Research Article | Open Access
Kindu Alem
Department of Biology, Natural and Computational Sciences Faculty, Woldia University, Woldia, P.O.Box 400, Ethiopia.
J Pure Appl Microbiol. 2020;14(3):1845-1854 | Article Number: 6417 | © The Author(s). 2020
Received: 19/05/2020 | Accepted: 19/08/2020 | Published: 19/09/2020

Infectious diseases due to contaminated street vended food items has happened to an essential concern and public health issue in low socio-economic status individuals. The goal of this study was to evaluate bacterial quality and safety of some food items sold in street based on aerobic mesophilic bacteria, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli in Woldia town. Cross-sectional study was performed on some selected street vended foods from March 2019 to May 2019 in Woldia town. A total of 36 ready-to-eat food samples such as ‘Sambussa’, ‘Bonbolino’ and ‘Ambasha’ were collected for microbial analysis. Finding of the study indicates that 32(88.9 %) of the vendors were females, 28(77.7%) handled food with bare hands, 28(77.7%) vendors were washing their hands after toilet. The mean total count of aerobic mesophilic bacteria, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli was 4.5×102±5.2×101 CFUg-1, 1.5×102±4.5×101 CFUg-1, 1.1×102±1.4×101 CFUg-1 and 2×102±3.4×101 CFUg-1, respectively. The dominant bacterial isolate from the street vended foods was Escherichia coli (53.5%), followed by Salmonella (24.1%) and Staphylococcus aureus (22.4%). The result of this study demonstrates the non hygienic practices of the vendors in street vended foods showed high bacterial load. Therefore, the street vended foods were contaminated with food borne pathogenic bacteria that can create a potential risk to public health in the study area. In general, the bacterial quality of the food quality sold in street in Woldia town was very poor and needs especial attention to avoid bacterial contamination.


Street-vended food, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, Escherichia coli


In low income countries foods sold in the street by food vendors prepared at home and consumed on the street without further preparation1. In developing countries where there is high unemployment, low salary incomes, little work chance and where urbanization is taking place, consumption of street vended food items is common2. Both food venders and consumers are beneficiary from the street vended foods. Street food items are accessible, cheap, and nutritionally-balance and also supply a base of income, opportunity of self-employment and chance to develop business skill with low capital investments to the vendors3. Foods vended in the street are predisposed to contaminations since they are exposed to dust and are often not covered. Consuming unsafe food poses an important community health risk in both developed and developing countries4. Diseases due to contaminated food are still a common problem and causes mortality and morbidity in the community. Transmission of food related diseases due to lack of hygiene of food handlers is a common worldwide problem and a wide range of enteric pathogenic microorganisms might be carried by food handlers and implicate infections in the public5. A number of scholars reported that food borne infections have been alarmingly increasing throughout the world. These reports have shown that inadequate food hygiene and safety practices during food handling, preparation and serving are the major causes6. Even if there is a well awareness about diseases transmitted because of consumption of contaminated street vended food items, most of the consumers do not give attention these health hazards7. Several studies have showed that different types of disease causing microorganisms such as Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella spp and E. coli have been obtained in various types foods sold in the street8. Every year, food borne infections cause the suffering of millions of people throughout the world9. A report done in 2005 only showed that diarrheal diseases cause for the death of 1.8 million10. The National Hygiene and Sanitation Strategy program in Ethiopia reported that about 60% of the infection load is related to poor hygiene and sanitation practice of the consumers11. Salmonella, Shigella and related food borne infectious causing microorganisms were identified in the foods sold in the street and become serious health problem in Ethiopia. Diarrheal disease represents the second leading cause of death in Ethiopia12,13. Uses of street foods are nowadays common in different towns of Ethiopia and it is observed in areas of many people found such as bus stations, schools and other places. The low income category of the people commonly consumes foods sold in the street in Woldia town. However, the awareness of the consumers on the safety and microbial load of the food items sold in the street and related factors in this study area are limited.

The main purpose of the present study was to investigate the microbial safety of street vended foods and food handling practice of the venders in Woldia town, North East Ethiopia.

Materials and Methods

The study area
This study was done in Woldia, the main town of North Wollo, located 530km North East of Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia (Fig. 1). The town’s geographical coordination is 11°50′N latitude and 39°36′E longitude. The town has an elevation of 2112 m above sea level.

