SHARJAH // Residents are being warned about eating potentially contaminated foods sold by street vendors during Ramadan. Some pastries, pancakes, juices, desserts and dates to be sold at iftar are half covered and can be contaminated if left exposed too long, raising health concerns from authorities and health practitioners.
Col Mohammed Rashid al Bayat, the director of the Sharjah Police Crime Investigation Department, calls food the most dangerous of all items sold on the street. "People rush in Ramadan to buy any food, regardless of its sanitary condition or health benefit," he said. Some restaurants have asked their workers to take some foodstuffs outside and sell to people on the streets or to drivers stuck in traffic. Several food vendors have been warned by police to stop the practice, Col al Bayat said.
Police have launched a campaign to control street food vendors in Ramadan because of the health risks. However, it had yet to show results. In the first five days of Ramadan, police arrested 100 beggars and street vendors but no street food vendors. Eating food that was not prepared at home was increasing cases of food poisoning, which are common during the holy month, said Dr Samina Mohammed of the Zulekha Hospital. She also said breaking the fast with street foods full of fat and spices was not a good idea.
"It's not right to start with fat and spiced food as you break your fast," she said. "The spices would cause cramps in your stomach and fat increases weight." Still, many family members sleep during the day and have no time to prepare their own food, said Mohammed Khan, who works at the Pak Ghazi restaurant in Sharjah's Rolla area and also sells some foods during iftar hours. "We sell to some street people just to catch up because the whole day we have no business and only in the evening we can work," he said.
Abdullah Ghulam, an Indian national working for the Hur restaurant in Rolla, said they were preparing samosas and pancakes about three times in the evening because of the high demand. "We prepare the first lot before iftar, and during iftar another lot comes and lastly at night we also prepare one more lot for suhoor," he said. "We are always happy that all the samosas goes in its prepared time. There are no leftovers."
Local residents have complained of traffic disruptions from street food sellers during iftar hours. But the desire to have a meal of their choice for their iftar is something all people would appreciate, said Hussein Mohammed, a 30-year-old Emirati businessman in Rolla. However, overcrowding, undisciplined motorists and a lack of parking were creating problems, he said. "We want our fasting brothers and sisters to know that we are as well fasting and in a rush for iftar at the time," he said. "One can move around and return to the restaurant other than stopping in the road and ordering pastries."
Maryam Humaid, another Emirati business owner in Rolla, also complained of traffic disruptions in the iftar hours, especially on the small one-way Al Ghuwair Road. "The road just has two lanes," she said. "Motorists are parking on the sidewalks and others on the road itself. Sometimes you feel like quarrelling with some motorists and then you remember you are fasting. You have to be cool and calm." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org