Handling, vending and hygienic quality of street foods available to local residents, internal and foreign tourists to Cape Coast, the most important tourism hub in Ghana, were investigated. Questionnaires assessed stakeholder commitment to and expectations of food hygiene. Laboratory analysis evaluated microbial contamination levels of the street foods. Patronised by both local residents and tourists, foreign tourists put the hygienic safety as the principal criterion over curiosity and price to patronise street foods. Although licences had been given to 27 (54%) of the 50 investigated food vendors, only 15 (55.5%) of the licensed vendors had had medical examination (8 only once and 7 annually). Food vending premises visibly needed improvement in sanitation. The foods had the following bacterial contamination levels in colony forming units per gram (cfu/g): meat pie (1.3 × 105), khebab (5 × 104), rice with stew (4.1 × 105), fried fish (8 × 104), pepper sauce (1.4 × 105), etsew or banku (3 × 105), beans with gari (2 × 104), fufu (1.6 × 105) wakye (6.6 × 105) and dakua (2.3 × 105). Presence of Escherichia coli of faecal origin was detected in all investigated food samples. Khebab, fried fish and beans with gari had acceptable bacterial contamination levels of <5 log10 cfu/g. The following major fungi were identified in the street foods: Aspergilus flavus, Aspergillus niger, Aspergillus candidus, Cladosporium herbarum, Necrospora crassa, Penicillium citrinum, Fusarium, Mucor and Rhizopusspecies. Yeasts were found in all investigated food items. The street foods were, therefore, found to have threatening unacceptable microbial contamination levels. Stakeholder education, legislation, verifiable microbiological standards, inspections and environmental sanitation improvement are necessary.
Key words: Tourism, street foods, Cape Coast, Ghana.
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