In Press, Uncorrected Proof, Available Online: 30 June 2020

Food Hygienic Practices and Safety Measures among Street Food Vendors in Zanzibar Urban District

Jamila K. Hassan1, Leonard W.T. Fweja2, *
1Department of Environmental Studies, Faculty of Science, Technology and Environmental Studies, The Open University of Tanzania, P.O Box 23409, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
2Department of Food and Nutrition, Faculty of Science, Technology and Environmental Studies, The Open University of Tanzania, P.O Box 23409, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
*Corresponding author. Email: lfweja@yahoo.com
Corresponding Author
Leonard W.T. Fweja
Received 27 March 2020, Accepted 18 June 2020, Available Online 30 June 2020.
https://doi.org/10.2991/efood.k.200619.001How to use a DOI?
Street food vendors, sanitary condition, vending sites, hygiene practices, safety measures, hygienic practices

This cross-sectional descriptive study assessed the hygienic and safety measures among street food vendors in the Urban district of Zanzibar. A total of 265 food vendors with stationary food vending units were involved. Data were collected using a structured researcher-administered questionnaire based on WHO essential requirement for the safety of street-vended foods and complemented with observation. Among the surveyed vending sites 50.2% and 42.6% vending sites had waste bin and/or refuse sites respectively, wash basin (44.9%) and soap availability (47.2%). Safe handling of food included food covering (57.4%), adequate protection of food from flies and dust (40.8%), cold storage of food (28.3%), saved food hot or reheated before sale (35.1%), dishing out food with spoon/ladle (53%). Hygienic practices included washed hands with soap before preparing food (always 63%, sometimes 34%), washed hands with soap after toilet visit (always 33.2%, sometimes 46.8%), clean finger nail (98.5%), hair protection (33.6%) and use of apron (29%). The results indicate poor environmental sanitation and waste handling practices, moderate adherence to food handling practices, safety measures and hygiene. It is recommended that basic training on food safety and hygiene should be a pre-requisite for vending business complemented with regular monitoring.

© 2020 International Association of Dietetic Nutrition and Safety. Publishing services by Atlantis Press International B.V.
Open Access
This is an open access article distributed under the CC BY-NC 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/).


The term “street food” refers to a variety of ready-to-eat foods and beverages sold and sometimes prepared, in public places. Street food may be consumed where it is purchased or can be taken away and eaten elsewhere [1]. Street food vending is a prevailing and distinctive part of a large informal sector. It is commonly seen in public places, particularly in the cities and is distinctive in the sense that it provides a basic need to the urban inhabitants [2]. This sector is thriving hastily due to rising and altering food demands by the urban residents needing cheaper food in the face of a tough economy [3]. In most developing countries, Tanzania inclusive, town adults consume food from street vendors on a regular basis since it is readily available, cheap and usually fresh [4].

There are diverse types of food vending sites comprising of mobile stalls, a variety of push-carts, roadside stands, and hawkers depending upon the creativity of the individual, resources available, type of food sold and the accessibility of other facilities [3]. However, issues of food safety due to food borne illnesses have led to an increase in global concern [3]. WHO [1] estimates of the global burden of foodborne diseases indicated that each year worldwide, contaminated food causes 600 million cases of foodborne diseases and 420,000 deaths. Africa and Southeast Asia are believed to have the highest incidence and death rates associated to foodborne disease [1]. In developing countries, up to an estimated 70% of cases of diarrheal disease are associated with consumption of unwholesome food [5,6].

According to other researchers [4] food safety concerns in Africa are characteristically cantered on diseases that are related to poor hygiene. It is also further indicated that in sub-Saharan Africa foodborne disease and foodborne disease eruptions are routinely attributed to poor personal hygiene of street food vendors and food handlers in food settings [7]. Street-vended foods may cause significant community health problems owing to lack of basic infrastructure and services, such as potable water supplies, their short-term nature, and inadequate knowledge of basic food safety precautions [4]. An earlier study [8] indicated that when school children were queried to show whether the foods vended by street vendors were safe to eat, majority responded that they were not. The most significant reason given was that the food were prepared under unhygienic situations and were presented uncovered [8]. Marras [9] established that contamination of street food in Dar es Salaam was due to numerous factors, mainly contaminated water, poor food handling, and unhygienic environment.

