.5%). They touched their face, hair, nose, or ears during food production (40%); had no protection from their long hair (32.2%) while working with food; had inadequate working clothes (30.5%); and the payment process was not properly separated from food production (28.7%). Based on the observations of the respondents, it can be said that the personal hygiene of street vendors was not fully compliant with hygiene standards.

The respondents noticed irregularities in the hygiene conditions of food production as follows: overflowing waste bin in the production area (86.7% responses) and the presence of employees’ personal items (phones, bags) in the production area (44.7%).

In the area of hygiene of food production and distribution processes, the respondents noticed that ready-to-eat products and wasted ones were not separately stored (79.2%), and they observed unauthorized people in the production areas (38.9%).

4. Discussion

4.1. use of street food outlets by polish consumers.

Culinary preferences and eating habits have changed over time and are inextricably linked with human history. However, globalization is accelerating the pace of these changes more than in previous centuries. Economic progress, development of food techniques, and technology have brought many benefits, among them the speed of work and rest as well as the speed and convenience of obtaining and preparing a meal. On the other hand, living in a hurry, eating ‘ad hoc’ food or fast food, often non-compliant with the nutritionists’ recommendations, and diet-related diseases are a consequence of cultural change. Changes in eating habits occur not only between generations, but also among those who change their current model of nutrition to a new one in a relatively short time. The main causes of change in dietary preferences are factors such as migration, new ways of processing and storing food, international trade development, increases in levels of wealth, changes in family functioning, an increase in environmental awareness, fashion, etc. [ 8 ].

Globalization causes the culinary traditions to be transferred from one place (region, country) to another. However, it can be a kind of threat, leading to the universalization of eating habits and the disappearance of local culinary traditions [ 70 ]. Poland is such a case, where the habits of eating typical Polish homemade dishes are replaced by gastronomy meals, which are very often eaten in fast-food establishments.

The interest in, and increased use of, catering services in Poland is due not only to having insufficient time to prepare meals, but also individuals lacking skills to prepare them, greater women’s involvement in professional work and returning home late with too many professional duties outside the home, an increase of 1–2 person households, as well as the increased income of Poles [ 71 ].

Catering establishments take advantage of consumers’ interest in eating out and adjust their offerings to various social groups and their expectations and financial capacity. The constant rush and lack of time to eat and prepare a meal, as well as the relatively high cost of meals in traditional gastronomy, are the factors contributing to street gastronomy gaining popularity in Poland. Because it is mobile, it can reach consumers directly and offer simple dishes close to workplaces, tourist attractions, and other frequently visited places. All respondents participating in our research used street food services, 87% of which did so regularly.

This is a result of the growing popularity of street food not only in Poland but all over Europe [ 3 ]. In Poland, the growth of street food outlets is fostered by various types of outdoor, tourist and cultural and entertainment events, as well as sports and recreation events, which attract customers and usually take place in places without permanent catering establishments [ 8 , 72 , 73 , 74 , 75 , 76 , 77 ].

In the group of consumers assessed, the choice of burgers and kebabs dominated, having become very popular. This is one example of the transfer of eating habits from one culture to another. In Poland, street food, especially offered in food trucks, plays an important role in promoting the cuisine of other countries, often for exotic-craving Poles. The average Polish consumer, when dealing with street food dishes, has the opportunity to learn new tastes, which may have an impact on changing current culinary preferences.

Owners of street food outlets develop their own gastronomic activity based on their impression of and fascination with other cultures and cuisines. For example, ‘Carnitas Food Truck’ (in Warsaw) specializes in street food typical for Mexican cuisine such as tacos, burritos with salsas chili habanero, chipotle, and guacamole. The food truck ‘La Chica Sandwicheria’ (in Warsaw) specializes in food typical of Cuban cuisine. Sometimes globalization of cuisine is seen in examples such as the food truck ‘Pepe Crepe’ (in Warsaw) that offered Japanese-style crepes that are not traditional but contemporary, globalized versions of crepes. Street food is offered at many culinary festivals in Poland, such as Slow Weekend and Asian Street Food Fest [ 8 ]. As research [ 8 ] indicates, the majority of people visiting street food festivals are people aged 20–30, sometimes with small children.

Respondents used street food usually two or three times a week and once a week. Our results are similar to the results of Kowalczuk [ 78 ], who has shown in her research that an average Pole ( n = 1013) visits foodservice outlets once a month, with the individuals being slightly more often men and far more often young people, and those with middle and higher income. People with secondary and higher education benefit more commonly from food services, including school and university students and white-collar workers, who live in large cities. It should be mentioned that participants in our study were mainly people under 30 years of age (about 85%), with secondary and higher education (91.5%), and who lived in a big city (about 70%).

Based on the analysis of clusters due to the choice of menu, preferences of street food consumers were identified in our study. They are: ‘burger-enthusiasts’, ‘kebab-enthusiasts’, ‘ice-cream enthusiasts’, and ‘non-specified-oriented consumers’. Levytska and Kwiatkowska [ 79 ] have indicated that Polish consumers are changing preferences for foodservice outlets (from fast-food outlets to casual dining restaurants and quick service restaurants—QSR), and change preferences for menu offerings. According to those authors, Poles have begun to choose foods with reduced energy value (light), foods with a modified composition of nutrients and functional foods (with proven, beneficial effects on health), organic food, and conventionally produced food. But as stated in our study, consumers of street food preferred fast food products like burgers, kebabs, ice-creams, and occasionally other food like Asian, Italian, and Tex-Mex cuisines. Very similar results were obtained by Kolanowski et al. [ 19 ] among Polish and Greek consumers. Greeks preferred pizza and creperies while Poles preferred pizza and kebab. This is in line with the characteristics presented by Kowalczuk [ 78 ], who divided modern Polish consumers into three groups by interests: ‘health and safety’, ‘convenience’, ‘pleasure and experience-seeking’. Polish and Italian cuisines are types of cuisine and dishes that Polish consumers preferred. Younger respondents are also open to dishes from other countries (Chinese, Greek, Turkish, Japanese). Meat dishes and hot snacks like burgers and kebabs are the most preferred, cold snacks and vegetarian dishes are the least popular [ 62 , 74 , 75 , 76 ].

