BKK Street Food Disappearing per BBC

Old Aug 26th, 2016, 08:01 AM
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crellston, my experience of eating in hawker centers in Penang was that the food was wonderful - and not homogenized. Indeed, the vendors needed to distinguish themselves from other vendors. So the places I visited most frequently, no two vendors were selling the same foods.

I read the original article about the change in rates of food-borne illnesses. The measure they used was visits to a doctor or a hospital for food-borne illnesses. Malaysia has good health care and does keep careful records, so I trust that medical visits for food-borne illnesses did indeed decline that much. As we all know, not everyone who gets sick from eating something makes a medical visit, but the data is likely to reflect an overall decrease in food-borne illnesses.
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Old Aug 26th, 2016, 11:37 AM
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I agree Jacketwatch, an interesting discussion. Let's hope it doesn't go the way of several other threads on street food, tipping etc.!

Kathie, I wasn't referring to Penang and was more thinking of Thailands food courts. I obviously didn't finish my sentence re Asiatique where I do feel my comments are correct. A soulless place if ever there was one!

Having visited many of the hawker stalls and centres in Penang I would agree that most serve superb food. The exception being the centre on Gurney drive where I again, I stand by my comments.

Re the statistics, I am not a medical professional but I do understand statistics, having worked for almost my entire career in various consulting actuarial practices and cannot possibly see how those numbers could be accurate. The vast majority people who suffer food-borne illnesses never visit a doctor so at best, the statistics could only represent the minuscule proportion that do visit a doctor.

Benjamin Disraeli's words spring to mind:

"There are lies, damned lies and statistics"

I have read some reports people would argue that the stringent food safety standards in the western world are at least partly responsible for the increase in food allergies.

Of course we all want to eat clean food and I believe the street stalls in Bangkok have improved dramatically in recent years. I feel it would be a real shame for the stallholders and those of us who enjoy eating in them for these places to disappear.
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Old Aug 26th, 2016, 12:48 PM
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Good food for thought, no pun intended. .

What I can remember most from my first statistics course is correlation does not prove cause and effect. I wonder what the actual numbers were. A 96% drop from how many cases for example. I would think it's a significant figure and Kathie is pretty grounded in what she says.

I would think that if you are in a center with clean facilities and inspectors who are on the ball then one way or another things would improve as opposed to sellers on the street who are left alone.

Personally I skip most street food except in places you can trust like Singapore for one. I've had some terrible illnesses in India including typhoid. That was it for me.
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Old Aug 26th, 2016, 01:26 PM
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Crellston, I agree with you about the hawker center on Gurney Drive - none of the food we tried was good. I haven't been to Asiatique, so can't comment. But I agree that the food courts in Bangkok (no doubt, with a few exceptions) are poor representatives of Thai food.

I also understand about statistics. I taught stats when I was in grad school. The study done in Malaysia was well-done, I thought (speaking in terms of research design). They were well aware that most people who get food-borne illnesses don't seek medical attention. So how do you measure a change in the prevalence of food-borne illnesses? The idea was that more serious illnesses that require medical care could be a proxy for the overall frequency of food-borne illnesses. So if serious food-borne illnesses decline by 96% it is reasonable to assume that less serious food-borne illnesses also declined by a significant percentage. So while the study tells us nothing about the overall prevalence of food-borne illness, it does tell us about a change in prevalence.

Malaysia does a remarkable job of tracing contagious disease. There was a Malaysian poster a number of years ago who contracted malaria, and the public health people in Malaysia did extensive work trying to determine where in Malaysia he had contracted it. I also spent some time with a physician in Kuching when we visited there and visited a local hospital and talked with other healthcare providers. So I feel fairly confident in Malaysian health statistics.

As someone who enjoys walking in cities, I have to admit that fewer food stalls on the sidewalks make it easier (and safer) for people to walk in Bangkok.

And I agree with your point about the vendors. I hate to see the poorest people deprived of their opportunity to earn a living. But I would like to see them in facilities that allow them to serve cleaner, safer food.
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Old Aug 27th, 2016, 06:19 AM
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I think as society progresses changes like this occur. In Chicago where I grew up we had basically a hawkers/flea market area called Maxwell St. It was a bit sleazy but had that sort of "character" that made it unique. If you ever saw the movie "The Blues Brothers" Maxwell St. was used as the back drop for the scene featuring Aretha Franklin singing in the "Soul Queen" cafe. Pretty cool scene too. Anyway the University of Il. Chicago bought up that area and now its called University Village. No more Maxwell St. Its all condos and town homes. I suppose you could say might replaces urban blight.
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Old Aug 28th, 2016, 07:02 AM
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Heres is what a pal of mine who from KL said about Malaysian street food and illnesses;

"here's still food borne illnesses Lawrence ...our authorities' enforcement actions remain lacking so food poisoning cases are quite rampant. Illegal hawkers are aplenty too."

