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Assessment of Hygienic Quality of Food, Food Handlers and Restaurant Environments in Makkah during Hajj 1428 H


In Makkah, a large number of pilgrims, local and international, visit Ka'abah for Umrah throughout the year and stay for periods ranging from few hours to few weeks. Keeping in view the nature of their visit, most of the pilgrims have to resort to food from the restaurants. The main purpose of the study was to look into the hygienic conditions of these food facilities and food handlers and to identify possible risks of food poisoning outbreak among pilgrims.


It was a cross-sectional descriptive study with predominantly observation-based data collection. All the food facilities where located within one kilometer area around AlHaram, their workers dealing with food were taken as the study population. Sampling was conducted by two stage random sampling technique based on geographical mapping. A set of structured data collection instruments was used to collect data about the various characteristics of the food facilities and personal hygiene of the food handlers. Food samples and subungual samples of the food handlers were also collected for microbiological examination. Epi Info software was used for data entry and analysis.


Sixty one (61) food facilities were surveyed for assessing the hygienic quality of the food and food handlers in Makkah during Hajj 1428 H. Out of these 38 (62.3%) were food restaurants and 23 (37.7%) were the fast food/cafeterias. All the food facilities had a valid license for food preparation. More than 90% were preparing food through the year. Good conditions of the facility entrance were found in 26% of facilities. Operational UV insect killer was present in 57.4%. In 41% of the food facilities flies were observed. Hand washing facility for the staff was available in 80% facilities. Poor cleanliness of the food cooking area was observed in 34% and WC for the customers was available in less than 50% of the facilities. The majority of the food handlers 90% had valid health certificates, (67%) were not wearing gloves while preparing food, (45%) had dirty nails and (14%) had boils/cuts on their hands. In addition, 10% of the food handlers had been exposed to diarrhea in the last 24 hours. None of the microbiological results of the food samples and nails swabs were found positive. The reason could be that all food samples were taken from fresh food while being served and during the busy season of Hajj there was little likelihood of presence or mixing of stale food. However, it was surprising to note that none of the nail swabs showed positive results, which raises the question of reliability of the laboratory test, and need further exploration.


Study showed that hygienic facilities for staff were available for less than half of food facilities, around one third had poor cleanliness levels, with less than half having WC for customers and flies were observed in 41% facilities. Regarding staff 14% had boils on their hands and 10% had history of diarrhea in last 24 hours, while 90% had valid health certificate and hygienic practices were marginally satisfactory. There was no significant difference between general characteristics of facility, food serving and food handlers between restaurants and fast food/cafeterias. Supervisory mechanisms for these facilities by health authorities seems inadequate.