Animal-source foods (ASF) are an important part of Cambodia’s cuisine, especially pork, fish, and poultry. Most livestock products are produced by smallholders, many of them women, and sold in traditional, so-called ‘wet’ markets where women also predominate as retailers. Unfortunately, food safety concerns have been rising in Cambodia in recent years, as public perception of food safety has decreased.
To address these concerns, in 2017 the Safe Food, Fair Food (SFFF) for Cambodia project was initiated with the aim of assessing the multiple burden of food-borne diseases associated with key ASF value chains, and to adapt and evaluate a market-based approach to improving food safety.
After three years, the project has generated important information and is now launching a package of evidence-based interventions at traditional wet markets in six provinces of Cambodia.
The research showed that microbial risks through improper hygiene and cross contamination are likely to cause most food safety concerns and health impacts. A market assessment by SFFF for Cambodia conducted from October 2018 to August 2019 in 25 provinces of Cambodia showed a high level of biological contamination on pork with Salmonella (43%) and Staphylococcus aureus (31%). These levels are similar to those found in other low- and middle-income countries, but alarmingly high.
With evidence in hand, the SFFF project team is developing interventions to improve sanitation and hygiene conditions at traditional retail markets. Researchers have introduced more hygienic practices such as separation of ready-to-eat and raw pork or intestines and frequent handwashing and wipe downs of meat-selling surfaces. Interventions at retail were supported by promotion of good-hygiene-pork branding to retailers and formative research.
In February 2020, a training of trainer was organized for about 20 local vet and market managers from six provinces introducing good hygiene practices to improve the safety of pork. These trainees will organize roll out training to guide pork traders using the project’s training manual.
In addition to interventions at the grassroots level, the project team made efforts in policy advocacy through the establishment of a taskforce on food safety risk assessment. In late 2019, a technical working group of Cambodia food safety experts joined forces with a task force on food safety risk assessment to form the ‘national task force’. The focus of the platform is to strengthen food safety policy advocacy and collaboration between government and food safety researchers working in the country.
SFFF for Cambodia is funded under the United States Agency for International Development-funded Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems (LSIL) and is led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in partnership with the National Animal Health and Production Research Institute (NAHPRI), the Livestock Development for Community Livelihood (LDC) and Emory University.