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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Roadside Snacks May Be a Bad Idea

While most of these bites are a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre, according to, there is the risk of getting diseased because most of the snacks are not prepared in a hygienic environment, writes Dennis D.Muhumuza

In the beginning, God made man and gave him a stomach. He said to man to eat fruits from the trees in the garden but not to eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden. But when the “woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”
Thanks to temptation.

This little story as in Genesis 3 best tells the history of man and his belly. Humankind has since creation toiled to meet the eternal demands of the stomach. In fact, nutritionists recommend three meals a day: breakfast, lunch and supper, and a snack in between.

In Uganda, people with an eye for business are minting fine shillings selling roadside snacks. As to how hygienic they are, is but a big debate.

Nyama choma
Anyone who has not heard of mchomo or nyama choma must not be Ugandan. We are talking specifically of roast beef but we could also include pork, mutton, chicken, dry fish or anything fleshy that contains animal protein.

Arguably, the oldest type of snack food, meat snacks are most delicious. In Mbizinya and Lukaya along the Kampala-Masaka highway, buses must stop to allow passengers time to grab skewers of roast meat, chicken thighs, liver, gizzard, name it, which they munch as they journey on.

It has been rumoured that dealers even take advantage of travellers’ abiding love for flesh snacks to roast or fry kaloli (Marabou stork) and some wild animals, which they sell as chicken or beef.

In Kampala, the business of roadside meat snacks gets brisk as dusk sets in. After work as men chill in bufunda to drink beer and talk politics and women, snack peddlers step in with skewers of roast this and that.

“Pork goes well with a cold beer,” said Ian Mugizi, a regular at Kampala bufunda. “You cannot get easily drunk and those boys prepare it very well.”

Meat is sliced into small pieces, washed in salted water, roasted on charcoal stoves, and served hot. Salt, according to science books, is an important factor in the preparation of meat snacks because it adds flavour.

With the Christmas period approaching, the nsenene are about to become the hottest roadside snack around the country. The wings and legs are removed and the insects are fried and sold. The good news is that these delicacies are very rich in protein, fat, and carbohydrates and have a higher energy value than soybeans, maize, beef and fish. Now you know.

While you might be thinking of a fine Swiss watch, this particular rolex is simply a popular fast food prepared and sold along roads during evening hours. In Kampala, the rolex is loved mostly by the youths. Mr Gregory Tweheyo, a postgraduate student at Makerere University, calls it the “quintessential meal for the campuser”.

It is made with fried eggs, cabbage, tomatoes, onions and green pepper and rolled in a chapatti. The thing about the rolex is that it is tastier than most snacks and highly satisfying. For Shs500, you will return home highly satisfied. However, some people are troubled about the cleanliness of the rolex maker as well as the ways in which the cholesterol and oil contained in the rolex might affect them.

Are we safe?
There are definitely more types of roadside snacks that include fruit, samosas, chapatti, popcorn, gonja, boiled and roast maize, groundnuts, and others. While most of these bites are a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre, according to, there is the risk of getting diseased because most of the snacks are not prepared in a hygienic environment.

Mr Gaston Tumuhimbise, a nutritionist, said snacking is good for the body but advises that people should avoid snacks that contain high amounts of fat and sugar -they are dangerous to the human body.

Also, majority snack sellers are dirty children, men and women who join the business for bare survival. Out of ignorance, they place their snacks in open places, sometimes near drainage systems where they are exposed to hazardous particles.

Put in light containers
Roadside snacks must be covered to keep away air and dust, said Dr Archeleo Kaaya of the Department of Food Science and Technology at Makerere University. He said that bushera (porridge) and other fermented products must be put in light containers. Although he appreciates they are cheap, Kaaya is bothered that the fruits and roast groundnuts are often not fresh, contaminated and containing micro-toxins.

“We are not very safe,” said Kaaya, whose speciality is micro-toxins in food. “The recommended methods of preparation and packing of these snacks in safe and hygienic environment should be followed.”

Urban health authorities are required to ensure that the right standards of hygiene are kept. In the meantime, those in the business of roadside snacks toil on - perhaps to fulfil God’s punishment to man for betraying Him by eating the forbidden fruit. The Bible says, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground.”

Published by Sunday Monitor on September 10, 2006