YOU ARE hungry and in a rush for your next class. You barely have money for a real meal, but there are bristling street vendors around. Succulent fish balls, sweet and creamy scramble, crispy chicken skin, spicy nuts, pick your choice. It’s a real drool.

But wait. The facts are not yummy. There’s a concoction of diseases that come with eating these street foods.

“These foods are high in refined carbohydrates and bad fats, with fewer vitamins, minerals, fibers, and proteins,” Ailyn Mae Kuan, a registered dietitian of the UST Hospital, told the Varsitarian.

If eaten in excess, street foods can cause obesity, diabetes and even hypertension.

“Most of the street vendors are not aware of the proper ways of preparing food, which could lead to cross contamination and eventually, disease,” Kuan said.

Don’t bite

Last June, a Department of Science and Technology test revealed that 12 of 13 of common street foods are contaminated with harmful microorganisms.

On top of the list is “fresh” buko juice, fresh with the highest amount of fecal coliform—a group of bacteria that indicates the presence of fecal material in water!

The other street foods: camote cue, pineapple slices, tempura with sauce, squid roll with hot sauce, banana cake, biko, egg pie, pork barbecue, and deep fried chicken were found to contain Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Salmonella.

Commonly transmitted through unhygienic preparation of street foods, E. coli are mostly harmless bacteria normally found in the intestinal tract of humans and animals. However, some of its strains, like the E. coli O157:H7 found in undercooked ground meats can cause severe diarrhea with blood, kidney failure, and even death.

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Meanwhile, Salmonella, a type of bacteria present in poultry, eggs, unprocessed milk, meat, and water, can cause typhoid fever. Like E. coli infections, typhoid fever spreads through food or drinks and food handlers who do not observe proper hand washing.

Amoebiasis, another common disease caused by Entamoeba histolytica, a protozoan, is contracted by ingesting food or water contaminated by amoebic cysts which are small capsule-like sacs that contain the amoeba.

Kuan says that one is more likely to acquire diseases from sauces of the street foods than through the foods themselves.

“Most street foods are fried so the heat from frying will destroy diseases-causing organisms, but the sauces may become a source of diseases due to the unhygienic practice of re-dipping the food in the sauce,” Kuan said.

Some diseases that can spread through saliva are Hepatitis-B, a serious disease that inflames and weakens the liver; and cytomegalovirus infection, an incurable viral disease that attacks the salivary glands and weakens the immune system, making infections fatal.

If diagnosed early, E. coli infection, typhoid fever, and amoebiasis can be easily treated by appropriate antibiotics, while hepatitis-B can be treated by drugs that act against the virus. Although these diseases can easily be cured when diagnosed early on, prevention is better than cure.

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