Public management of street food is a challenge in many countries. In Colombia, despite the extent of the economic, social, and food contributions of the segment and the concern from the public health perspective, the amount of research on the subject still remains insufficient. Thus, this study aimed to establish a panorama of the street food trade in Colombia, considering its mode of operation, food security, and regulatory context, based on the scientific literature published between 2000 and 2018. A literature review was carried out in the Medline, SciELO, LILACS, Scopus, Redalyc, and Google Scholar databases, as well as in the University of Colombia's institutional repositories and scientific books. A set of 19 publications were selected and evaluated for three dimensions—work and culture, food safety, and regulation—according to the objectives and methodologies applied. In category 1, relative to work and culture, five studies were retrieved (26.3%), highlighting the economic and social contribution of the sector and the protection of food cultural heritage. Category 2, referring to hygiene and microbiological safety in the activity, covers 11 publications (57.9%) and comprised the largest research field of interest in the country. Among the food pathogens surveyed, Salmonella spp. were the most investigated, registering nonconformity in the samples (6.55%). Category 3, with three articles (15.8%), covered public policies and regulation of the segment, highlighting the challenges to regulating the sector and the need for intersectional articulation in administrative policies. The results confirm both the relevance of the segment to food security and the concern with microbiological hazards, demanding strategies to improve its regulation and functioning in the country, with the aim of protecting the health of consumers.

  • A panorama of the street food in Colombia is presented, based on 19 publications.

  • Three dimensions were evaluated: work and culture, food safety, and regulation.

  • Street food means work, nutrition, and patrimony; however, there is a scarcity of scientific data.

  • Several food groups studied had significant levels of pathogenic microorganisms.

  • Regulation of the sector is complex and needs intersectoral articulation.

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