4.2. Reasons for Using Out-of-Home Eating and Choosing Catering Establishments

Street food consumers mentioned the following main reasons for eating outside the home: getting to know new tastes, socializing, convenience and lack of time, celebrating special occasions, and reluctance to prepare dishes on their own. Other authors have also pointed out reasons such as convenience and saving time [ 62 ].

The main reasons for consumers using catering outlets are the taste of dishes, reasonable prices, convenience, and saving time, while the main barrier is a lack of money. Consumers tend to spend more money in catering outlets per month than in the past [ 62 ], and the amount largely depends on the income level, but also age, education, and place of residence. The reason for the occasional use of catering services is also based on the common Polish belief that home-cooked meals are healthier.

Polish respondents use a variety of sources when choosing a catering establishment, including street food outlets. Most often these are the opinions of friends and family, social networks and Internet forums, websites with restaurant reviews, articles on the Internet and articles in the press, blogs, and others. This is a typical behavior in the era of globalization. It has been observed that the following mass media sources play an important role in promoting catering services and influencing culinary tastes in Poland: daily press, weeklies and monthly magazines, television (travel programs available in Poland: ‘Travel Channel’, ‘National Geographic Channel’, ‘Planete+’), and especially the Internet (social networks, blogs, etc.) [ 8 ]. According to market reports [ 76 , 80 ] the main sources of information about food services are friends and family, while half of the respondents have also pointed to the Internet, including social media.

Among the factors in our study determining the selection of catering establishments, the most important role was played by ‘preferences and quality’ and ‘economic and food safety’. The most important discouraging factors were ‘quality’ and ‘economic and hygiene factors’.

According to market reports [ 76 , 81 ], respondents considered unpalatable food as the most discouraging factor from visiting establishments again. Another reason was the lack of hygiene in the outlets. Other disincentives were shown by Kolanowski et al. [ 19 ] and differed depending on the country of the study, i.e., in Poland, it was a strange taste of dishes, poor services, and lack of hygiene, and in Greece, lack of cleanliness and price. The results of our research confirm previous research and allow us to conclude that consumers are paying more attention to the quality of prepared meals and the hygienic condition of catering establishments.

4.3. Consumer Opinion about Street Food Outlets

The form of street food in Poland is typical in developed countries [ 82 ]. Despite the fact that results of various studies [ 73 , 74 , 75 , 76 , 77 ] have indicated that Polish consumers prefer typically Polish dishes, in our study in street food outlets, they mainly order burgers and kebabs, which are classified as fast food, as well as ice cream as a dessert. It should be emphasized, however, that the products offered are often original dishes, prepared according to proprietary recipes by the owners or employees of the street food outlets. These are high-energy products and are not recommended by dietitians. The Makro Cash and Carry market report [ 75 ] shows that the most popular dishes among Polish street food offerings are kebabs (50%, n = 1000), pancakes (32%), casseroles with bread (31%), burgers (30%, n = 1000), and Belgian fries (11%, n = 1000).

Various authors have tried to characterize the most popular dishes found in mobile gastronomy in developing countries [ 83 ] and found them to be typical, local, and very diverse dishes, derived from the regions in which they are sold. Other authors [ 84 , 85 ] have described the most popular meals sold by street food vendors in Europe. They identified pancakes in France and Italy, sausage and yeast dough in the Czech Republic, and chicken dishes, pancakes with meat, and quail eggs in Spain.

These results are similar to those of other authors. Different studies state that street food meals are characterized by low nutritional value and contain large amounts of carbohydrates and fats, especially saturated fats [ 86 ], and street sweets and sweet beverages are products with a high levels of ingredients like sugar, saturated fat, trans-fatty acids, and salt [ 83 , 87 , 88 ].

Moreover, many studies [ 83 , 89 , 90 , 91 , 92 ] have shown that despite good nutritional behavior, consumers using street food services had lower dietary diversity than consumers using fast food. In studies by Buscemi et al. [ 37 ] conducted in Palermo (Italy), it was found that people who use street food more often have a significantly higher body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, cholesterol level, and serum uric acid levels than consumers who use this type of gastronomy less frequently.

According to Nonato et al. [ 86 ], street food gastronomy can be a source of food safety problems, contributing to the development of food-borne diseases and chronic diet-related diseases, especially among consumers who frequently use street food services. However, according to Kolanowski et al. [ 19 ], it may be a source of physical hazard, like other food products [ 93 ].

Most respondents have a positive opinion of street food outlets. Consumers do not consider them to be a cheap way of eating meals and do not agree with the statement that these are premises with a low level of hygiene. They believe that such meals are as safe as those offered in stationary premises.

Although the greatest problems and the greatest negligence related to ensuring food safety occur in developing countries, this does not mean that in Europe and the U.S. [ 31 , 32 , 38 , 39 , 94 ] that the handling of food is flawlessly safe. In a study by Trafialek et al. [ 38 ], attention was drawn to the fact that establishments specializing in street food gastronomy do not have clean running water, have limited space for proper food storage, have employees who mishandle waste generated during technological processes, and lack proper staff hygiene.

