The mention of food safety in wet markets probably conjures up memories of the emergence of COVID-19 for most of us. But besides COVID-19, there are good reasons for our trepidation.
Traditional markets, sometimes referred to as ‘live’ or ‘wet’ markets are a key source of foodborne diseases, and most of these illnesses are the result of consumption of fresh foods sold in informal, poorly regulated markets. Worse still, more than 90% of the global health burden of foodborne disease is borne by the global south where wet markets are crucial for food security.
NRI participated in the South-South Symposium - Learning from Large Scale Food Safety Interventions in Wet Markets of Africa and Asia on 19 July 2023. The symposium was part of the annual global meeting organised by the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) in Toronto, Canada from 16-19 July 2023. This year’s event was attended by over 3,200 food safety professionals from top industry, academic and governmental institutions around the world.
Speaking at the symposium, Delia Grace, Professor of Food Safety Systems at NRI, highlighted progress made in food safety interventions over the last 10 years. ‘After many decades of neglect, the last decade saw a range of food safety interventions aiming at sustainable and scalable improvements to food safety in wet markets’, she said. Delia noted that efforts have been focused on market-based approaches based on four essential elements: promoting an enabling regulatory environment; training vendors in food safety and business skills; providing simple, cheap technologies; and, most importantly, ensuring measures are in place to motivate behaviour change.
The idea behind this approach is that professionalising rather than criminalising informal market actors improves food safety outcomes, while concurrently improving nutrition. It also protects and enhances important sources of income and employment for the poor, especially women. The approach arose from research on smallholder dairy production and marketing in Kenya and has been recently applied to market vendors in east and west Africa, India, and south-east Asia. ‘These interventions have been rigorously evaluated using different methodologies to test their practicality and effectiveness. Their impact on consumer and vendor knowledge, attitudes and practices has also been determined including a reduction in risk as the result of interventions’, Delia explained. The symposium also provided a forum for diverse voices to report on the major market interventions in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Ethiopia, Cambodia, India and Vietnam.
Besides Delia, NRI was also represented by Himadri Pal, a PhD student. Himadri spoke about market-based food safety interventions in South Asia and gave a poster presentation. In her talk, she discussed a milk safety project conducted in Assam, India and how it led to an increase in food safety awareness, reduction in milk adulteration, and higher milk productivity among trained farmers. In 2022, as part of her project at NRI, Himadri assessed the food safety knowledge and needs of trained and untrained farmer groups. Findings from the research indicate that trained dairy farmers have a greater awareness of food safety than untrained farmers. However, farmers' awareness of government regulations and food safety laws was poor across both groups. In addition, the farmers’ community faces several challenges including limited government support, and inadequate utilities and storage facilities to achieve their food safety and business goals.
Himadri’s poster highlighted a framework for designing market-based food safety interventions targeted at low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The framework identifies key factors critical for the success of food safety interventions specific for traditional markets in LMICs. ‘Once validated, it will be a valuable tool for the design of successful food safety interventions aimed at informal markets in LMICs’, Himadri noted.
The IAFP is a member-based association of more than 4,500 food safety professionals, committed to advancing food safety worldwide. IAFP’s annual meeting has grown over the years to become the leading food safety conference worldwide. It is a platform for sharing information on current and emerging food safety issues, innovative solutions to new and recurring problems, the latest science, and an opportunity to network with thousands of food safety professionals from around the globe.
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