Case Studies

Food Safety for All

CU team joins BMA and others to ensure a safe and enjoyable street food experience

Street food in Thailand has been hailed the world over for its great variety and tempting tastes. Among the many street food areas in Bangkok, Siam Square is considered an epicenter of enjoyment for locals and visitors alike.

However, food safety has often come up as risk factor that can dim the attraction of street food. Chulalongkorn University has taken the issue in hand with a project called “Elevating Food Safety” under the “USAFE: Food Safety – Food For All” initiative. The objective is to monitor food quality and the safety of food outlets in all areas for which the university’s property management arm is responsible.

In line with the campaign by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to make Bangkok a Food Safety City, the project corresponds with the Chula Care strategy that aims at building and strengthening good relations with the community as part of the school’s corporate social responsibility mission.

With funding support from the food cluster of the CU Food Innopolis Project, the project implementation team comprises various stakeholders including the university’s Faculty of Veterinary Science and Food Risk Center, the BMA Food Sanitation Division, the Department of Health and Pathumwan District.

One of the team’s tasks was to collect food samples for microbiological testing and analysis. Commonly found microbial contamination included Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Salmonella spp., and Vibrio cholerae. Other chemical hazards such as red meat enhancer, formalin, sodium hydrosulfite, salicylic acid, beta agonists and pesticide residues were also on the checklist.

“We collected random samples from 92 food outlets. In the first round, 47 of them passed the testing, another 30 passed in the second round and 15 did not pass,” explains Busaba Wongla, a project team member.

“Most of them passed the chemical safety testing while the most common bacteria found in the microbiological testing were E.coli and S.aureus. We informed vendors of the results and gave advice to help them improve food safety before the next round of testing.”

Base on the random sampling, food contamination can occur in any of the three stages including:

Upstream: during raw material production of agriculture, livestock and fishery products, such as use of chemicals, insecticides and pesticides, poor storage, etc;

Midstream: during food processing and transport, such as use of additives and preservatives, poor sanitation and food hygiene;

Downstream: during distribution, sale and service, such as mishandling in food storage, low-quality packaging and improper sanitary practices.

The team collected data for analysis and provided the BMA with a risk assessment model for food safety inspection and control. The information is made public to create better awareness of food safety among consumers and food operators.

As well, the project organized a capacity building workshop on quality control such as GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) standards for food vendors and handlers in the Siam Square area.

“After the workshop, participants can obtain certification if they pass the written test by the BMA Health Department. Out of 29 who took the test, 20 passed it,” says Ms Busaba.

After completion of initial project implementation in 2018-19, Chulalongkorn University has set out to continue and expand its working area to cover some 130 permanent food outlets in Chulalongkorn Soi 5 to 20 in Siam Square, as well as in the Samyan and Suan Luang areas and some 30 street vendors in front of Chulalongkorn Hospital.

More work to realize Bangkok’s ambition as a Food Safety City is in the pipeline, including a collaborative project between Chulalongkorn University and Samphanthawong District on risk assessment and communication related to street food in Yaowarat (Chinatown), and a funding proposal to establish a food stability and shelf life analysis center.