In street food outlets, meals are prepared in the presence of consumers. It is worth disseminating the results of similar studies among a wide audience to increase food safety awareness among consumers. Consumers are able to enforce proper food safety and should react to non-compliance with hygiene rules. The situation reported in Ghana is not recommended [ 95 ]. Despite knowing the health risks of eating contaminated street food, local consumers eagerly used food street services and did not expect an improvement in food hygiene production.


This study has some limitations in terms of both its methodology and its applicability. The sample selected for the study consisted mainly of young adults between 19 and 30 years; therefore, caution should be exercised in attempting to generalize the results to an entire population. In addition, the study was conducted only in large cities in Poland. Consumers’ perceptions and behavior may be different in other places. Another limitation is that the consumers of street food were from only one country. Despite the limitations, the results obtained are of practical importance, especially for food safety authorities and street food vendors and owners.

5. Conclusions

The forms of street food in Poland are forms typical in other developed countries, as evidenced by the identified consumer profiles. About half of the respondents were ‘kebab- and burger-enthusiasts’. Similar factors affect the behavior of Polish consumers regarding the choice of street food outlets and the lack of willingness to re-use this form of meal outside the home. Consumers’ preferences, pro-quality factors, such as quality of services, quality of meals, hygiene, and food safety, and economic factors, such as the price of a meal, are of primary importance.

The opinion of the surveyed consumers about food street outlets was not always positive. Consumers commented on many aspects of sanitary conditions of street food facilities, such as personal hygiene, hygiene conditions of food production, as well as hygiene of food production and distribution. For these reasons, the presented research is of practical importance for managers of these facilities and official quality control.

The results of the study can also be helpful for street food entrepreneurs because of the indicated identified promotion channels. It has been shown that the Internet is an important source of information on catering establishments, and social networking sites play a large role in consumer traffic and can be used for promotional purposes, practically without generating costs.

The quality of dishes, the quality of service, and hygiene are the factors that make consumers use a catering establishment. Constantly increasing consumer awareness in terms of proper nutrition and proper hygiene of food production may contribute to the improvement of quality in street food outlets.

Good sources that can encourage hygienic awareness by consumers come primarily from mass media, including the Internet and the website of sanitary inspections. Consumers should be made aware that proper food quality is both an appropriate nutritional value related to good manufacturing practice (GMP) and a result of food safety related to good hygiene practice (GHP). Consumer knowledge regarding what they should take into consideration when buying street food can be more effective than control and can better counteract improper hygiene practices of vendors.

The solution could be to create a street food digital application in which consumers could find information about street food and its nutritional value, but also could share their opinions on offerings, including their quality and observed production hygiene.

The questionnaire used in the study.

Author Contributions

M.W.—conceptualization, methodology, validation, investigation, writing—original draft preparation; E.C.-S.—conceptualization, methodology, validation, investigation, writing—original draft preparation, supervision, and writing—review and editing; E.C.-S.—investigation; J.T.—data curation, writing—original draft preparation. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

This research was financed by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education within funds of Institute of Human Nutrition Sciences, Warsaw University of Life Sciences (WULS) for scientific research.

Institutional Review Board Statement

The study protocol was registered and approved by the Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Human Nutrition and Consumer Sciences, Warsaw University of Life Sciences—SGGW (Warsaw, Poland) on 31 August 2020 (Resolution No. 35/2020).

Informed Consent Statement

All participants signed the informed consent form before the data collection.

Data Availability Statement

Conflicts of interest.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

  • Research article
  • Open access
  • Published: 16 August 2019

Food safety knowledge, attitudes, and behavior of street food vendors and consumers in Handan, a third tier city in China

  • Lihua Ma 1 , 2 ,
  • Hong Chen   ORCID: 2 ,
  • Huizhe Yan 1 ,
  • Lifeng Wu 1 &
  • Wenbin Zhang 1  

BMC Public Health volume  19 , Article number:  1128 ( 2019 ) Cite this article

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Food safety has long been the subject of scholarly research, and street food is a weak link in food safety supervision. Street food not only provides convenience for many people, but is also the livelihood for millions of low income people, making a great contribution to the economy of many developing countries.

Street food safety is essential, and yet it has been rarely studied in China. Therefore, a typical city in China was selected as the research object to assess food safety knowledge, attitudes, and street food suppliers and consumer behaviors using questionnaires based on previous studies, and considering China’s particular characteristics and reasonable impacts identified in previous studies, such as increased income, work experience, licenses, and locations. The food safety knowledge and attitude questionnaire conformed with the national conditions in China. It was used to assess the food safety knowledge and attitudes toward food suppliers and consumers, where three main areas were addressed in the surveys and statistical analysis, as follows. (1) Statistical information including gender, age, education, income, food safety training, and specific elements related to the work experience of suppliers. (2) Knowledge of food safety including the awareness of consumers and suppliers regarding food poisoning pathogens, food and personal hygiene, high-risk groups, and correct cleaning. (3) A list of food handling behaviors was used to determine the behaviors and characteristics of subjects.

The results show that street food suppliers have generally poor food handling practices, and most are operating under unsanitary conditions. Food safety knowledge of street vendors in the High-tech Industries Development Zone was the lowest, most likely because these regions are located in rural-urban fringe zones, where education levels are generally relatively low. Food safety attitudes of the youngest consumers were significantly better than those of older age groups. Their educational level was also different, with correspondingly relatively high income for younger individuals. Most vendors chose locations near schools or supermarkets. Consumers and street food vendors had good understanding of food safety, but street vendors were relatively poor in carrying out safe food handling, with only 26.7% using or being fully equipped withhand-washing facilities, although more than 60% of vendors wore clean and tidy clothes and masks.


