The era of globalization has witnessed the growing phenomenon of consumption or consumerism in parallel with socio-cultural change and improvement in economic progress. However, Penang street food poor business placement causes issue of cleanliness and food safety to emerge. This study was carried out to explore the aspects of street food consumption in the city of George Town and its relation to hygiene issues. The George Town city area was selected because it is known as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a gastronomic city that turn it into a popular tourist destination in Malaysia. This study focuses on hawkers’ attitude towards street food cleanliness. It also reflects the consumers’ perception on food and hygiene issues. Questionnaire instruments have been used in this study through random sampling methods. The population of the study involved 200 respondents, consisting of 100 local consumers/local tourists and 100 international tourists whom experienced consuming street foods around the city of George Town. For the hawker’s category, the researchers have collected 30 respondents to answer the questionnaires. Researchers have also used in-depth interviews with seven street food vendors/hawkers. The findings revealed that hygiene issues amongst street food operations are serious issue although there were variations in terms of findings for local and international consumers. Thus, the government and street food vendor/hawkers should address the issues of hygiene practices through various initiatives and measures.
Keywords: Street foodconsumption and hygiene
Street food is a ready-made meal and drinks provided by hawkers specifically in streets and open places (Food and Agricultural Organization [FAO], 1989). According to Food and Agricultural Organization [FAO] (2009) street food is a significant contributor to the diet of most people in developing countries. The transformation in community lifestyle has an impact on the current development of consumerism. In other words, socio-cultural change in society influenced changes street food consumption patterns. Therefore, in order to make all states in Malaysia maintained its presence as a tourist destination; each state could brand its cities and promote its street food to raise the reputation of the state. As destination branding is the cornerstone of survival in today's competitive tourism industry, the benchmark of a city reputation depends on its strong branding which distinguished itself from its competitor (Qu et al., 2011). In this case, food has the potential to become one of the tourist attraction in the destination. While, food is gaining momentum in planning a travel itinerary which soon became commonly known as food destinations; food tourism has become one of the fastest growing segments in the tourism industry (World Tourism Organization [UNWTO], 2012). Previous studies had showed that food played an important role in touristic experience (Kivela & Crotts, 2006) and as a means to fascinate travellers to destinations (Enright & Newton, 2004; Smith & Costello, 2009; Tikkanen, 2007; Yuksel, 2001). The street food sector offers numerous business opportunities for budding entrepreneurs. Street food have great influence in the tourism industry (Jalis et al., 2009); the local foods served in certain destinations yields benefits in two folds - it boost up the local tourism sector and gain loyalty from potential retuning customer. Street foods symbolize the roots and identity of a community and it was perceived as a fundamental aspect for tourist to gain great experiences which proofs to be an imperative platform for economic reason (Quan & Wang, 2004). Despite street food sales being one of the significant contributors in developing economy, however the rise in foodborne diseases in evolving countries had associated street food as a risk. There are many studies conducted on street food hygiene issues in developing countries. Street food is accountable for 691 food poisoning cases and 49 deaths from 1983 to 1992 in Malaysia (Lianghui et al., 1993). Thus, this study was conducted to examine the linkages between street foods and hygiene issues in George Town, Penang, Malaysia. The objectives of the study include exploring hawkers’ attitudes toward cleanliness of street food and consumers’ perceptions regarding street food hygiene issues.
Food quality is an important part of the food consumption process. According to Henson and Traill (1993) food quality can be divided into four parts: food safety, nutrition, food value, and food packaging. Yuksel and Yuksel (2002) in his study found that product quality was considered as a determining factor in satisfaction of the food consumed. Cronin and Taylor (1992) discovered that satisfaction is critical element as it reflects subjective client assessments on the food execution and consumption experience. Zeithaml et al. (1996) further supported the idea that overall satisfaction is a post-purchase attitude determined by the expectation of the customer, the quality of the product or service and also the price. The product or service must be at least as good as it is supposed to be. This shows that in order to make the customers feel satisfied, the producer needs to ensure that their service or product is well delivered from every aspect including cleanliness. Street food is an important component of the food supply chain as it meets the important needs of the urban population (FAO, 2008). Majority of the developing countries are witnessing the increase in street food businesses (Draper, 1996). Street food is one of the attractions in the city. The street foods consumption pattern is largely related to urban life, especially in developing countries. The busy lifestyle of urban dweller has also led to a rise in the pattern of street food consumption. According to Winarno and Allain (1986) urbanization has encouraged an increase in the quantity of street food businesses in most cities around the world but Van T-Riet et al. (2001) also argues that the economic downturn and high inflation rates have increased the cost of living which translated into the increase of unsafe food in urban areas.
