Krishnajyoti Goswami1, Ipsita Mazumdar2

Street vended foods are a very common consumable commodity across age and income groups. It covers a wide range of a variety of food items to suit every need, and are hugely popular all over the country. They can, however, contain toxic heavy metals, like lead, which can pose serious health hazards, including neuropathy, cardiovascular, renal as well as bone diseases. Source of lead can be various artificial food colorants used to increase the palatability of such food, and also automobile emission exhaust smoke that pollutes the street atmosphere, the very place where such food is prepared or kept ready to consume. Contamination with heavy metals is a serious threat because of their toxicity, bioaccumulation and bio magnifications in the food chain. This source of lead toxicity, however, is one aspect of the health hazards that has not been widely explored. The aim of this study is to increase awareness among general population, both consumers and vendors, regarding a very common but often overlooked source of heavy metal contamination.
Lead was measured by flame atomic absorption spectrophotometry after digestion of food with 98% Nitric acid.
This present study measures the level of lead in various commonly consumed street vended food items across the streets of Kolkata, India, and shows that the range of its level is much higher than the WHO recommended level of lead in food materials. The level also has close association with the food colorant used.
In conclusion, the gross lack of awareness among the general population, both at the vendor and the consumer level, regarding this particular health hazard related to the food they consume on a regular basis, needs to be addressed as a serious issue, and personal safety measures should be undertaken.