Street food vendor training should be prioritized to improve the safety of street food. Other policies and measures should also be propagated to improve the food safety knowledge, attitudes, and behavior of vendors in Handan. Steps should be taken to improve street food stall operating conditions and facilities, including providing clean protected structures, access to potable water, and efficient waste collection and disposal systems. These findings should encourage government agencies to further promote strategies to improve street food safety.

Peer Review reports

Food safety has been the subject of research [ 1 ], and some have promoted it to the level of a national security issue [ 2 ]. Street food is a weak link in food safety supervision [ 3 ]. Street food is defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as “ready-to-eat foods and beverages sold and prepared by vendors or hawkers in streets or other public places” [ 4 ]. Street food provides a convenient diet for many people in developing countries [ 5 , 6 ], and approximately 2.5 billion people eat street food every day, with the consumption supporting the livelihood of millions of low income people and contributing greatly to the economy [ 7 ].

Street food safety remains a major concern in developing countries, including China [ 8 ]. China’s food culture has a long history of street food. Most cities provide street food for locals and tourists, and street food has become part of the characteristic Chinese culture. Therefore, street food safety has become a matter of safety concern, and has been shown to be served in poor food handling and unsanitary conditions [ 9 ]. Most street food vendors are relatively uneducated and often uninformed, and have little effective regulatory or supervisory oversight [ 10 ]. In some developing countries [ 11 ], street food has been associated with outbreaks of foodborne diseases [ 12 ]. High levels of coliform bacteria have been found in street food in several countries [ 13 ], and street food has been identified as a common medium for transmission of antimicrobial-resistant pathogens [ 14 ].

There is an urgent need for research on street food safety and particularly in China, which appears to have rarely been the focus of previous research in this field. Therefore, a typical Chinese city was selected, and a suitable questionnaire was devised to assess food safety knowledge, attitudes, and street food vendor and consumer behaviors, considering China’s particular characteristics, and previously identified impacts, such as increased income, work experience, licenses, locations, etc. [ 9 , 15 ]. The results showed that there is cause for significant concern for street food safety, and the development of improved and more effective strategies are needed.

Handan is a typical third-tier city in China, and the regional central city for a key construction area, which therefore is suitable for research on safety food [ 16 , 17 , 18 ]. Food safety qualification rates in the city are not stable and food safety is a major public health problem in this area. Therefore, the current study investigated food safety knowledge and attitudes of vendors and consumers of street food in Handan city from June to August 2016. The study included four districts: Hanshan (HS), Congtai (CT), Fuxing (FX), and High-tech Industries Development Zone (HIDZ), and included 100 street vendors, 240 consumers, and 90 street vending stalls (See Additional files 1 , 2 , 3 for details). The number of street vendors and consumers were evenly distributed between the four districts. Structured written questionnaires were used to assess food safety knowledge and attitudes of consumers and vendors, and a checklist was used to evaluate street vendor food handling behaviors.

In China, it is unnecessary to receive written consent of participants for structured written questionnaires. The Ethics Statement included in the questionnaire instructions clearly stated that only respondents who agreed to the instructions participated in the survey. All of the participants read and approved the statement before they participated in the survey. In order to dispel any misgivings related to the ethics statement, we also clearly explained the purpose of the study and included an academic use only statement at the beginning of the questionnaire before it was issued. This statement read as follows:

“Please think seriously about whether to participate in this survey! If you are in agreement, we will assume that you agree to our using the information provided.”

We employed a questionnaire, online survey, and mailing methods. The consenting participants completed the survey and the identities of all the subjects were kept strictly confidential.

Food safety knowledge and attitudes questionnaire

Tables  5 , 6 and 7 show the questionnaire details, which were designed on the basis of previous studies to assess food safety knowledge and attitudes towards food suppliers and consumers [ 15 ]. This was the first time such a questionnaire had been translated into Chinese for use in China, and some items were partially modified. Prior to applying the questionnaire for the study, it was assessed by 100 people to ensure rationality of the design, and various changes and improvements were made before adoption of the final version. The data provided by the top 100 respondents were used to revise the questionnaire. The data analyzed in the manuscript did not include those from these 100 respondents. The data analysis presented in the manuscript was based on the final revised questionnaire, including the responses from 100 street vendors, 240 consumers, and 90 street vending stalls. The questionnaire was organized into three main sections as follows:

Demographic information. This section gathered details regarding sex, age, educational level, income, and training in food safety, with a specific element relating to work experience for vendors.

Food safety knowledge. This section assessed consumer and vendor awareness of food poisoning pathogens, food and personal hygiene, high risk groups, proper cleaning, etc. There were 18 questions with three possible answers: “yes”, “no” and “do not know”. Each “yes” answer was awarded one point, with the other two answers awarded 0 points. Hence, a maximum of 18 questions could be attained in this section. Each question had a maximum of 100 points, where a score of less than 50 was considered to indicate a low level of food safety knowledge, 50–75 denoted a satisfactory level, and better than 75 was considered good. - Food safety attitudes. This section assessed food safety attitudes, including food specification, food placement, and personal hygiene issues. There were 16 questions with three possible answers: “yes”, “no”, or “do not know”, with one point awarded for “yes” and 0 points for both other answers.

To ensure appropriate consumers and street vendors were included in the survey, researchers focused on schools, markets, parks, residential communities, and people-intensive streets in the four districts. All respondents participated voluntarily, were over 15 years of age, and were selected randomly. After interviewing 100 respondents, the questionnaire was revised and the new edition used to interview a further 340 respondents for final analyses, including 100 street vendors and 240 consumers.