Fig. 1. Street food sampling sites in Woldia town

Study design
A cross sectional study design was conducted in Woldia town from February to June 2019 to examine the bacteriological quality and handling practices of food sold in the street such as ‘Sambussa’, ‘Bonbolino’ and ‘Ambasha’ vended at Gonderber, Mugad, Menehariya and Piazza. In the present study the study population was randomly selected street food venders in Woldia town.

Sampling technique
Random and nonrandom sampling techniques were used to select representative street food sellers in the study area. Four common street food vending sites such as Gonderber, Mugad, Menehariya and Piazza were selected purposefully. A Total of 36 samples of food items sold in the street which consist of 12’Sambussa’, 12 ‘Bonbolino’ and 12‘Ambasha’ were selected by random sampling technique and taken into microbiology laboratory of Woldia University for bacteriological load analysis.

Socio-demographic data collection
Socio-demographic data and personal hygiene practices of the street food vendors from 36 venders were selected by using random sampling technique. The data were collected by face to face interview method using semi-structured questionnaire and an observation checklist.

Sample collection
Three most street vended food stuffs, namely ‘Sambussa’ ‘Bonbolino’ and ‘Ambasha’ were selected for bacteriological analysis and randomly bought from street food vendors. The food items for laboratory analysis were aseptically collected from street food sellers by using sterile glass material and immediately stored in icebox. All the collected food items were taken to microbiology laboratory of Woldia University for bacteriological analysis. The collected food samples were placed in the refrigerator at 4°C till bacteriological analysis was carried out. Bacterial analysis was conducted within one to three hours after sample collection.

Bacteriological methods
Food sample preparation
For microbiological analysis 10g of each food samples namely ‘Sambussa’, ‘Bonbolino’ and ‘Ambasha’ were homogenized in 90 ml buffered peptone water. Then after, the food sample homogenates were processed to serial dilutions of 10-2, 10-3, 10-4, and10-5of all food items, the suspected bacterial load of 0.1ml dilutions were transferred to plates and spread by L-shaped glass tube to plates and incubated at 37°C for 48 hours, finally the load of bacteria counted by colony counter. The counted colonies were expressed in colony forming units per gram (CFUg-1).

Microbial enumeration
Aerobic mesophilic bacteria
The pour plate technique on plate count agar (PCA) (Oxoid Ltd, United Kingdom) was used to count aerobic mesophilic bacteria. A homogenized food sample of 0.1ml was inoculated onto plate count agar in triplicate and the plates were incubated aerobically at 37°C for 48 hrs. All plates showing colony counts between 30 and 300 were selected and their colony forming unit per gram of food item (CFUg-1) were calculated by multiplying by the dilution factor.

Isolation of Salmonella
To detect Salmonella, 10g of food sample was homogenized in 90 ml buffered peptone water and shook for 2-3 minutes using shaker (STUART, UK) to prepare homogenate dilution. A serial dilutions of 10-2, 10-3, 10-4, and10-5 were underwent from homogenate food sample and 0.1ml dilutions were transferred to xylose-lysine-deoxycholate (XLD) agar and spread by L-shaped glass tube to plates and incubated at 37°C for 48 hours. Then black centered pink colonies were enumerated using colony counter (STUART SCIENTIFIC, UK). Colony forming unit per gram of food item (CFUg-1) was determined by multiplying with the dilution factor.

Isolation of Staphylococcus aureus
For Staphylococcus aureus, 10g of food sample was homogenized in 90 ml buffered peptone water and shook for 2-3 minutes using shaker (STUART, UK) to prepare homogenate dilution. A serial dilutions of 10-2, 10-3, 10-4, and10-5 were underwent from homogenate food sample and 0.1ml dilutions were transferred to sterile molten Mannitol salt agar (BLULUX) petri plate and then incubated at 37°C for 48 hours. Finally, due to Mannitol fermentation yellow to orange colonies surrounded by yellow zone was enumerated using colony counter (STUART SCIENTIFIC, UK) and the obtained data was recorded as colony forming unit per gram (CFUg-1) of all food items.

Isolation of E. coli
Ten gram of food sample was homogenized in 90ml buffered peptone water and shook for 2-3 minutes using shaker (STUART, UK) to prepare homogenate dilution. A serial dilutions of 10-2, 10-3, 10-4, and10-5 were underwent from homogenate food sample and 0.1ml dilutions were transferred to Eosin Methylene Blue (EMB, Himedia, India) agar for isolation of E. coli and spread by L-shaped glass tube to plates and incubated at 37°C for 48 hours then green metallic sheen colonies showing a dark nucleated centre were recorded using colony counter (STUART SCIENTIFIC, UK).

