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Street juices pose health risk

With the scorching summer season setting in, makeshift shops selling fruits and juice beside roads in the capital and elsewhere are becoming popular among the people, especially those dripping sweat.

People have juice and fruits at roadside shops comparatively at lower prices, which pose health risks, experts said.

Vendors prepare the items under the open sky without following hygiene as washing hands before making food, and wearing gloves while selling food stuff and colour grade used in the juice are hardly followed, they observed.

The water used in the drink is not up to the mark as a study report by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development has found faecal coliform in four of the five underground household reservoirs.

Professor Iqbal Rauf Mamun of Chemistry Department told that different types of dust easily contaminate the juice made on the roadside.

“The vendors exhibit it for a long time, resulting in different microbiological contaminations in those foods. However, a food turns stale after four hours as it is kept in open area during the hot weather,” he said.

People may fall sick or may get infected with different diseases after consuming the foods, he added.

A lone government study by Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) also found coliform bacteria in 97 percent of filtered water supplied in jars in and around Dhaka in 2017.

Coliform bacteria are organisms that are present in the environment and the faeces of all warm-blooded animals and humans.

BARC Director (nutrition) Dr Monirul Islam, also the lead researcher of the study, said, “Coliforms act as catalysts for the creation of pathogens that cause long-term diarrhoea, headache, nausea, stomach ache, fever and disease prevention power.”

“Although the study was conducted in 2017 but the water quality has not improved since then due to lack of effective measures by the authorities concerned,” he said.

He also said not only the juice but also different street foods like fuska, panipuri, velpuri and different other street foods are responsible for the recent breakout of diarrhoea.

“Contaminated water is also the reason behind many waterborne diseases such as typhoid, jaundice and diarrhoea,” he said.

While visiting different places of the capital, this correspondent has found that many additional flavours and colours which are not permitted in food items are often used by street vendors.

During the scorching summer, a cross-section of people is the main consumers of the drink made by substandard ingredients and served in an unhygienic atmosphere.

Noted public health experts have expressed concerns because roadside vendors usually use direct water, non-graded colour which poses different types of diseases among the consumers.

Sofiqul Islam, a roadside juice seller at Kawranbazar, said he mainly sells lemon juice as the demand for the drink becomes high during heat waves.

He, however, has claimed that his water is safe as he has collected jar water to make the juice.

Numerous vendors are offering sugarcane juice, lemonade, sorbet, and several other coloured drinks at the city’s busiest places like New Market, Shahbagh, Farmgate, Kawranbazar, Panthapath, Puran Dhaka, Shakharibazar intersection, Sadarghat, Moghbazar, Rampura, and different intersection, bus terminals and busiest places.

Some vendors also roam around the city with hand- or motor-driven crushing machines carrying sugarcanes on their vans to meet the demand of thirsty pedestrians.

At Mohammadpur, a sweaty vendor was seen crushing sticks of peeled sugarcane without using any glove while dust was getting mixed with the juice.

The peeled sugarcanes were kept piled up and covered with a dirty cloth on the van equipped with a sugarcane crusher.

Flies were sitting on the serving glasses, but customers were little bothered about the unhygienic situation.

Apart from the drinks, some vendors also sell juicy pieces of fruits like watermelons, pineapple, guava and other seasonal fruits.

The pieces of fruits were displayed openly without any covering protecting those from flies and dust.