Food handling behavior checklist

In addition to questioning the respondents, researchers observed the various food stalls in operation, and completed a checklist detailing food handling behaviors and characteristics. The checklist details are shown in Table  8 , and covered six sections:

Food stall details,

Environment around the stall,

Personal hygiene,

Food storage facilities at the stall,

Utensil maintenance, and

Statistical analysis

The data obtained from the questionnaires and observation checklists were analyzed using SPSS version 21.0, and then exported to Microsoft Excel to calculate the various scores. We used the following analysis categories:

Age groups were18–25, 26–35, 36–45, 46–55, 56–60 and > 60 years;

Scores were aggregated into ranges of < 50, 50–75, and > 75 points;

Consumer income cut-offs were grouped at 2000, 4000, 6000, and 8000 Yuan/month; and vendor work experience was 1, 3, 5, and 8 years.

Descriptive analyses used mean, standard deviation, maxima, and minima for each age category. Scores were assessed according to age, education, location, income or work experience, sex, and food safety training. The two-sample t -test was used to compare data sets in terms of sex and training status. Comparisons of more than two groups were conducted by fixed effects analysis of variance. Data and residual normality were first tested using quantile–quantile plots or the Kolmogorov–Smirnov test, and variance equality was checked using the modified Levene test. Non-normally distributed data sets and those with sample size less than 30 were analyzed using the non-parametric Wilcoxon rank sum test for two category cases, i.e., sex (male or female), food safety training status (trained or untrained) etc., and the Kruskal-Wallis rank sum test was used when there were more than two categories, i.e., age groups, income level, work experience, location (district), and educational level. Statistically significant differences were based on 95% confidence limits, i.e., α = 0.05 or p  < 0.05.

Demographic characteristics of consumers and street food vendors in Handan

Table  1 summarize demographic characteristics of the 340 respondents (240 consumers and 100 vendors). Consumer age ranged from 18 to 72 years (mean = 30.95 ± 11.3 years, with 90% between 18 and 45 years of age, and almost half (44.6%) were 18–25 years of age; whereas vendor age was somewhat more restricted: 20–55 years of age, mean = 34.4 ± 8.2 years. Consumer education level showed 78.8% had attained high school, university, or postgraduate level education, but almost half (48.3%) have no food safety training. In contrast, 68% of vendors had achieved lower (illiterate, or primary or middle school level), 25% high school, and 6% university or postgraduate education levels. The majority of vendors (70%) had not received any food safety training. Consumer income showed 70% earned less than 4000 Yuan/month. Vendor work experience was 0.5–18 years with the mean = 3.8 ± 2.5 years.

Food safety knowledge of street food consumers and vendors

Table  2 shows food safety knowledge of street food consumers in Handan. Consumers from the four districts averaged 61 points for food safety knowledge, which was appropriate. However, many consumers (20%, 48) had poor food safety knowledge (score <  50). There was no significant difference in food safety knowledge with regards to sex ( p  = 0.322), educational level ( p  = 0.621), or monthly income ( p  = 0.540).

Generally, younger consumers had higher levels of food safety knowledge, whereas older subjects had less knowledge, where the consumers aged 26–35 years had the highest level of knowledge and those aged 56–60 years had the lowest. However, there were significant differences between those in the groups aged 18–25 and 46–55 years ( p  = 0.045), 26–35 and 46–55 years ( p  = 0.005), and 26–35 and 56–60 years ( p  = 0.028).

Mean consumer education = 66 points, and mean food training = 56points.Thus, consumers need to continue to improve their food safety knowledge.

Table  3 shows vendor food safety knowledge in Handan. Mean vendor food safety score = 58 points, which was lower than that of consumers (Table  3 ). In particular, more than half (54%, 54) had mean scores of 50–75, which was significantly lower than consumers (62.5%), and reflected insufficient street vendor training on food safety, and supervision was not in place. Vendor food safety knowledge was significantly different for age ( p  = 0.001) and sex ( p  = 0.01), and university educated vendors had higher food safety knowledge (69 ± 11). There were no significant differences between vendors who had received food safety training (60 ± 16) and those who had not (56 ± 16) ( p  = 0.287). Generally higher education level implied higher food safety knowledge. Thus, a poor level of education associated with food handling and storage practices may increase the risk of street food contamination [ 19 , 20 ].

Work experience and level of knowledge of food safety were not significantly different ( p  = 0.451), but food safety knowledge was significantly lower in HIDZ district (53 ± 14) than other regions ( p  = 0.025). This area was generally associated with people with lower incomes and lower educational levels (Table  1 ).

Table  4 show the responses of the consumers and vendors to the food safety knowledge questions, respectively, thereby providing greater insights into those with the highest and lowest levels of food safety knowledge. Some important issues regarding specific questions are highlighted below.

Question (Q)1: Although more than 60% of consumers (60.8%) and vendors (65%) knew abortion in pregnant women could be induced by food-borne diseases, many consumers either believed otherwise or did not know (2.5 and 36.7%, respectively), whereas 31 and 4% of vendors either believed otherwise or did not know, respectively.

Q2: Only 45.8% of consumers knew that bloody diarrhea can be transmitted by food.

Q3: There was generally good understanding that swollen cans can contain microorganisms for both consumers (74.6%) and vendors (78%).

Q4: There was generally good understanding that it was necessary to take leave from work during infectious disease of the skin for both consumers (82.5%) and vendors (74%).

Q5: Most of the consumers (78.8%) were aware that eating and drinking in the work place increases the risk of food contamination, but the vendors (57%) were significantly less aware of this problem.

Q6, Q8, Q9: Less than half the consumers knew that hepatitis A (42.9%), Salmonella (49.6%), and Staphylococcus (46.3%) were pathogens responsible for food-borne diseases, but this was even less well known amongst vendors (43, 38, and 35%, respectively).