Data analysis
Data obtained from different food samples were analyzed by using SPSS software version 20.0 and mean bacterial loads of food samples from different sites were compared using one way ANOVA. A p value of ≤ 0.05 at 95% confidence interval was considered as statistically significant.


Socio-demographic data of the street food sellers
In this study, 32(88.9%) of the vendors were females while 4(11.1%) were males. Majority vendors 20(55.6%) were between the age of 18 to 29, while 12(33.3%) of them were between 30 and 40 years old and 4(11.1%) were above 40 years. From the vendors 4(11.1%), 8(22.2%), 8(22.2%), 12(33.3%) and 4(11.1%) were illiterate, had basic education, elementary school, secondary school and had college diploma, respectively (Table 1).

Table (1):
Socio-demographic profile of food sellers in the study area.

Vendors (N=36)
Percent (%)
Marital status
Educational status
Basic education
Elementary school
Secondary school

Knowledge about food safety and personal hygiene of the food sellers
As indicated in table 2, 28(77.8%) of the street food sellers had a good awareness of food safety, while 8(22.2%) of the street food sellers had no awareness of food safety. This implies that the vendors contaminate the food items during preparation, handling, transportation, and while they sold. All vendors, 36(100%), knew hand washing before work reduces the risk of food contamination as well as proper utilization of utensils, proper handling ,well cooking of food, washing hand after toilet ,washing of utensils with detergent and hygiene practices, cleaning and sanitation procedures. From 36 vendors, 24(66.7%) covered their hair when handling and serving of food, 24(66.7%) knew the risk of food contamination could be reduced using gloves while handling food, while 12(33.4%) didn’t know using gloves reduce contamination.

Table (2):
Food safety awareness and handling practices of respondents.

Vendors (n=36 )
Percentage (%)
Knowledge of food safety
Hand washing before work
Handling foods by using gloves
Covering of hair  when handling and serving of food
Washing utensils with detergent
Knowledge about hand hygiene and food-borne diseases
Hand Washing after visiting the toilet
Food selling sites protected from sun, dust and wind
Presence of  animals or pests (flies etc) around the food selling sites
Presence of clear water at the site or close to the food selling sites
Sufficient hands washing facilities accessible
vendors handle money while serving food
vendors wash hands after handling money before handling food for a second time
The food sellers handle food with uncovered hands

From observation of vendors, all vending stall is not protected from dust, wind, sun, as well as animals are available in the vending site, flies can subsequently contaminate other surfaces with pathogens from livestock manure by regurgitation, fecal deposition, or mechanical transfer14. In all vending site no clean water at the site or close to the site, no washing facilities for hands, vendors didn’t wash down their hands in clean water each time before the handling and serving of food and all (100%) of the street food vendors didn’t wash hands after handling money before handling food again and 30(83%) of the vendors handle food or money with uncovered hands.

Bacteriological analysis of street-vended foods
From four street food vending sites 36 food samples were analyzed from the food items to assess the level of contamination based on aerobic mesophilc bacteria, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and E.coli is indicated in table 3. The study showed that the food samples were contaminated by pathogenic bacteria. Three types of bacterial species were identified from the three kinds of food items. The maximum numbers of Salmonella was seen in ‘Sambusa’ (S1) from Gonderber and the maximum numbers of S.aureus was observed in ‘Bonbolino’ (S31) from Piazza. In the case of E. coli the highest load was observed in ‘Bonbolino’ (S13) from Mugad. A total of 18694 bacterial isolates were analyzed from 36 food samples, 5437 bacterial strains were isolated from ‘Sambussa’, 7321 from ‘Bonbolino’ and 5936 from ‘Ambasha’ by using selective media. Among the total bacterial isolates, the dominant bacterial group was E.coli (57%) followed by Staphylococcus aureus (23%) and Salmonella (20%).

Table (3):
Aerobic mesophilic bacteria and identified bacterial species in some selected food items in CFUg-1.

