KNOWLEDGE OF THE DANGERS, ATTITUDES AND PRACTICES OF USING POLYTHENE BAGS DURING COOKING AMONG FOOD VENDORS WITHIN EATING PLACES IN KAMPALA MARKETS
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Background Public eating places in markets play a critical role in meeting the food demands of people especially the urban dwellers. Traditionally, banana leaves have been used solely for wrapping food during cooking; however, due to their scarcity in Kampala, food vendors have resorted to using of polythene bags which are readily available. Polythene bags contain harmful chemical migrants like lead which may enter food when heated hence exposing consumers to a number of health related consequences like cancer. Objective To assess knowledge of the dangers, attitudes and practices of using polythene bags during cooking among food vendors within eating places in Kampala markets. Methods A cross-sectional study involving qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection was conducted in Kampala markets. A total of 420 randomly selected public eating places with consenting food vendors and 12 key informants participated in the study. Quantitative data were entered into EPIDATA 3 and analyzed using STATA version 13. Qualitative data were transcribed and analyzed using thematic content analysis approach. Results Majority 94.8% (398/420) of respondents were females, 61.6% (259/420) were aged 27-44 years and 75.7% (318/420) had been in the food vending business for more than a year. Most 84.3% (354/420) of the vendors had low socio economic status. Majority 64.3% (270/420) of the food vendors were knowledgeable about the dangers of using polythene bags during the cooking of food and 79.3% had negative attitudes towards use of polythene bags during cooking of food. Majority (93.8%) of the vendors perceived the habit of using polythene bags during cooking of food as bad practice; with most (72.1%) saying it causes cancer. About half 43.1% (181/420) wrapped food using polythene bags, 32.1% (135/420) were observed using polythene bags when cooking food. Key informants reported that majority of the xvi vendors used polythene during cooking food though in hiding. The main reasons cited by the respondents for using polythene bags during cooking food was poverty (43.6%) and scarcity of banana leaves (34.0%) which makes them quite expensive to obtain compared to the readily available polythene bags. Conclusion and Recommendations The level of knowledge regarding the dangers of using polythene bags during cooking was relatively high; however there is need for continuous sensitization to translate that knowledge into the practice of reducing or totally stopping the use of polythene bags during the cooking of food. The practice of wrapping and covering food using polythene bags during cooking was high, which was mainly attributed to poverty because polythene bags are cheaper than banana leaves, and can be re-used several times with minimal wear and tear compared to banana leaves. There is need to effectively ban the use of polythene bags especially during the cooking of food and advocate for the traditional use of banana leaves and any other safer alternative ways of cooking.