Regulate street food traders

The demand for illegal street food highlights a need for regulation – and an opportunity

The need is there, but there should be oversight to ensure safety of food vendors in Mushrif. Christopher Pike / The National
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Despite the apparent popularity of the street food sold around St Joseph’s Church in Al Mushrif, the stalls are illegal and police have every reason to close them down. This isn’t just a matter of law enforcement, it is also a public health issue.

The stalls’ customers, who are mostly Filipino, may not be aware that the traders have no licences to sell food and are not regulated by the authorities. Members of the congregation at St Joseph’s told The National that they were concerned about the quality of the food and the preparation standards. These stalls sell barbecued snacks and a variety of meat, including pork. One of the congregation described the meals as “questionable”, since they seemed to have been cooked in private kitchens and left for an extended period in the open air.

However, these food stalls do have a lot of customers, indicating a strong demand for their products. Customers say that the food suits their tastes and is cheaper than that available elsewhere. A good solution to service this demand but also meet the requisite health and safety regulations would be to regulate the businesses and make sure that sellers are following the food safety standards specified by the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority.

The traders need to understand that they have to follow the rules regarding proper storage, protective clothing, hand washing, personal hygiene, handling ready-to-eat food and washing fruit and vegetables. They should also be sensitive to the rules that apply to the sale of pork. Instead of operating in the open, an enclosed area where these standards can be met might be found for them.

There are opportunities here for entrepreneurs. A large customer base awaits somebody who can meet the proper health standards at a price people can afford.