While food stalls are becoming increasingly popular, Jeremy Bennett from Tork manufacturer Essity considers the importance of street food hygiene.

Not so long ago the term ‘street food’ would mainly refer to hot dog stands, chestnut vendors and burger vans.

But all that has changed. These days it can mean anything from satay to sushi, raclette to ramen or paella to pad Thai.

Food stalls can be found in town centres, villages and markets everywhere. Diners line up in their droves, eager to sample one of the bubbling curries or casseroles that can be seen simmering in vast open pans. Or at least, some of them do. But how many others are turned off by the whole idea of street food – perhaps for fear that the hygiene standards among servers might be found wanting?

The answer is nearly a third according to a study by Essity. People from 25 countries were questioned in the company’s Essentials Initiative Global Survey, which revealed that 32% of us have refrained from eating street food – often through hygiene concerns.

A perceived lack of hygiene on the part of chefs and employees was aired by 53% of respondents. Another major worry – cited by 43% – was that food stalls often appeared to lack hand hygiene products such as soaps, sanitisers and hand towels.

So, despite their popularity, street food stalls could be receiving much more business if only they could raise people’s confidence in their hygiene levels. And, according to our study, this situation is only likely to become worse in the future.

Our data shows that hygiene concerns are significantly higher among younger people than older generations. More than half the 16 to 39-year-olds questioned said they often or always worried about becoming ill due to poor hygiene. This figure dropped to 39% for people aged in their 40’s and plummeted to only 19% for people aged 66 and over.

So upcoming generations are likely to expect even higher standards of hygiene – and this means street food stalls have to be seen to be clean to tempt back the young and fastidious.

However, the challenges faced by food stalls are greater than those of the average restaurant. Diners who might be willing to wait half an hour or so for a meal in an eatery would be much less inclined to stand outside in a queue, even for as little as 10 minutes.

So the pressure is on for staff to produce tasty dishes in double-quick time. And they need to do so in full view of the public since the servers have nowhere to hide on a tiny street food stall, while hungry customers have nothing to view other than the progress of their meal.

Basic hygiene laws cover street food stalls in the UK. They should have easy-to-clean surfaces, a water supply and hygienic hand washing and drying facilities.

Many stall-holders use a mobile sink unit which channels 22 | FOOD HYGEINE

the water to taps via tanks. But these offer a limited water supply – typically between three and 25 litres– which means the water needs to be used sparingly and reserved for hand washing rather than for other cleaning tasks.

This is an added challenge for street vendors who must continually wipe down surfaces to keep the stall looking clean. And dishcloths are not an option since too much water will be required to rinse them out.

Impregnated wipers work well for cleaning and sanitising surfaces since they require no water and can be thrown away after use. Tork Surface Cleaning Wet Wipes are effective for cleaning greasy food stall surfaces and come in a compact portable bucket containing 58 wipes.

A general-purpose disposable wiper will also be necessary for wiping down surfaces, mopping up spills and wiping the hands. However, any refuse needs to be kept to a minimum since most food stalls will have limited waste disposal options.

“How many are turned off by the whole idea of street food – perhaps for fear that the hygiene standards among servers might be found wanting?”

Here the Tork Reflex Portable Single Sheet Centrefeed works well since the dispenser has been designed to give out only one wiper at a time, reducing consumption by up to 37% compared with centrefeed rolls. A new rotating nozzle on the dispenser allows the paper to be pulled out swiftly and from any angle, which speeds up cleaning when time is of the essence. And the food contact-approved paper is protected inside the tightly-sealed dispenser to avoid contamination or spoilage – something that could occur where loose rolls are left lying around the work area.

Hand hygiene is essential on a street food stall since it is all too easy to contaminate foodstuffs, plates or utensils with dirty hands. All hand hygiene products should be easy to use, easy to locate, quick to refill and highly compact.

Wall-mounted soap and hand towel dispensers will fit the bill here while also freeing up surface space. The mini version of the wall-mounted Tork Liquid Soap Dispenser contains 500 doses of soap to ensure a continuous supply. And changing the cartridge will not hold up the queue since this can be carried out in seconds.

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