Interesting.
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Old Aug 28th, 2016, 07:22 AM
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By the way the person who told me this is a professional reviewer of restaurants in Kuala Lumpur and writes articles for magazines and newspapers there so I think she has some knowledge of what is going on
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Old Aug 28th, 2016, 08:05 AM
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Larry, I'm sure there are still food-borne illnesses in Malaysia. (after all, there are still food borne illnesses in the US) But can your friend comment on the change of rate of food-borne illness when they moved venders into hawker centers? The move was done quite some years ago now - maybe 15 years?

And of course, there are always illegal vendors.
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Old Aug 28th, 2016, 08:17 AM
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I will ask her.
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Old Aug 28th, 2016, 01:08 PM
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It's not rocket science to work out whether the street food stall preparing fresh food, cooking fresh food, and serving freshly cooked food right in front of your eyes is worthy of your custom is it? And normally simply seeing people queuing for their portion of the aforementioned should be good enough reason to join that queue or bag an empty table.

On the other hand, in a restaurant 1* or 5*, how the heck do you know the hygienic standard of either the food or the kitchen facilities?
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Old Aug 29th, 2016, 05:14 AM
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Here is her reply:

"Most hawker centres in shopping malls are strictly controlled by the main F&B company with expertise in managing food courts. These have better hygiene standards compared to those run by municipal councils."

And here is a link to a study she provided.

http://www.ifrj.upm.edu.my/22%20(03)%202015/(3).pdf

LL in the study she notes that food contamination can happen before its cooked for example or from unhygenic practices like improper storage, lack of hand washing and so on. I don't think seeing many lining up is an indicator of hygiene. Here in the US many people eat at a fast food chain called Chipotle but this business was plagued recently by multiple outbreaks of food borne illnesses. They had to shut down for a while actually until they could sort out the problem. Subway a few yrs. ago had to stop serving tomatoes as there was contamination from the growers end.

I would think you are better off eating at higher quality places because they most likely have better employee training and maintain better standards though that is not perfect of course.

Also what about eating off the streets and flies or other bugs that can contaminate food even after its cooked. After having contacted typhoid in India once I am ultra cautious. Though the aromas of street food are tempting I'm out.

In 2013 my wife tried something off the street in India and got sick, really sick. We flew to BKK for a planned week touring and she had to spend virtually all of that time in a hosp. there for a food borne illness.
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Old Aug 29th, 2016, 05:53 AM
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Jacketwatch. Tbh, if a street food stall passes my visual test, and if I can see that it's busy then that's good enough for me. I've never been caught out yet, but have suffered several times from restaurant and hotel food.

Reading the results of one bit of research might contradict the results of another similar study, so who do you then believe? I'm not one for taking too much notice of experts [particularly economic experts] as they all seem to have their own agenda and versions of the facts.

Looking forward to our next trip to Bangkok and Hanoi next February, and to eating lots of delicious street food.
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Old Aug 29th, 2016, 07:14 AM
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Try this.

http://www.searo.who.int/thailand/news/whd2015/en/
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Old Aug 29th, 2016, 08:01 AM
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A couple of great articles, Larry and Alistair! Thanks for the links. I was interested to see the WHO work on street food.

If LL believes he can tell visually whether food is contaminated, there is nothing anyone can say that will dissuade him.
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Old Aug 29th, 2016, 10:08 AM
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Except maybe a nasty bug.
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Old Aug 29th, 2016, 03:00 PM
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So do stalls awarded the "clean food, good taste" certificates have some sort of marking to show they have earned this award?
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Old Aug 29th, 2016, 03:53 PM
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Larry, I would assume so, but ask your restaurant critic friend.
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Old Aug 29th, 2016, 04:16 PM
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Good idea .
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Old Aug 29th, 2016, 05:34 PM
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From an old blog: http://www.gourmetstravelguide.com/t...-project-2015/
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Old Aug 29th, 2016, 06:15 PM
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Ah, the link above pictures what appears to be a sticker for food carts to show their certification.
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