Addressing Food Poisoning and Food Hygiene among Cafeterias and Food Vendors on University of Ibadan Campus


Sadik Omolola

Food poisoning is an illness that is often ignored or belittled as mere stomach upsets. It is a food-borne illness resulting from the consumption of contaminated, spoiled, or toxic food. According to Healthline, most food poisoning can be traced to one of three major causes– bacteria (such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria), viruses (like norovirus), and sometimes toxins or chemicals. These pathogens can find their way into our meals in different ways, often starting from the way food is handled, stored, or prepared. In some cases, food is contaminated by the environment, including polluted water or soil, while in other cases, food gets contaminated as a result of poor hygiene practices among handlers and consumers.

The university experience teaches us many things ranging from academics, life skills, and relationships. However, despite its vital importance, the lesson on good food hygiene is often overlooked. In their quest for quick and convenient meals, students may find themselves consuming food from vendors. It should not be surprising to know that different students on campus have experienced episodes of food-borne illnesses attributed to several factors, ranging from poor food handling practices to the consumption of contaminated food. This problem not only affects the health and well-being of students, but also raises serious questions about the standards of food safety and hygiene in our academic environment.

University cafeterias and local food vendors within or around the campus premises are often the epicenters of these food poisoning outbreaks. Several reasons contribute to this worrying trend, including inadequate food storage facilities, improper food handling by staff, and the use of contaminated water in food preparation.

Recently, Praise, a 400 level Law student, experienced a severe case of food poisoning that almost cost his life. He recalls, “I noticed that I’ve been having stomach ache. Then, the ache worsened and it was really affecting me in my stomach and joints. For some time, it grew so severe that I was actually concerned about appendicitis. When I visited the hospital, they ruled out appendicitis, but acknowledged my severe pain. The ache lasted for about two to three hours, starting around 3pm and extending until around 6pm. When I went to Jaja, they downplayed my pain. I had to go home and then took injections for two days, with the drugs I used lasting for about a week. It turned out to be food poisoning. I can’t pinpoint the exact place I got it. However, I remember the day I ate the food I prepared in the morning, had some snacks, and also got food from Bello Café around 2 pm. I can’t specifically identify where it came from because I consumed various things that day.”

With symptoms including vomiting, fatigue, fever, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, and dehydration, the impacts of food poisoning can be severe, leading to absenteeism from classes, reduced academic performance, and in extreme cases, hospitalization. These symptoms can manifest within hours of consuming contaminated food and may last for several days. The physical discomfort and weakness can be particularly challenging for students, making it difficult for them to participate in class, focus on studies, or engage in extracurricular activities.

Practicing simple measures such as proper handwashing before and after handling food, thoroughly cleaning kitchen surfaces and utensils, correctly storing food to avoid cross-contamination, and ensuring food is cooked to the right temperature are important in preventing food poisoning.

In addition, water can be a significant source of foodborne illnesses, so always ensure you’re drinking safe water. If you are unsure about the cleanliness of the water source, it is advisable to boil the water before drinking. Eat street foods with caution. Students must embrace healthy practices and prioritize their well-being. If you decide to eat out, be sure to choose vendors who cook food thoroughly and maintain clean serving areas.

The cafeterias and food vendors on campus, as well as the university management, have a huge responsibility when it comes to food hygiene. Campus food services must maintain the highest standards of hygiene and food safety. This includes regular training for all staff on food handling, storage, and preparation protocols. Rigorous monitoring systems should be established and implemented by the management to ensure this.

Management of food poisoning focuses on symptom relief and hydration. Students affected should be encouraged to drink plenty of fluids, rest, and seek medical attention. It is often said, “You are what you eat.” Good hygiene is a non-negotiable demand for students invested in their health. It is our collective responsibility to be thoughtful about where and what we eat, to question the methods employed in preparing our meals, and to demand the highest standards of hygiene.

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