Microbial contamination of street food sold in Quetta.
38% (121/320) of ready-to-eat food samples were contaminated with microbial pathogens.
Food quality was worse in summer months.
Salmonella enteritidis and Salmonella typhimurium were identified by multiplex polymerase chain reaction.
Isolated pathogens showed antibiotic resistance.
Ready-to-eat (RTE) food sold in Quetta, Pakistan was assessed for microbial contamination.
Equal numbers of samples were collected from four categories of RTE food – burgers, shawarma, pizza and sandwiches – from January 2018 to December 2018. Microbial contamination of individual food samples was assessed by quantifying the total aerobic count obtained from plating samples on bacterial growth medium. Salmonella spp. serovars were identified using polymerase chain reaction.
Approximately 38% (121/320) of RTE food samples were not fit for human consumption. The most contaminated type of RTE food was shawarma (49%). Microbial contamination of food samples was higher in summer compared with the other seasons. Approximately 40% (49/121) of food samples that were not fit for human consumption were contamined with Salmonella spp. Salmonella enteritidis (69%) and Salmonella typhimurium (31%) were the only serovars among the samples testing positive for Salmonella spp. Of the 49 samples with high microbial counts, S. enteritidis was present in 34 samples and S. typhimurium was present in 15 samples. The antibiotic sensitivity results demonstrated that both S. enteritidis and S. typhimurium were resistant to amoxicillin. In addition, S. enteritidis was resistant to chloramphenicol and erythromycin, and S. typhimurium presented high resistance to erythromycin. Both S. typhimurium and S. enteritidis were highly sensitive to kanamycin.
RTE food sold by street vendors in Quetta was found to be contaminated with Salmonella spp. and poses a great health risk to consumers. As such, consumption should be avoided, and the health authorities should take stringent action to ensure the quality of street food in order to reduce the healthcare burden.