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1.1    Background of Study

The need to strengthen food safety and hygiene practices is a fundamental public health concern for all for the prevention of food borne diseases. World Health Organization (WHO) (1999) defines food as any substance, whether processed, semi processed or raw which is intended for human consumption. In a similar view, Akande (2002) defines food as any substance, prepared and eaten by people to take care of their physiological needs. Also, Ohiokpehai (2004) describes food as anything liquid or solid material which when taken and digested can provide the body with nourishment. It can be deduced form the above definitions that food is any substance eaten that can provide the body with its needs. It follows that food as a basic human need must be wholesome and safe. This is because good and adequate food promotes good health while poor and adulterated food substances are potential hazards to human health.

Food adulteration is a major public health problem which affects the quality of life of people specially community children. Food borne diseases are serious health hazards and major causes of morbidity and mortality in the developing countries of which Nigeria is one. Bhat (2005) reveals that incidence of food borne diseases outbreak is due to micro-organisms like salmonella, campylobacter jejuni or Norwalk virus. For instance, microbiological examination of various food items served by the canteens in various parts of India indicated the presence of micro-organisms. According to Ankleshwaris (1999) food adulteration here refers to mixing of food with other substances that may be harmful to human consumption by canteens.

Food vending helps in providing essential services to many of the urban inhabitants such as site workers, labourers, street dwellers, market traders as well as community children. Canteens according to Lathan (1997) are small scale entrepreneurs normally seen in a simple set up facilities or stalls in public places in order to provide quick and cheap services to the people. The canteens operate both in urban and rural communities, where they set-up their stalls adjacent to the communities or operate under a nearby tree. They provide different food varieties like rice, beans, okpa, agidi, ice cream, snacks among others. People who patronize such foods are more interested in their convenience than their safety and hygiene.

Food vending is increasingly becoming popular perhaps due to some vital roles it plays such as providing of quick and cheap food services to the people as well as creating employment opportunities for women. Ohiokpehai, (2004) while acknowledging the vital role played by canteens to the city dwellers observes that such foods can pose significant health hazards to the people due to the vendors lack of food hygiene practices.

Liu (2007) describes hygiene as a science that is concerned with environmental cleanliness of an individual or group or organization members to maintain healthy living. In this study hygiene is seen as all efforts towards ensuring good surrounding in order to prevent the occurrence of diseases or other health hazards. Thus hygiene entails keeping once environment to avoid the ill-health of disease for a healthy living in the society. Muinde (2005) observes that food vending plays important role in the cities and towns of many developing countries in meeting the demands of the city dwellers. Millions of people are fed daily with a wide range of foods that are relatively cheap and easily accessible regardless of the status of the food they eat form the vendors.

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