|dc.description.abstract||Food borne diseases constitute a growing public health problem world-wide and a significant cause of reduced economic activity. It is estimated that up to 70% (WHO,2000) of diarrhoeal diseases may be caused by contaminated foods. Most food borne diseases are attributed to food contamination through unhygienic food handling practices, infected food handlers and lack of appropriate knowledge on food borne diseases by food handlers. Very little research work and surveillance of food borne diseases has been done in Africa and Kenya in Particular. The incidences of food borne diseases are not easy to estimate in Kenya as most of them are lumped together when recording, as diarrhoea diseases.
This study sought to assess the food handling practices and the prevalence of food borne study illness amongst the food handlers in Embu Municipality. Both random and systemic sampling procedures were used to identify food handlers to be included in the study as they attended routine medical examination. Stool specimens were taken for microscopic analysis for ova and cysts; using Ritches modified formal ether stool concentration method and culture for bacterial investigations. Knowledge on food borne diseases, socio-demographic factors and food handling practices were evaluated using pre-tested structured questionnaires.
The results that food borne illness and food handling practices were still a public health problem in Embu Municipality, seventy (28.9%) of the food handlers were infected with Salmonella typhi and ten (4.1) with Entamoeba histolytica. Significant differences (c² =6.86; p<0.05; df=1) were noted in the prevalence of Salmonella typhi among food handlers who were 30 years old and below and those above 30 years.
Over 50% of the food handlers had high knowledge and understanding of the food borne illnesses, their symptoms, causes and preventive measures. Significant differences c²=9.26<0.05; df=1) were noted between those with secondary education and above and those with primary education and below on the knowledge of specific food borne illnesses. Compliance with food handling practices and health measures as laid out in the Public Health Act Cap 242 and the Food, Drugs and Chemical Substances Act Cap 254 laws of Kenya was not satisfactory. About 42% of the food handlers had no valid medical certificates, 21% without protective garments and even among those who had them, (31.5%) were dirty. Among the cooks, 76.6% did not have head covers. Touching of foods with bare hands was observed in 55.1% of the food handlers, while 42% did not wash hands after touching raw foods. Most cashiers, (64%) were found handling food after handling money without washing hands. Significant differences (c² =37.06; p<0.001; df=1) were noted between those who washed hands before touching foods in high and low class eating houses. Though most of the premises were provided with refuse containers, the majority (71.9%) of the containers were without refuse covers.
Food borne illnesses and food handling practices are still a major threat to public health in Embu Municipality. Measures should be undertaken by the Government to ensure effective and efficient enforcement of the Public Health Act Cap. 242 and The Food Drugs and Chemical substances Act Cap. 254 and training of food handlers. Results of this study will be useful to public health managers in their effort towards improvement of public health.||en_US