Oral Presentation Australasian Association of Bioethics & Health Law and New Zealand Bioethics Conference

Street Food Vending: Can we move from a Food Safety to a Nutritious Food Regime? (1002)

Tsung-Ling Lee 1
  1. Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan

Street food vending is ubiquitous in much of Asian cities: street food vending is a common source of employment, offering ready-to-eat and inexpensive food to working individuals and families. Regulating street food vending typically concerns with food safety issues such as lack of basic amenities, unhygienic practices, and microbiological containment. However, with the growing incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Asia, which now are the leading causes of death in the Asia-Pacific according to the Asian Development Bank, the lack of nutritional-related regulations in street food vending is concerning. A strong scientific consensus exists that sustained consumption of high-in-fat, -sugar and -salt food increases the risks of NCDs, which are beginning to exert visible strains on healthcare systems. Public awareness on the importance of healthier processed food has seen Big Food under public scrutiny and have engendered more progressive regulatory efforts worldwide to curb unhealthy practices through taxation and information disclosure, for instance. Paradoxically, “small food” – i.e., street food vending – there is little, if none, demand, for similar efforts, even though street food vending is a significant contributor of NCD risks in some Asian countries. With its alluring appeal of convenience and promises of authentic cultural experiences, street food vending continues to exist as an unregulated source of unhealthy food. Focusing on Taiwan as a case study, the paper seeks to highlight the current regulatory gap in the realm of food consumption. In particular, the paper considers plausible regulatory strategies to improve the healthiness of street food vending.