Food items No of sample AMB
Salmonella (CFU/g)
S.aureus (CFU/g)
E.coli (CFU/g)
Gonderber ‘Sambussa’ S1 755 301 220 234 252
S2 334 126 96 112 111
S3 272 47 102 123 91



S4 434 122 109 203 145
S5 453 97 89 267 151
S6 350 85 76 189 117
‘Ambasha’ S7 659 101 123 435 220
S8 422 74 115 233 141
S9 394 64 96 234 131
Total 4073 1017 1026 2030 1358
Mugad ‘Sambussa’ S10 563 107 111 345 188
S11. 515 119 74 322 172
S12 499 66 86 347 166



S13 1484 218 473 793 495
S14 699 122 121 456 233
S15 585 151 90 344 195
‘Ambasha’ S16 596 99 108 389 337
S17. 476 105 93 278 159
S18 473 96 79 298 158
Total 5890 1083 1235 3572 1963
Menehariya ‘Sambussa’ S19 522 60 97 365 174
S20. 463 94 79 290 154
S21 493 103 88 302 164
‘Bonbolino’ S22 504 107 100 297 173
S23 461 119 85 257 148
S24 530 66 95 369 186
‘Ambasha’ S25 587 106 94 387 196
S26. 392 99 99 194 131
S27 402 58 105 239 134
Total 4354 812 842 2700 1460



‘Sambussa’ S28 435 105 97 233 145
S29 310 120 80 110 103
S30 276 65 89 122 92
‘Bonbolino’ S31 806 108 400 298 270
S32 490 118 120 252 163
S33 525 63 92 370 175
‘Ambasha’ S34 611 100 121 390 204
S35 464 75 112 277 155
S36 460 64 97 299 153
Total 4377 818 1208 2351 1460
Over all total 36 18694 3730 4311 10653 6240

AMB; Aerobic mesophilic bacteria
Fig. 2. Aerobic mesophilic bacteria and isolated species in street vended food items

Table (4):
Mean and standard error of bacteriological counts of AMB, Salmonella, S.aureus and E.coli CFUg-1 in Woldia town.

Food sampling sites
Mean and S.E of AMB
Mean and S.E of Salmonella
Mean and S.E of S.aureus
Mean and S.E of
9.4×101±2.72 b
1.2×102±13.66 b

Mean values indicated with the same letters are not significant at P≤0.05; * significant at P≤0.01; LSD, List Significant Difference; S.E, Standard Error of the mean

From table 4 and Fig. 2, the maximum mean load of aerobic mesophilic bacteria 6.5×102±1.1×102 CFUg-1 (29.74%) and Salmonella 1.5×102±4.5×101 CFUg-1(33.6%) were observed from Mugad and Gonderber, respectively. Whereas, the maximum mean load of Staphylococcus aureus 1.4×102±4.2×101 CFUg-1(28.59%) and E.coli 3.9×102±5.2×101 CFUg-1(34.1%) were observed from Mugad. The minimum observed mean load of aerobic mesophilic bacteria from Gonderber, Salmonella from Menehariya, Staphylococcus aureus from Menehariya and E.coli from Gonderber were 4.5×102±5.2×101 CFUg-1(20.66%), 9.0×101±7.60 CFUg-1(19.87%), 9.4×101±2.72 CFUg-1(19.49%) and 2.1×102±3.4×101 CFUg-1 (17.68%), respectively. Regarding the dominant bacterial species, 10653(57%) E.coli was observed (Table 5). Statistical significant difference was observed in mean value of E. coli between ‘Sambussa’ and ‘Bonbolino’ at p≤ 0.05. However, there was no statistical considerable difference among the mean load of aerobic mesophilic bacteria, Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus among the four food sampling sites (p≤ 0.05).

Table (5):
Incidence of dominant bacteria species in some street-vended foods in Woldia town.

Food type
Number  of
Frequency (%)
Frequency (%)
Frequency (%)

Food items vended in the street plays significant role in low-income countries in order to address the need of food demands of the urban peoples. It is widely utilized by the world’s community of millions of people daily due to its accessibility and cheap in price15. The present study was conducted to examine the microbial quality of some selected street vended foods sold in four locations in Woldia town.

