The study was carried out from December 2010 to June 2011 to determine the hygienic and sanitary conditions on the available cafeterias, restaurants, juice houses, supermarkets, and food handlers of Mekelle city. Using the standardized pre-tested questionnaire and observational check list, data was collected from a total of 510 catering establishments. Microbiological examination of 260 food samples indicated that food provided to the consumers in the city was less hygienic and had prepared under poor sanitation conditions. General hygiene of food handlers, sanitary facilities of food establishments, physical conditions of food catering establishments, disposal services, legal licensing and environmental hygiene were identified as major sanitary deficiencies. Less understanding in food hygiene among food handlers were also commonly observed. High mean values of bacterial load were found in mayonnaise (2.64 × 106) among the food samples taken from the supermarkets and 2.89 × 106 bacterial load was found in samples from restaurants. The bacteriological swab tests of food utensils confirmed the gross unhygienic condition of food offered to the consumers. Pathogens such asSalmonella spp., Shigella spp. and Escherichia coli were the main identified organisms in the catering establishments. It is concluded that the sanitary conditions of studied subjects required strict follow up for the provisions of sanitary codes. Periodic sanitary-hygienic evaluation and inspection of catering establishments should be strengthened to reduce public health hazards.
Key words: Food safety, hygiene, catering establishments, bacterial load, bacterial isolation, Mekelle, Ethiopia.
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