According to Rabia et al. [10] the yearly food poisoning cases in Zanzibar documented in 2012–2014 were 590, 479 and 333 correspondingly. The most current study [11] associated the prevalence of Shigellosis among children under 5 years of age in Unguja Island, Zanzibar, to the consumption of street food. Marras [9] indicated that, often than not, the street food vending industry has been linked with food poisoning eruptions, however, there is limited information on the hygienic situation of street food vending sites and vendors compliance to food safety measures. It is therefore hardly possible to establish the truth about the prevalence of food poisoning in the Isles in relation to street food vending practices. This can well be evaluated by having concrete information on the vendors’ hygiene practices, food handling practices and sanitary and hygiene of the food vending premises, nonetheless, this area has received little attention. Although lots of studies [12] have established that street vendors do not observe acceptable food handling practices leading to pathogenic cross contamination and hence unsafe food products for consumption, it is however worth appreciating the objective analysis of the situation based on the available evidence. In this regard, the present study, thus aimed at determining the hygienic practices and safety measures among street food vendors in food settings of the Urban district of Zanzibar.


2.1. Study Design

The study design used in this study was a cross-sectional study design which used structured questionnaire.

2.2. Description of the Study Area

The study was conducted in the Urban district of Zanzibar. The district is located in the West urban region which contains 55 shehia (villages) and 852 street food vendors [13]. The Urban district was selected for this study because it is the most highly populated administrative area with a lot of commercial activities and the majority food vendors.

2.3. Study Population and Sample Size

The sample size of street vendors who constituted the study population was determined by using published tables for determining sample size as described previously [14]. The criteria for determining the sample size (n) was the vendors’ study population (N = 852) and the confidence level (95%). Thus the sample size was established to be 265.

2.4. Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

The study involved only food vendors with stationary food vending sites (since they can easily be located and are mostly licensed) and have operated for at least 6 months as described by Okojie and Isah [15] and Adane et al. [7].

2.5. Sampling of Shehia and Vendor Vending Sites

The Urban district has 55 Shehia (villages) from which five Shehia were randomly selected which included Darajani, Mikunguni, Forodhani, Malindi, and Muembeladu. From each of the five Shehia, 53 street food vendors were randomly selected. The vendors were selected as described by Okojie and Isah [15] in which case a walk-through survey of randomly selecting food vendors/vending sites was done based on the sampling frame obtained from the local authority. A total of 265 vending units was selected.

2.6. Data Collection

A pre-tested structured researcher-administered questionnaire was used in data collection. The structured questionnaire and observational checklist were first prepared in English and then translated into Kiswahili which is the national language and medium of communication. These tools were revised from previous studies [15]. The data collection tool was pretested among selected street food vendors operating in the Urban District of Zanzibar from the randomly selected Shehia which did not participate in the main study. The pretesting involved 20 food vendors to test for suitability, relevance and ambiguities of the questions in the questionnaire. On the basis of the pre-test result, some slight revisions were made for the questionnaire. During data collection, the researcher was assisted by two pre-trained health officers who are diploma holders.

2.7. Data Analysis

Data analysis was done using IBM SPSS Software version 20.0. Descriptive analysis was used to summarize the results.


3.1. Demographic Characteristics of Food Vendors

The demographic information (Table 1) indicates the dominance of female food street vendors (67.5%), vendors aged 18–35 years and prevalent of primary and secondary school educational leavers (constituting 42.6% and 42.3% respectively). The work experience recorded for the majority vendors (59.2%) was <5 years and about 15% have been engaged for between 11–15 and over 15 years.

Parameters Response options Frequency (n = 265) Percentage (%)
Gender Male 86 32.5
Female 176 67.5
Age (years) 18–25 90 34.0
26–35 94 35.5
36–45 51 19.2
46–55 30 11.3
Educational attainments None 34 12.8
Primary 113 42.6
Secondary 112 42.3
Vocational college 4 15.0
University 2 0.8
Period of selling food (years) <5 157 59.2
5–10 69 26.0
11–15 20 7.5
Over 15 19 7.2
Table 1

Demographic characteristics of food vendors

3.2. Environmental Hygiene of Food Vending Sites

The results on environmental hygiene of food vending sites (Table 2) show that only two environmental hygienic indicators (availability of waste bin and absence of rats and/or cockroaches) were complied by half or more than half of the vendors respectively. The compliance of vendors with the other indicators (clean environment at vending sites, presence of refuse sites, wash basin and soap) was below 50%.

