The evaluation and control of food safety in Hawker foods in Kuala Lumpur
Toh, Poh See
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Hawker foods in Malaysia are ready-to-eat or prepared-on-demand foods for consumption on-site, or takeaways, prepared by ubiquitous small entrepreneurs. Social, cultural and economic benefits of food hawking activities are clouded by food safety related problems such as inadequate basic amenities, lack of enforcement, lack of personal hygiene, improper foodhandling practices, lack of training and inadequate formal education. This has been reinforced by several studies conducted in Malaysia which have highlighted the prevalence of safety problems related to preparation and handling of hawker foods. A challenge study "The Evaluation and Control of Food Safety in Hawker Foods in Kuala Lumpur" was carried out using a hybrid of research methods (structured interviews, assessments, laboratory and questionnaire survey). The study proper, made up of six studies (profiles, knowledge and attitudes-based interviews, risk assessments of foodhandling practices (FHP) and food-contact surfaces (FCS) of hawkers and questionnaire survey of the control authority) was geared towards the evaluation and control of food safety in hawker foods. A total of 196 samples were used for the entire six studies. 100 "willing-to-participate" ethnic hawkers (Malay, Chinese and Indian) of 4 categories (designated site, day/night markets, kiosk and by the roadside) were used for the structured interviews. 9 hawker stalls selling three traditional culture foods (nasi lemak, char koay teow and roti canai) were used for the risk assessment and 27 food-contact surfaces were tested using dipslides for contamination levels. The total population of Health Inspectors (n=60) was used for the questionnaire survey of the control authority. The results showed positive impact of culture on knowledge and attitude scores of the hawkers (p=.05) and that education enhances hawkers' knowledge and attitude scores and environment was not demonstrated in general to impact on hawkers' knowledge and attitudes. High concern was recorded for foodhandling practices of hawkers and moderate to high concerns for food-contact surfaces. The results also highlighted positive significance in topical areas pertaining to food safety knowledge of Health Inspectors (HIs) with different experience backgrounds but experience was not demonstrated in general to impact on practices of HIs. Education was noted to have conflicting effects on General food safety practices and knowledge scores of HIs. The findings highlight the importance of training to bridge cultural gaps in food safety knowledge and attitudes of hawkers. FHP and FCS findings provided useful food safety/hygiene indicators of a preventive nature and a yardstick for the situation-to-be (hawkers to be relocated to designated sites from year 2000). The findings on the control authority suggested indispensability of on the-job experience to complement training and integration of the control process into the training, attitudes and practices of hawkers.
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