18 August 2019

Threats of drinking street vended fruit juices

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One cannot resist stepping into a fresh fruit juice shop while travelling in this hot scorching summer. Fresh fruit juices provide instant soothing relief, refreshes and rehydrates us in this hot season. As we travel along the highways, we are able to see so many street vendors, at a stone throw distance from each other, busily preparing and selling iced fresh juices. They are preferred by the consumers because of the fresh flavour and low cost. The most popular fruit juices sold by these vendors these days are sugar cane, musk melon, orange, sweet lime, and lemon. Fresh fruit juices are increasingly becoming a vehicle of foodborne illness.

Threats of drinking street vended fruit juices

Fresh fruit juices contain loads of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Apart from quenching the thirst, consumption of them helps in preventing degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular problems, obesity, and several cancers. Nutrients in fruit juices help in boosting one’s immune system and also improves digestion by secreting a healthy level of enzymes.

However, have we ever thought of the hidden potential risks that underlie while drinking these fruit juices prepared by road side vendors? These fruit juices are prepared in a open space, usually under a tree, near a pond, and along the sides of a very busy road. This invites plenty of dust to settle in our fruit juices. Also, cut fruits are exhibited openly as a treat to flies. The next concern is about the washing practices followed by them to cleanse the fruits, containers and their hands. Unclean fruits, improperly washed glasses, dirty machines, untreated water and a dirty hand welcomes millions of pathogens into the juice. 

Though some of our immune systems can fight off the effects of pathogens, children, elderly and people with weakened immune systems risk life-threatening health issues by drinking these juices. Fruit juices prepared and served in an unhygienic way can cause various diseases like diarrhoea, fever, typhoid, cholera, jaundice and hepatitis.

Research studies show a high microbial load in road side vended drinks. The range of average total viable count (microbial load) and total coliforms were 7.7 × 103 - 9 × 108 cfu/ml and 210–1100 cfu/100 ml, indicating the heavy presence of microorganisms in all the drinks analyzed in the study.

Government can introduce and implement policies to ensure the hygienic quality of road side vended juices. Awareness programmes to road side vendors can be given to protect our community from falling ill.

It is advisable to drink home-made fruit juices and under unavoidable situations, always drink fresh juices in an A grade shop. It is better to opt for tender coconut which is otherwise known as heavens dew. 

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