Q7: The vast majority of consumers (77.5%) and vendors (62%) knew that microbes were in the skin, nose, and mouth of healthy food handlers.

Q10: Many consumers (70.4%) and vendors (56%) wrongly believe that Influenza can be transmitted by food.

Q11, Q12: Almost all consumers (75 and 88.3%, respectively) and vendors (81 and 77%, respectively) knew that washing their hands and using gloves lowered the risk of food contamination.

Q12: Consumers (88.3%) and vendors (77%) have good understanding of reducing contamination risk by hand washing before work.

Q13: Many consumers (47.1%) and vendors (32%) wrongly believe that AIDS can be transmitted by food.

Q16: Almost all consumers (87.5%) and street vendors (79%) knew that proper cleaning and disinfection of food utensils reduced the risk of contamination.

Q17: Less than half of consumers (41.7%) and vendors (48%) believe that reheating cooked foods contributed to food contamination.

Consumer and street vendor food safety attitudes

Table  5 shows consumer attitudes toward food safety. Consumers also had an adequate understanding of food safety (mean = 74.2%), where 83.3% had scores > 50 points and 20.4% had scores > 75 points.

Table  5 shows that increased education level significantly increased the proportion of consumers with score > 50 points.

Regarding income, we can see that an income of 4001 to 6000 Yuan for the consumer showed the highest was 68 ± 15 on food safety and safety attitude.

Tables  7 show customer and vendor attitudes towards food safety, respectively. Some important issues regarding specific questions are highlighted below.

Q3: More than 3/4 of customers and vendors (87.5 and 83%, respectively) believe that the temperature of the refrigerator/freezer should be regularly checked to reduce the risk of food contamination.

Q4: Consumers (85.5%) and vendors (78%) agree that worker health should be assessed before commencing work.

Q6, Q7, Q8: Only half of those questioned (51.3%) were able to identify wearing masks as an important practice for reducing contamination. However, wearing masks or wearing gloves or a hat were considered important measures to reduce the risk of food contamination, by consumers and suppliers and therefore regarded as important in food safety (64.2 and 63%, respectively).

Q15: Only 1/3 of consumers and vendors thought thawed food should not be refrozen and that raw meat should be stored on the bottom shelf in the refrigerator.

Vendor food safety behavior

Almost half of the food stalls were open (46.7%), with 23.3 and 13.3% being covered or half covered, respectively. The environmental indicators around the booth were also observed.

Vendors generally did not wear jewelry while handling food (66.7%), smoke while handling food (70%), or re-use utensils without cleaning them to prepare food (57.8%). However, barely half stored raw and cooked or partially cooked food in sealed and separated containers, and they were generally poor at cleaning their utensils with only 1/3 using soapy water. More than 60% of the observed vendors had no operating or health permits or health certificates.

The findings show that consumers have appropriate levels of food safety knowledge and attitudes, whereas vendor knowledge is poor, which is also reflected in their largely inadequate facilities and unhygienic behavior while selling foods. Most consumers (78.8%) were educated to at least high school, whereas most of vendors had significantly lower education levels and had no formal food safety training. This would greatly contribute to vendor’s poor food safety knowledge levels, attitudes and unhygienic behavior.

Of particular concern, more than half the vendors (53.3%) did not wash their hands before handling, preparing, or serving foods, and 72.2% used bare hands during cooking. More than half (53.3%) the observed stalls did not have direct access to potable water and 73.3% operated without adequate hand washing facilities.

The number of male and female respondents in the street food consumer survey is 127 (52.9%) and 113 (47.1%), respectively. Compared with 72 (60%) and 48 (40%) in Literature 9 and 60 (37.5%) and 100 (62.5%) in Literature 15, this survey covers a larger number of respondents with relatively balanced ratio of males and females, which can better ensure its objectivity and rationality. In the meantime, for the item “Food safety training” in Tables  1 , 51.7% of the respondents answer that they have received food safety training before, which is in sharp contrast with the 24.2 and 11.3% respectively in Literature 9 and 15, indicating that consumers have been paying more and more attention to food safety with the rapid development of China’s economy and increasing life quality standards of people in recent years.

As can be seen from Table  1 , although the gender of consumers were relatively uniform (female 47.1%, male 52.9%), vendors were predominantly female (female 66%, male 34%), which is similar to previous developing country surveys, e.g. Literature 9 and 15. In literature 9 and 15, female vendors accounted for 72.5% (29/40) and 88.7% (71/80), indicating that males are less competitive in food processing than females. This is maybe because the female vendors are more reliable, safer, cleaner, friendlier and more patient for food consumers. However, it also can be seen in Table  1 that 30% of the respondents’ answer goes to “yes” to the item “Food safety training”. It can be found that food vendors are less recognized by consumers in this respect, but the ratio is still larger than the 5 and 21.3% respectively in Literature 9 and 15, which shall be focused by the relevant authorities.

Traditionally, females are more commonly responsible for housework in China. However, with societal changes, more females now work outside the home. The higher proportion of female vendors (66%) may be advantageous, since female street food vendors tend to provide higher quality nutrition than male counterparts [ 21 ]. A US study showed that female vendors tended to prepare safer food [ 22 ], and the vendors interviewed in that study were educated to at least high school level.

In Tables  4 , 42.9% of the respondents’ answer goes to “Yes” to Q6, and 50.8% answer “Do not know”, indicating that people are lack of understanding of Hepatitis A virus and its harm extent. In fact, the heating sterilization for the food and the utensils to place food is an important way to effectively restrict the spread of Hepatitis A virus. In Literature 15, 84.4% of the respondents’ answer goes to “Do not know”, while 60% give the same answer in Literature 9. It can be concluded that consumers need to improve the relevant knowledge.