Street foods offer economic benefits to hawkers and residents by showing great varieties of ingredients, processing, marketing and usage. Street food has also become an essential part of people's diet because it is easily accessible and affordable in urban areas and integrated into our present lifestyle. It also plays a significant role in providing employment opportunities for millions of men and females with limited educational qualifications or vocational skills. Despite street foods being nutritious and affordable food source for the urban communities, health risk remains a concern in the event the foods were not prepared in a hygienic way. Street vendors’ living amongst others in the city was common. However, the health status of consumers depends on the safety and hygiene practices of the street vendors. If the street vendor do not care about their health and address the issue of hygiene, the consumer's health will be effected (Dawson & Canet, 1991). Hygienic water supply is the most important component in street foods preparation. These are conflicting approaches, but both World Health Organization (WHO) and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) recommend the use of the critical hazard controls approach (HACCP) as the most effective and flexible way to improve street food safety (Arambulo et al., 1994). The street foods in Penang is reputable amongst the local and foreign tourist however the poor business placement creates worries on the cleanliness and safety of the foods. Most vendors run their businesses on the sidewalks and on the roads, which could endanger the safety of consumers as well the vendors. In this respect, street food vendors have put the health and safety of public consumers at high risk unless they take precaution measures and cautious while preparing and handling the street foods served.
Based on the problem statement, the researchers focused on several research questions:
What is the hawker's attitude towards the issue of cleanliness of street food?
What is the consumer's perception of the issue of hygiene on street food?
Purpose of the Study
This paper aims to study the Street Food consumption and hygiene issues based in George Town, Penang. Food quality is an important part of the food consumption process. This study was carried out to explore the aspects of street food consumption in the city of George Town and its relation to hygiene issues among the consumer’s perception on hawker’s attitude.
George Town was chosen as a study area as this area is a focal point for street food consumption in Penang. The research was conducted in Gurney Drive, Chulia Street or better known as Penang Road and Padang Brown which are hotspots that serves a variety of street foods. In addition, the selection of George Town's as a study area was due to its unique and internationally recognized food destination. The study area is shown in the map below (see Figure
The sample group of this study were outlined as follow:
200 consumers (100 locals and 100 foreigners)
The researcher gets the consumers to answer the questionnaires and conducted in-depth interviews with seven street food vendors.
Sampling Method and Data Collection
The sampling method was conducted via simple random sampling. Through this technique, each member of the population has an equal chance of being selected as a subject (Gaganpreet Sharma, 2017). The researcher sourced respondents randomly by approaching peoples who were consuming street foods. The hawkers were selected amongst those who run their business around George Town. This study was conducted using quantitative and qualitative research method. Data collection methods were administered through questionnaires, interviews, and observations.
This study was using mixed methods (combination of quantitative and qualitative methods). According to Creswell and Plano Clark (2007) data collection through this mixed-method has long been used but incorporating it into a research design is a new approach. Creswell and Plano Clark (2007) further stated that mixed-method approach is a study which involved collecting and analysing data through both quantitative and qualitative methods in one study. The qualitative data collected through questionnaires and in-depth interviews were analysed using content analysis to explore hawker’s attitude street food in George Town. The quantitative data collected were analysed using
Consumers’ perception on street food hygiene issues in George Town
Street food can be exposed to the dangers of different pollutants (microbes, parasites, physical and chemical) that sometimes make the food harmful to consumers (FAO, 2008). The quality of food hygiene depends on identifying and control potential hazards. Its strict and systematic nature requires an appropriate method of analysis for hygiene issues. Table
Based on Table
The findings of the study on consumer perceptions on street food hygiene based on Table
In this study, consumer perception of physical environment such as physical facilities, equipment conditions and the appearance of hawkers is underwhelming because street food in Penang is not as clean as anticipated. Traditionally, street food vendors are unhygienic; lack of clean water supply, proper food storage equipment; poor sanitation facilities and waste disposal in their vending areas (Titarmare et al., 2009).
