Brazil’s National Health Inspection Agency (Anvisa) is forming partnerships to make sure that the Brazilian tradition of consuming sidewalk food is not harmful to consumers’ health.
Anvisa technical personnel are trying to exert greater control over the quality of products sold out in the open.
The idea is to train the people directly involved in the production of sandwiches, barbecued meat and chicken, fried bean cakes (acarajé), fried fish, juices, and ice cream to adopt strict methods of hygiene and cleanliness, free from contamination, when they prepare these foods.
The manual “Good Preparation Practices” presents hygiene and health norms recommended by the Anvisa for food preparation.
In training programs, Anvisa technical staff also disseminate the Analysis of Hazards and Critical Control Points, a preventive system designed to avoid contamination.
Bahian bean cakes, one of Brazil’s most popular typical dishes, now deserve excellent marks. A partnership between Anvisa and the Brazilian Small and Micro Business Support Service (Sebrae), Industry’s Social Service (Sesi), and Industry’s National Apprenticeship Service (Senai) is making it possible for Bahian acarajé vendors to improve the quality of the product they sell on the sidewalk throughout the Bahian capital.
The “Bean Cake 10” project is a source of pride to Tânia Meire, a Bahian who insists on maintaining her state’s culinary traditions in the stand she operates at the Barra Lighthouse, in Salvador.
Every year her bean cakes receive a seal of quality from Anvisa inspectors, who visit her kitchen to test the product.
“I learned to appreciate my culture and my roots even more. The course served to improve the quality of my work,” Tânia Meire explains.
Techniques of hygiene and adequate ways to handle and store foodstuffs to avoid contamination are some of the items taught the Bahians who sell bean cakes in the streets, restaurants, and bars of the Bahian capital.
Tânia Meire also says that she follows all the required procedures when she makes her bean cakes.
“Nowadays I have a routine in the kitchen and in the handling of the ingredients I use to make the bean cake dough, the filling (vatapá, a paste containing flour, dried shrimp, coconut milk, and dendé palm oil, among other ingredients), the shrimp, and the vinaigrette sauce, and I am unable to break it,” she recounts.
She adds that she became an entrepreneur after taking the course.
“The course gave me an idea of the quantity of bean cakes I should make in order not to incur losses, in accordance with the demands of my working day, so that nothing is left over.
“This cuts the cost and eliminates losses. I consider myself a business woman, and I have to maintain the standards of the product I sell in order to ensure my clientele,” she affirms.
Ice cream from Rio Grande do Sul is also on the path to quality. In 2001 the Anvisa discovered that nearly half the ice cream consumed in that state presented problems of contamination.
But this reality has changed. The Anvisa and Senai implanted the Safe Food Program in the state, and it has modified the behavior of company employees to ensure the quality of the product sold on the street.
Ariosto Gomes guarantees that in the ice cream shop in which he works consumers can be sure that the quality of the product that leaves the store is 100%.
But if the customer takes the ice cream home and doesn’t put it in the freezer, this can alter the product, Ariosto warns.
In Acre and Ceará small farmers are managing to produce high-quality manioc meal. Consequently, they are able to sell it to the National Supply Company (Conab).
Conab technical personnel evaluate and classify the meal, which becomes part of the federal government’s regulatory stocks or the basic food baskets distributed to needy families by the Zero Hunger Program.
According to Conab’s Manager of Family Farming, Paulo Coutinho, the idea of the program is to make use of the knowledge of small-scale manioc flour producers together with techniques that will assure consumers a product free of contamination.
The producers gain when it is time to sell their meal, which is classified by an expert from the Conab, which pays more than the market price, Coutinho explains.
In Ceará the Conab Superintendent, Marco Alverne, says that 40 tons of manioc meal are being acquired from small producers in the state.
“In addition to doing away with the figure of the middleman, the producer sells the sack for US$ 17.20 (50 reais), whereas he would receive only US$ 13.90 (38 reais) on the market,” he informs.
“It is good for the consumer and good for the producer, and, as a result, we are strengthening the economies of small cities with money flowing to the farmer,” he adds.
The Anvisa Manager of Food Grading, Fernando Magalhães, points out that the effort, with support from the Sebrae, Sesi, Sesc, and Senai, makes it possible for street vendors to understand the process of production and commercialization.
The tools are simple, demonstrating adequate ways to handle foodstuffs. The courses are short, using easy expressions within the grasp of small producers, and they make a difference for both sellers and consumers, Magalhães explains.
The 3.5 thousand state and municipal health inspectors are furnishing information to itinerant food vendors and carrying out inspections.
“During rush hour in the cities, we frequently don’t have time to choose. Our job is to train the people who prepare these foods and carry out inspections to ensure that the food is of good quality without presenting risks to consumers’ health,” the manager concludes.
Reporter: Rosamélia de Abreu
Translator: David Silberstein