How does food safety influence food choice in LMICs? Evidence from the Drivers of Food Choice Program

Shilpa V. Constantinides, Andrea M. Warren, Shiva Bhandari, Emma Kenney, Edward A. Frongillo, Christine E. Blake
Drivers of Food Choice

This report from the Drivers of Food Choice program highlights the importance of consumer demand when it comes to food safety in low-and middle income countries (LMICs). According to the authors, understanding why individuals make choices in the context of perceived food safety risks is critical to developing and sharing insights with policymakers, and may be a powerful incentive for supply chain actors to adopt safer production, processing, and handling practices where supply side interventions have fallen short. Some of the consumer perspectives on what makes food safe include: 

  • Good food hygiene practices, e.g. the visible cleanliness of food vendors (including hand washing practices and wearing of gloves and/or hair nets), food preparation methods (cleaning the food before cooking or using clean water to prepare meals), and covering the food to avoid contamination once it has been cooked and is ready to be sold.
  • Positive relationships with vendors, based on long and established relationships in which consumers trust specific vendors to source and prepare food safely.
  • Preparing meals at home was often considered the best way to ensure that food is safe, as noted by consumers from Guinea, Ghana, Vietnam, and Tanzania.
  • Enforcement of policies and regulations around sanitation and hygiene practices of food vendors and supermarkets, though the ability of government to properly monitor and enforce regulations was doubted.
  • This paper also touches on factors that consumers perceive as unsafe, including adulteration and contamination, as well as environmental sanitation. 

This short paper provides important insights and takeaways that have the potential to better empower consumers in LMICs, while also holding government and private sector entities accountable for ensuring food is safe and nutritious. Additional context is available in this webinar: Perspectives on Food safety as a driver of food choice in LMIC.

Some of the key messages from the publication are : 

  • Shifting food systems and food environments in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) caused by globalization, urbanization, new technologies, and climate change have increased the risk of foodborne disease transmission.
  • This risk is especially a concern with fruits, vegetables, and animal-source foods due to increased and sometimes inappropriate use of agrochemicals and unhygienic food handling practices.
  • Foodborne illnesses are a major cause of diarrheal diseases that can be acute and lead to chronic conditions like micronutrient deficiencies, stunting, and wasting. 
  • The burdens of foodborne disease are highest in Africa and Southeast Asia, comparable to those of malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis.
  • Government capacities for regulatory oversight are limited in both formal and informal supply chains, a challenge that is exacerbated as supply chains become lengthier and more complex.
This resource is based on experience or opinion