Consumers’ Perception of Hawkers Appearance
The street foods businesses play an important role in developing countries to meet food demand amongst urban dweller. Street food fed millions of people daily with a diverse foods choices which were relatively inexpensive and accessible (Latham, 1997). Nevertheless, there are significant health reports related to street food (Omemu & Aderoju, 2008). Street food vendors often do not have licenses and were not trained in food safety and sanitation while working under informal surroundings (FAO, 2009). Thus, this study has also gained the perception of consumers towards the appearance of hawkers. Table
Meanwhile, for the
In addition, the
Through this we could deduce that there are perceptual differences between local and international consumers on hygiene issues and hawkers' appearance. These differences happen because local consumers like to choose stalls premises rather than a restaurant. Meanwhile, international consumers would rather eat at restaurant. Hence, this perception is very important in developing consumer loyalty which could either make them a returning customer or a one-timer.
Hawker's Attitude on Street Food Hygiene
Most studies on street food reported that street food vendors lacked the knowledge and guidance in conducting business. Health risks from street food vendors can be reduced by monitoring the behavior and alertness towards hygiene and self-care needs in the provision of street food. Table
Based on the findings in Table
Although there are toilet facilities, findings based on observation of toilets found that the toilets are not properly maintained and toilet cleanliness is not satisfactory. According to
In addition, for item
For street food vendors who failed to undergo food handler training will be fined not exceeding RM 10,000 or imprisonment not exceeding two years. The hawkers will need to undergo additional training to improve their level of knowledge, attitudes and practices while for food vendors who do not care for the premise cleanliness and food poisoning need to re-attend this course. Furthermore, for regulation 31, hawkers need to conduct medical examinations and it is mandatory for all food operators. Food vendors cannot work in food premises if they suffer from foodborne illness (Ministry of Health, 2016). The findings show that all respondents (30 people) have no health problems.
In short, the hawkers' attitude towards their responsibility to participate in food handlers training courses is positive as majority of the hawkers had participated in the training. However, street food hawkers’ attitude in George Town pertaining to toilet cleanliness is unsatisfactory that causes discomfort among consumers. Hence, hawkers need to address the issue of toilet hygiene at business premises by improving its cleanliness.
As a whole, this study had outlined the perceptions of local and international consumer perceptions on street food hygiene in George Town, Penang. The findings show that consumer perceptions of hawkers’ personal hygiene differ between local and international users. In addition, this study also examines the issue of hawker attitude regarding sanitary handling practices. The findings show that hawkers 'attitude is good and adhere to the established street food handling procedures; hawkers' performance on their appearance was less satisfactory. This has indirectly impacted the food tourism industry in Penang. Studies have shown that about 2.5 billion people enjoy street food around the world. Despite the popularity of street food, adequate regulations on food safety measures were not established which resulted in health risk associated with street food. Studies have shown that in most countries’ policies, ‘there is no legal regulation for food safety and application or sale of street food’ (Sezgin & Şanlıer, 2016). Although consumers perceived positively on street food hygiene, street food vendors still lacks knowledge of food safety which is reflected through unhygienic practices during the preparation and selling of food. The result shows that most street food vendors have low levels of education and if they do not possessed official food safety training and certification, they might possibly distribute and sell foods that were deemed unsafe for consumption. Therefore, further action needs to be taken to promote the implementation and compliance of the relevant standards in the food industry especially those catered to street food vendors. Government bodies and other agencies should work in tandem to fulfil the needs and requirement to handle street food with safe consumption practices to ensure the consumers’ stay healthy and contribute sustainable income for street food vendors. Besides, consumer awareness on food safety regulations should be strengthened which could potentially generate knowledgeable food consumers which ultimately encourage food vendors to practice good standards. These will be crucial measures in order to sustain street food popularity and cleanliness in World Heritage City such as George Town.
Special thanks to Universiti Sains Malaysia for funding this research through research university grant (RUI):
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Othman, A. S. H. A., & Dawood, S. R. S. (2020). Street Food Consumption and Hygiene Issues in George Town, Penang. In N. Samat, J. Sulong, M. Pourya Asl, P. Keikhosrokiani, Y. Azam, & S. T. K. Leng (Eds.), Innovation and Transformation in Humanities for a Sustainable Tomorrow, vol 89. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 488-500). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2020.10.02.44