Question item Response options Frequency (n = 265) Percentage (%)
Clean environment Yes 96 36.3*
Waste bin present Yes 133 50.2*
Refuse site present Yes 113 42.6*
Wash basin present Yes 146 44.9*
Soap and water present Yes 125 47.2*
Presence of rats or cockroaches Yes 62 23.4

Indicators with asterisk (*) were self-reported and also observed. Clean environment in the present context refers to the healthy state of the physical environment that can make the vending premise conducive, safe for food preparation and attractive to the consumer (e.g. well ventilated, no visible filth, availability of water and soap, toilet, proper handling of wastes, no infestation with pests). Waste bin refers to a container for waste whereas refuse site refers to an underground waste disposal site.

Table 2

Environmental hygiene of food vending sites

3.3. Vendors’ Food Handling Practices

The food handling practices among food vendors (Table 3) show that food covering was moderately adhered to (57.4%) however protection of food from flies and dust as well as serving food hot/reheating were not adhered to by the majority vendors, 60% and 64.9% respectively. The dishing out of food was done using spoon/ladle by over half of the vendors (53.2%) with a substantial fraction dishing out by bare hands (46.4%). The most common method for storing food was that of using plastic containers (37.7%) whereas only less than one-third (28.3%) refrigerated the food. Other food storage practices included storage in open place (18.1%) and also plastic containers and cup boards, each of which was practiced by 7.9% of the respondents.

Question item/parameter Response options Frequency (n = 265) Percentage (%)
Food in covered container Yes 152 57.4*
Food in uncovered container Yes 117 44.2*
Adequate protection of food from flies and dust Yes 108 40.8*
Food saved hot/reheated before sale Yes 93 35.1
Method for dishing out food Spoon/ladle 141 53*
Bare hand 125 47
Method used to store and contain left over foods Refrigerator 75 28.3*
Cupboard 21 7.9
Plastic containers 100 37.7
Polyethylene bags 21 7.9
Open place 48 18.1

Indicators with asterisk (*) were self-reported and also observed. Covering refers to the use of the lid to cover the top of the food container, whereas adequate protection takes into account the hygienic situation of the working environment as well.

Table 3

Vendor food handling practices

3.4. Vendors’ Hygiene and Sanitary Practices

The results on vendors’ hygiene and sanitary practices are presented in Table 4. The indicators of good hygiene and sanitary practices which were recorded among the majority vendors (63–97%) included keeping finger nails short and clean, lack of hand cuts, regular hand washing wish soap prior to preparing food, washing utensils in warm/cold water with soap and tap water supply source. On the other hand, poor hygiene and sanitary practices recorded among the majority vendors (59–70.9%) were presence of food debris on their hands, unprotected hair, lack of apron and irregular or non-handwashing with soap after toilet visit.

Question item/parameter Response options Frequency (n = 265) Percentage (%)
Wash hands with soap before prepare food Always 167 63
Sometimes 90 34
Not at all 8 3
Wash hands with soap after toilet visit Always 88 33.2
Sometimes 124 46.8
Not at all 53 20
Presence of food debris on vendors’ hands Yes 157 59*
Vendor had long nails Yes 7 2.6
Finger nails Clean 261 98.5
Vendor had hair covering/protection Yes 89 33.6*
Vendor had cut on the hand Yes 8 3
Vendor wore apron Yes 77 29.1*
Methods of washing utensils used by street food vendors Washed in warm soapy water 60 22.6
Washed in cold soapy water 59 22.2
Washed in cold water 20 7.5
Clean water used with soap 111 41.8
Clean water without soap 15 5.7
Water with dirty appearance 0 0
Water supply at vending sites Tap 210 79.2
Borehole 8 3
Water vendor 47 17.7
Protected well 0 0
Unprotected well 0 0

Indicators with asterisk (*) were self-reported and also observed.

