Turkey, street food

Dangerous bacteria detected in several Istanbul street foods

A study has detected bacteria such as salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and E.coli in several popular street foods sold in Istanbul.

Several of the most popular street foods sold in Istanbul have been found to be infected with bacteria dangerous to health, according to a laboratory study carried out by a Turkish university, which has detected the presence of Staphylococcus and E. Coli.

The research, carried out for a year by a group of academics and scientists from the Gelişim University in Istanbul, detected harmful bacteria in most of the foods popularly sold in street establishments such as rice, chicken, döner, kokoreç (lamb intestines) or sandwiches.

After samples of these foods were taken, they were examined in a laboratory; subsequently a survey was conducted among street vendors to assess their knowledge of food safety, and finally samples were taken from the vendors’ hands to check their level of hygiene.

Bacteria such as salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and E.coli were found

After this process, the researchers found Staphylococcus aureus – the most dangerous of the staphylococci – in 65% of the foods tested, while E.coli was detected in 25%: these are bacteria that can cause poisoning, infections and various serious diseases. “We have found salmonella in 10% of the foods tested. It is a bacterium that causes typhoid fever,” explained Murat Doğan, one of the researchers.

“Since salmonella is a very dangerous bacteria, it could cause significant problems in the human body when ingested,” warned Doğan, noting that this is the first general study carried out in Turkey on the safety of food sold on the street. However, the researcher stressed that the most dangerous for health is E.coli, a bacterium present in the feces and that constitutes a great risk for humans.

“There is a big problem in terms of food safety with street foods. This situation should be brought under control as soon as possible,” Doğan insisted. Among the street foods where E.coli was detected are chicken döner, chicken rice, Albanian-style fried liver, sandwiches, and popular tost (toast with cheese and sausace).

In addition, the study detected hygiene problems in 9 of the 10 samples of the hands of food vendors, so it recommends that vendors should wash their hands frequently instead of wearing gloves; furthermore, the research adds that the places where these foods are stored should be properly disinfected.

Food vendors fight back

Although the study has devastating conclusions for street food vendors, they defend themselves by assuring that it does not reflect reality and that most of them are scrupulous about hygiene.

“We do not sell anything to our customers who would not like to eat. We always do our best to customers,” Halil Ece, a kokoreç seller in Istanbul, told the media. “We are careful not to work without wearing our mask and gloves,” he added.

Another vendor, in this case of rice, also denied the accusations raised by the study about the lack of hygiene or the presence of dangerous bacteria in street foods in Istanbul, recalling that even before the coronavirus pandemic, he used a mask and gloves to work. “As soon as a client comes, I disinfect tables with a cloth,” he said.