In this study the socio-demographic characteristics indicated that the majority (89.9%) of street food sellers were females. A study done in Gondar, Ethiopia reported that 95% of the vendors were females16. Similarly a study done in Jima17 also reported the majority (85.5%) of street food vendors were females. Among 36 venders participated in the current study, 28(77.8%) of the vendors were washing their hands after toilet which was high compared to findings in Hawassa, Ethiopia (68.6%)5 and Gondar (63.3%)18 but it is in line with Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (80.8%)19 and Jimma, Ethiopia (77%)20. In this study 66.7% of the vendors cover their hair while serving and handling foods which was higher than a study reported in Ihiagwa (12.7%)21.

In the present study, the greater part (83%) of the vendors served their customers by handling food with bare hands. A similar study done in Jigjiga City, Ethiopia4 indicated 47.62% of the street food sellers handled food with uncovered hands. The street food sellers can be contaminated by pathogens like Salmonella, S. aureus and E.coli and in due course can transmit these food borne disease causing microorganisms to the consumers. This is the fact that those street vended food items are frequently contacted with unhygienic hands of vendors at some point in preparation, handling and serving22. World Health Organization23 reported those unhygienic food handlers’ hands are the main significant vehicle for the transfer of microorganisms from skin, feces and nose to the food.

Overall study indicated that all the food items sold on the street were contaminated with variety of pathogenic microorganisms. As indicated in table 5, in this study, the mean total count of AMB was 5.2×102±3.4×101 CFUg-1. The load of aerobic mesophilic bacteria is significantly high in ‘Bonbolino’ mainly due to unhygienic condition of the venders. A similar study in Yaoundé-Cameroon24, reported there was high count of AMB in the street vended food items. Similarly, a study done in Ambo, Ethiopia25 reported that the highest AMB count (2.6×103 CFUg-1) was observed in street vended foods. Another study done in Jima, Ethiopia17 reported a mean aerobic mesophilic bacterial count of 105±3.16 CFUg-1 which was higher than the present study. The mean total count of Salmonella in the study area was 3.1×102±1.2×101 CFUg-1 which was in agreement with a study done in Hawasa, Ethiopia22. In Ago-Iwoye, Nigeria26, reported only 0.7% of the food samples were contaminated with Salmonella which was very low compared with the present study.

In the case of Staphylococcus aureus, the mean count in the study area was 1.2×102±1.4×101 CFUg-1. High mean count of Staphylococcus aureus (1.4×102±4.2×101 CFUg-1) was observed in Mugad. A study done in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia3 observed high load of Staphylococcus aureus in ‘Sambussa’ which was in agreement with the findings of the present study. Similarly, a study done in Gonder27 35.54% of the food samples were contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus. Another study done in Jima, Ethiopia28 28.2% of the food samples were contaminated by Staphylococcus aureus which was higher than the frequency of the present study (23%).

The mean count of E.coli observed in the study area was 2.9×102±2.1×101 CFUg-1 which was higher than the mean count of AMB, Salmonella and S. aureus. High mean load of E.coli count was observed in Mugad (3.9×102±5.2×101 CFUg-1). The load of E. coli observed in the present study was not in line with a previous result reported in Gondar29. A study done in Bangladesh30 a maximum of 4.0×103 CFUg-1 E.coli was reported that was not in agreement with the present findings. A similar investigation done in Zimbabwe31 reported that 53% of the food samples were contaminated with E. coli which was lower than the present study. The occurrence of high mean count of E.coli in this study area demonstrates a potential high health risk and their occurrence is a suggestion of likely fecal contamination of food or water, water or food handlers and inferior hygienic processing practices8.

A high mean count of AMB, Salmonella, S. aureus and E.coli suggests contamination of foods due to inappropriate processing, contamination through contact with contaminated utensils and poor personal hygiene of the vendors.


This study revealed the street vended food items were potentially contaminated by the Salmonella, S.aueres and E. coli. Therefore, the occurrence of these microorganisms might be predicted for the presence of potential disease causing microorganisms. Very high bacterial loads from ‘Sambussa’, ‘Bonbolino’ and ‘Ambasha’ food samples suggests a potential health risk to the consumers from the utilization of foods sold in the street in the study area. This indicates poor food handling practice and personal hygiene of the vendors in the street and high risk of food borne infections. To enhance bacterial quality of foods sold in the street by venders providing regular training and creating awareness on food handling and personal hygiene among street food venders as well as consumers is recommended.


The author acknowledges the study participants and Woldia University for providing necessary facilities and infrastructure to perform the tests.


Ethical clearance was obtained from the Ethical Committee of Woldia University. .

All the necessary data are available in the submitted manuscript.

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