In Table  4 , it is also found in the food vendors survey that 54% of them have little understanding of Hepatitis A virus, while the ratio is up to 72.5 and 98.7% respectively in Literature 9 and 15. As food safety guarantors, the attention paid by food vendors to food safety is far from enough, which requires the relevant government departments to strengthen the training for and knowledge dissemination to the food vendors. These results highlight that street food vendor training should be prioritized to improve street food safety.

Table  5 shows consumer attitudes toward food safety. The mean score = 61 ± 15, indicating that consumers have a good understanding of food safety, which is consistent with previous studies, such as one in Haiti [ 15 ].

The food safety attitudes of younger consumers (26–35 years, mean = 68 ± 15 years) were significantly higher than those of the members of the other age groups, which was consistent with the results obtained in previous studies [ 23 ]. In general, the younger consumers were better educated than the older consumers and were more receptive to new media, such as mobile phones, computers, and network communication training.

Regarding income, we can see that an income of 4001 to 6000 Yuan for the consumer showed the highest was 68 ± 15 on food safety and safety attitude, which is consistent with the education level and with previous studies. The different districts all had mean scores over 60 points, which supports the coordinated development of Handan city in the process of urban development.

Table  6 shows vendor food processing attitudes. Vendor food safety attitudes were superior to that of consumers. Vendor mean = 62 ± 16, indicating that vendors had a generally good understanding, with only 10% scoring < 50. China has been working on improving food safety, particularly with respect to stricter management, control, and supervision of vendors and producers [ 24 ].

In Table  7 , 28.3% of the respondents’ answer goes to “Yes” for Q16, 38.3% answer “No”, and 33.4% answer “Do not know”, revealing that consumers are not sure whether the eggs they bought shall be washed immediately. In fact, washing eggs is not correct. Eggs, especially the shells of fresh eggs, have a layer of powdery gelatinous substances. The main function of these substances is to prevent bacteria from invading the inside of the eggs. Meanwhile, it also prevents the water in the eggs from evaporating and protects the egg whites and egg yolks. If we wash away these gelatinous substances, the eggs will become easily deteriorated and difficult to preserve. Therefore, do not use water to clean the eggs after they are bought. If you think that there are too many dirty things in the egg shell, you can wipe them off with a dry rag.

Table  8 shows observed street food facility characteristics and vendor food handling behaviors. Almost 1/3 of the vendors were near schools, and 22.2% near malls, which seems sensible, since these locations will have the largest personnel flow (e.g. Hebei University of Engineering has almost 30,000 students and teachers), consistent with a previous study [ 17 ].

Almost half of the street vendors (48.9%) chose stainless steel cooking materials, believing that stainless steel was safer and healthier than other options. This practice has improved and promoted food safety and health in China. However, 24.4% of vendors used iron dishes, which are unsafe because iron easily rusts, and iron rust is poisonous.

The environment around most of the stalls (67.8%) was clean, but only 26.7% of vendors had sufficient hand washing equipment, although 75% of the vendors were aware of the surrounding environment, principles, garbage, waste water, animals, toilets, and drains. There were no flies and vendors could see if sanitation was poor, and that without adequate washing facilities around the vendors, consumers could acquire the spread of diseases by hands.

Before each operation, the food preparer must wash their hands with clean water; however, more than half of the operators washed after going to the toilet. There were more than 60% vendors wearing clean clothing and masks and aprons.

According to the above discussion, we can see that the food safety supervision departments can clearly obtain the degree of importance attached by people to food safety and the risk links from this survey. This survey not only improves the food safety knowledge of consumers and food vendors, but also provides decision-making basis for the food safety supervision departments to develop relevant policies and organize food safety training.

The main purpose of this study was to assess food safety knowledge and attitudes of street food consumers and vendors, and food handling behavior of food vendors in Handan, China. To our knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate and report these important aspects of street food safety in China.

China’s food hygiene law was introduced in 1995, and the food safety law in 2009, with stricter food safety terms and further conditions adopted in 2015. Most of the aforementioned concerns, and others discussed in this paper, are addressed in these regulations. However, the current study shows this has not yet transformed food handler knowledge, attitudes, and behavior. This could be a consequence of their relatively poor education levels, which could exclude them from certain communication channels used by the CFDA (China Food Drug Administration).

Specific recommendations from this study are as follows:

Street food vendor training should be prioritized to improve the safety of street food.

Other policies and measures should also be promulgated to improve the food safety knowledge, attitudes, and behavior of vendors in Handan.

Steps should be taken to improve street food stall operating conditions and facilities, e.g., providing clean protected structures, access to potable water, and efficient waste collection and disposal systems.

Handan, the city surveyed in this paper, is a typical third-tier city with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of about RMB 300 billion and a population of over 1 million, which is one of the 70 cities with similar scale in China. This research can help CFDA in similar cities become more scientific in the formulation of policies with regard to food hygiene.

Availability of data and materials

The datasets used and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


China Food and Drug Administration

Food and Agriculture Organization

Gross Domestic Product

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We thank BMC Public Health for reviewing the manuscript. We thank International Science Editing ( ) for editing this manuscript.

This work was supported by the Major project of National Social Science Funding of China, grant number [16ZDA056], the Think Tank of Green Safety Management and Policy Science (2018 “Double First-Class” Initiative Project for Cultural Evolution and Creation of CUMT), grant number [2018WHCC03], the National Natural Science Funding of China, grant number [71473248, 71673271, 71473247, 71273258, and71871084], Jiangsu Philosophy and Social Sciences Excellent Innovation Cultivation Team, grant number [2017ZSTD031], 333 High-level Talents Project of Jiangsu Province, grant number [2016], “13th Five Year” Brand Discipline Construction Funding Project of China University of Mining and Technology, grant number [2017], and the Humanities and Social Sciences Research Project of Hebei Higher Education Institutions, grant number [SQ181020].