Table 4

Vendors hygiene and sanitary practices


4.1. Demographic Characteristics of Food Vendors

Street vending has a major economic impact in many countries and is a major source of employment [16]. The dominance of women in this study is in agreement with the findings of other earlier studies [1720]; however, it also contradicts other previous findings [21,22]. The higher proportion of female vendors could be explained by their traditional cooking and child care responsibilities in most developing countries. Moreover, limited progression of women in formal education which narrows their employability in formal sectors could also be another contributing factor. According to Lues et al. [23], street food vending is considered as a prevalent means for creating an income mostly among illiterate people, particularly women. The dominant labor force of individuals aged 18–35 years, suggest the greater involvement of active age groups probably due to the job’s high energy demands. This age group (18–35 years) overlaps well with the age ranges reported by other researchers [1820,22,24]. Vendors’ educational attainments predominant in the present study indicated a similar pattern as that reported by earlier researchers [15,21,22] but with a slight difference from that reported by Monney et al. [24]. Their study indicated that junior and senior secondary school leavers were the dominant groups but minimal involvement was experienced among primary and vocational schools leavers. According to the study done in Brazil [21], only 4.7% of the food vendors had university education which is slightly higher than reported in the present study (1.5%). Their less involvement (university graduates) could be associated with their greater engagement in formal employment. The work experience recorded for the majority vendors (59.2%) in the present study (of <5 years) compares well with that reported by other researchers [24], that is, 51.2%. This could be explained by either the recent proliferation of the food vending business (triggering internal migration of the vendors) or poor retention due to great attraction of other business sectors.

4.2. Environmental Hygiene of Food Vending Sites

Maintenance of clean environment observed in the present study (36%) is far below the 90.5% documented by Okojie and Isah [15]. Amaami et al. [18] also reported poor ability of street food vendors to maintain a clean food preparation area. Only 50.2% and 42.6% of the vending sites had waste bins and refuse sites respectively in place. The possession of waste bin by half of the vendors though slightly higher than that reported by Okojie and Isah [15], that is, 43.4% but is still inadequate to ensure proper handling of wastes. This could explain the poor cleanliness of most vending sites (63.7%) as reflected in Table 2. Lack of waste bin and or refuse sites suggests poor handling of food wastes which could attract flies. Other researchers [17] indicated that only 17.5% of the vendors had a waste disposal facility, while others depended on the nearby waste disposal facility or municipal bins or left it behind, wrapped. Earlier researchers [15] reported that flies are mechanical vectors which can scatter infective agents to food and water for human consumption, causing potential food borne diseases such as cholera, dysentery, and typhoid. This is further reflected by the fact that some vending sites (23.4%) were infested with rats and/or cockroaches. The presence of hand wash basin and availability of soap to only 44.9% and 47% vending sites respectively suggest irregular and improper hand washing practices.

4.3. Vendors Food Handling Practices

Food handling practices has a critical role to the safety of food products since insanitary and improper handling can predispose the food to contamination. The results (Table 3) imply that a significant fraction of vendors did not consider food covering as a necessity and an important aspect for ensuring safety; only 57.4% of the vendors kept food in covered containers. It is also further indicated that less than a half (40.8%) of the vendors provided adequate protection of food from flies and dust. Lack of covering and improper protections of foods increases the risk of contamination. Dust carries many microbes that may be pathogenic if left to settle onto prepared foods. Similar observations were reported by earlier researchers [25,26]. This may increase the possibility for pathogen transmission and the prevalence of foodborne diseases. Food and Agriculture Organization [27] recommend that foods should be prepared in a place set aside entirely and be kept clean at all times and be far from any source of contamination (rubbish, waste water, dust and animals). Vending stalls are desired to be designed and constructed in such a way to enable easy cleaning and maintenance. A small number of vendors (28.3%) who kept food under refrigeration condition suggests that food was mostly stored in the temperature danger zone which increases the risk of microbial contamination and proliferation. Studies [23] indicate that prepared foods should be kept at a temperature of at least 60°C if kept for more than 4–5 h. Street food vendors spend more than 8 h in vending business. When food [18] is held at temperatures below 5°C or above 60°C, the microbial growth is significantly slowed or stopped. Moreover, the majority vendors (64.9%) indicated that food was neither saved hot nor was it reheated and was dished out with bare hands by about half of the vendors (46.4%) which is a substantial fraction. These handling practices indicate poor food safety measures. Monney et al. [24] also observed vendors (65%) had food remnants on their hands, signifying possible hand contact with food during dishing out food. Food handlers are potential sources of contamination (hands and nails hands can pick up germs very easily), their poor food handling practices are likely to predispose food to contamination.

