A Cleaner Street Food Utopia

Inexpensive, open-all-hours and endlessly varied street food is a staple for many, especially in big cities like Jakarta.But concern over potentially fatal food-borne illness has put street food hygiene under the microscope. Data from the Health Ministry suggests that food-related illness is the third leading cause of death among patients at hospitals across Indonesia.In 2010 the ministry recorded 274 deaths from 41,081 cases of typhoid and paratyphoid fever, caused by several Salmonella bacteria species transmitted when people handling food fail to wash their hands properly after going to the toilet.

There are dozens of other bacterial, viral and parasitic disease-causing pathogens that thrive at street stalls due to lack of refrigeration and toilets, dirty dishwater, contaminated ice and drinks, and more.Despite these risks, however, Jakartans cant live without their street food so they are looking to Governor Joko Widodo to apply the successful reforms that he implemented while as mayor of Solo, in Central Java.Street food vendors can be valuable for the city if the local government has sufficient commitment to organize the traders and be strict about imposing regulations, said Andrinof Chaniago, public policy analyst at the University of Indonesia.

Andrinof said Jokos first step in improving street food safety in Solo was to relocate street food vendors to a monitored site called Gladag Langen Bogan.Now regarded as a culinary center, Galabo attracts both local and foreign tourists, customers reveling in the choices available in the one food fair.Under the citys administrative supervision, the culinary center is cleaner and food handling practices are easier to monitor.Proprietors of roadside cafes, Andrinof said, should be encouraged to join the Indonesian Street Vendors Association, which claims to have 150,000 members nationwide.With the governor estimating Jakartas street vendors at more than one million, however, most of the citys food is served by non-members.

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