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LM drafted the manuscript. HC made substantial contributions to the conception of the manuscript and interpretation of the data. HY made substantial contributions to the acquisition and analysis of the data. LW and WZ were involved with critically revising the manuscript. HY participated in the study design and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Lihua Ma is a doctoral student from China University of Mining and Technology; Hong Chen is a professor at China University of Mining and Technology; Huizhe Yan is a doctor of Hebei University of Engineering; Lifeng Wu is a doctor of Hebei University of Engineering; Wenbin Zhang is a doctor of Hebei University of Engineering.

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This research was approved by the China University of Mining and Technology Institutional Review Board (IRB). We employed a questionnaire survey to obtain the data, which is a traditional and widely recognized method used in the field of social science research. In China, it is unnecessary to receive the written consent of participants by convention. Thus, the “Ethics Statement” included in the questionnaire instructions clearly stated that “only respondents who agreed to the instructions participated in the survey.” All of the participants read and approved the statement before they participated in the survey.

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100 street vendors. Data-100 street vendors. (XLS 59 kb)

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240 consumers. Data-240 consumers. (XLS 149 kb)

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90 street vending stalls. Data-90 street vending stalls. (XLS 43 kb)

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Ma, L., Chen, H., Yan, H. et al. Food safety knowledge, attitudes, and behavior of street food vendors and consumers in Handan, a third tier city in China. BMC Public Health 19 , 1128 (2019).

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Life Style of Street Food Sellers: a Qualitative Research

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Street food vending is a prevailing and distinctive part of a large informal sector in Dhaka city, the capital of Bangladesh. Street foods feed millions of people daily with a wide selection of foods that are relatively cheap and easily accessible in Dhaka city. There are more than 100 variations of street foods available in Dhaka city. The paper attempts to gain insight into the business of street food vendors: highlight the problem areas and the Lifestyle of Street Food Sellers. The study founds some information about problems of street food sellers and how they overcome it. For the survey, a sample of 11 respondents was taken. Qualitative research was used to collect the data. Data is gathered using a semi-structured questionnaire through personal interview and observation. In this survey a purposive sampling technique is employed. The government should focus on this sector as many people are involved with this business and they are facing various types of problem.

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In Nepal considerable number of people are involved in the informal sector of the economy making street vending as on e of the most practiced occupation in the Kathmandu Metropolitan City. The study aims to assess the general status, livelihood of the street vendors, mainly focusing on Ason, Indrachowk and Khullamunch which are the most crowded market areas in the city. In addition the purpose of this study is to establish vulnerability as one of the major factors influencing livelihood opportunities of the street vendors in Nepal. The study of this research is done in the basis random sampling and snowball sampling method. The data were collected by using structured questionnaire, key informant and focus group discussion which is the method of primary method of data collection followed by secondary method of data collection which included the review of various research papers, books, journals, articles, seminar papers, web browsing etc. Street vending was found to be one of the most vulnerable businesses as according to the findings of this research. Fault-finding policy by the government, competition, hooligan activities, road extension campaign, and pollution threaten street vendors to carry out their daily work. Similarly, natural calamities or natural phenomenon is another major threat which affects street vendor‟s business and health as well. Likewise, a cultural event, local festivals, conflict with other stakeholder and strikes also contributes to make their business more vulnerable. The seasonal change is yet another major challenge of the street vendors as their nature of business depend upon the seasons, which make them shift to different types of vending seasonally. In regards to the policies, plans, programs related to street vendors, government and other concern authorities and agencies were not found to have any clarity upon street vending. In addition to it, the lack of plans and policies regarding the street vending by the government, it made street vending as an insecure occupation. This even shows the ignorance of the state on the informal economy which is rising every day.

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Please note you do not have access to teaching notes, street foods: contemporary preference of tourists and its role as a destination attraction in india.

International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research

ISSN : 1750-6182

Article publication date: 2 December 2019

Issue publication date: 20 February 2020

The study aims to assess and find out the preference of street-foods amongst the foreign tourists visiting India. It will also discuss in detail the important factors that lead to the selection of street-foods outlining the relevance of food as a destination attraction.


The study applied the use of location intercept technique through one to one interview using a structured survey scale to take the responses from 586 outbound foreign tourists at the departure gates of International Airport at New Delhi. The street-food preference of foreign tourists was analysed using the analytical hierarchical process model and Chi-square statistics.

This study resulted in identification of 18 street-foods which were preferred mostly by the foreign tourist in India, with Tandoori Chicken tikka being the most favoured and Kathi Kebab being least preferred. This study also confirmed that amongst the all factors which were considered to have an influence on the street-food preference of foreign tourists only marital status was found to be insignificant.

Practical implications

This study suggested that street-food vending can be considered to be a strategic management instrument that can (re)create a destination image and sustain or rejuvenate tourist movements towards a gastronomically rich destination like India. It might help the shareholders in the street-food vending businesses across India to devise strategies to showcase India on a global gastronomic platform.


It is the first study which has tried to exploit the foreign tourists’ emotions through their street-food preference which can be used by the local street vendors to attract, reconnect and increase their repeat visits in India. It will also help sensitising the local street-food vendors including restaurants, catering joints and hotels to include the preferred delicacies in their operational menus for maximising the earnings from tourists.

  • Consumer preference
  • Destination image
  • Foreign tourist
  • Street foods

Gupta, V. , Sajnani, M. and Gupta, R.K. (2020), "Street foods: contemporary preference of tourists and its role as a destination attraction in India", International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research , Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 136-154.

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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