Isaw, betamax, and barbecue are popular street foods among Filipinos. Sold almost everywhere, from local communities, marketplaces, to sidewalks, they have been local favorites for decades. However, experts warn the public to be cautious of these delicacies, as diseases may arise from eating them.
According to microbiologist Dr. Windell Rivera, raw meat and poultry, the most common ingredients of grilled street food, can easily be contaminated by various bacteria.
"Poultry product ito, chicken, tinabihan mo ng pork, normally these would contain Salmonella, Listeria, lalo na kung hindi properly cooked yung mga meat products (Poultry and pork products may contain Salmonella, Listeria especially if these products are not thoroughly cooked)."
Experts say Salmonella and Listeria are bacteria known to cause gastro-intestinal infections causing fever, diarrhea, vomiting, or nausea.
Rivera also said cross contamination of these disease-causing bacteria can occur while food is being cooked on the grill.
"Syempre madali yung contamination lalo na kung magkakatabi sila sa isang grilling apparatus, madali yung cross contamination (Cross contamination of bacteria can easily occur since these foods are cooked together on a grilling apparatus)."
Rivera added some bacteria may produce toxins.
"Normally ang shigella, nagproproduce ng toxin at ang manifestation nito palagi ay yung gastro intestinal disorder (Shigella normally produces toxins and may manifest as internal disorder among humans)," he said. Shigella infection can result to diarrhea with bloody stools.
According to Rivera, some cases could lead to Hepatitis A, or even kidney failure.
Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease which may cause mild to severe fever, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, or jaundice, yellowing of the skin and the white areas of the eyes. Although rarely fatal, the disease does not have a specific medicine. But experts say no treatment may be required unless the person suffers extreme dehydration.
Meanwhile, kidney failure can occur if the contaminant is the E. coli bacteria. Although E.coli normally causes diarrhea, urinary or respiratory tract infections to humans, if a victim contracts the hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), the disease can possibly result to kidney failure. The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) however estimates that only 5-10% of people who ingest E.coli may suffer HUS.
To address the situation, experts said observing sanitary precautions is key to avoid diseases from these favorite delicacies.
Rivera advised thorough washing of poultry and meat products using clean water prior to cooking, as not all bacteria can be killed by heat. Sauces must also be stored properly as they can be contaminated by bacteria if meat with saliva or microorganisms are dipped into them.
Experts added that when cooking and grilling, meat must be thoroughly cooked. Also, as much as possible, chicken must be separated from pork.
Lastly, thorough washing of utensils and containers after using is advised, as bacteria which remain in these kitchenware can contaminate the next set of meat they come in contact with.