4.4. Vendor Hygienic and Sanitary Practices

Personal hygiene and sanitary practices is another important aspect in ensuring food quality and safety. The results (Table 4) indicate that poor hygiene and sanitary practices recorded among the majority vendors (59–70.9%) included presence of food debris on their hands, unprotected hair, lack of apron and irregular or non-handwashing with soap after toilet visit. Occasional adherence and none adherence at all to proper hand washing reflects the dangers consumers are exposed to such as contracting foodborne illnesses since hands are prone to contamination. None use of soap during hand washing implies inadequate removal of food soils which could in turn facilitate microbial growth. Cortese et al. [21] also documented that 33% of the vendors did not wash their hands at all and others (24%) only used water to wash their hands. The presence food debris on the hands of some vendors may further signify poor and unsafe food handling practice. According to Okojie and Isah [15], some dislikeable food handling practices are intensely entrenched in traditions and customs and thus demanding messages tailored to addressing such beliefs. This could possibly explain the hygienic and unhygienic practices experienced among food vendors in Zanzibar which cannot be detached from their traditions and customs as is the case elsewhere. Money handling (personal observation) between foods serving service without washing hands which was witnessed could also lead to cross-contamination. A similar situation is reported by Cortese et al. [21] who documented that 95% of the vendors did not wash hands between food and money transactions and restroom breaks. This could be well addressed by having a dedicated individual accountable for all financial transactions; however, it has a cost implication. The results also indicate the majority vendors had no hair covering which implies the possibility of food contamination since hair can be a source of both physical and biological contamination. Hair is recognized to harbor Staphylococcus aureus, it is thus vital to prevent loose hair and dandruff from dropping onto the food or food preparation areas [23]. Cuts on hands recorded in a small fraction of vendors (3%) cannot also be ignored if care is not taken. Blood from hand injuries or cuts can be a source of contamination so extra care in particular cut protection is required to avoid the associated risks. However, apart from those shortcomings good hygiene and sanitary practices were also recorded among the majority vendors (63–97%) such as lack of hand cuts, regular hand washing wish soap prior to preparing food, washing utensils with water in warm/cold water with soap, presence of tape water supply sources and keeping finger nails short and clean. Long finger nails are undesirable because can act as a good catch of dirty and pathogens and hence predispose food to contamination.

4.5. Limitations

The limitations of this study is that the sample was confined to the food vendors without engaging the consumers who would have shared their experience of the safety perception of the vended food and any foodborne illness related complications. Furthermore, quantitative evaluation of food safety based on microbial analysis should have further enriched the current study. The results from microbial analysis should have supplemented the self-reported food safety and hygiene practices which might pose some challenges to objective evaluation due to associated self-reported biasness.


The results of this study underlined key food safety and hygiene issues that may escalate the possibility of foodborne illness emanating from several of these vending sites. It was established that vending sites are poorly maintained and vendors’ exercises moderate adherence to both food safety measures and hygienic practices. The greatest risk being food exposure to temperature danger zone, dishing out food with bare hands and low compliance with regulations requiring soap and water for hand washing in restaurants by a significant fraction of surveyed vendors after toilet visit. It is thus recommended that basic training on food safety and hygienic practices should be a pre-requisite to entering food vending business and regular inspection and monitoring be done to ensure the translation of the acquired basic food safety and hygiene knowledge into appropriate and safe food codes practices. Furthermore, the results could imply that policy makers and regulatory bodies should possibly think about developing a framework policy or regulations at national or local level explicitly meant for regulating street food vending due to its predominance in engaging a huge fraction of self-employed individual population members. This could help to maintain the benefits of street vended food while guaranteeing the safety of the vended food.


The authors declare they have no conflicts of interest.


JKH was the principal investigator (study design, data collection, data analysis, interpretation, write up and critical review). LWTF was involved in the study design, interpretation, write up and critical review of the manuscript. Both the authors approved the final version submitted for publication.


Peer review under responsibility of the International Association of Dietetic Nutrition and Safety


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https://doi.org/10.2991/efood.k.200619.001How to use a DOI?
© 2020 International Association of Dietetic Nutrition and Safety. Publishing services by Atlantis Press International B.V.
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This is an open access article distributed under the CC BY-NC 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/).

Cite this article

AU  - Jamila K. Hassan
AU  - Leonard W.T. Fweja
PY  - 2020
DA  - 2020/06
TI  - Food Hygienic Practices and Safety Measures among Street Food Vendors in Zanzibar Urban District
JO  - eFood
SN  - 2666-3066
UR  - https://doi.org/10.2991/efood.k.200619.001
DO  - https://doi.org/10.2991/efood.k.200619.001
ID  - Hassan2020
ER  -