For graduate students specializing in food safety, their thesis work typically revolves around a specific product, value chain or pathogen. Attending international conferences is a valuable way for young scholars to gain a more comprehensive understanding of global food safety challenges and explore cutting-edge approaches. To provide this opportunity for international students working on FSIL projects, FSIL sponsored students from Cambodia, Nepal and Kenya to attend the 2023 annual International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) conference in Toronto, Canada, from July 16-19.
Dr. Jocelyn Boiteau is a postdoctoral associate with the Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition (TCI). A registered dietitian, she conducted doctoral work measuring food loss and waste along tomato value chains in South India. With TCI Founding Director, Dr. Prabhu Pingali, she is writing a book on food loss and waste that considers qualitative aspects of food loss and waste — including food quality losses that impact nutrition — in low- and middle-income countries along the continuum of traditional, mixed and modern food systems. We asked her to share her insights on food loss and waste as it pertains to food quality loss and food safety.
From informing an experiment’s design and analyzing data to interpreting results and informing decision-making, statistics ensure that research outcomes are both sound and publishable. Because statistics expertise is a key part of strengthening agricultural research capacity, researchers with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Safety (FSIL) recently held an intensive, week-long agricultural statistics course at Cambodia’s Center of Excellence for Sustainable Agricultural Intensification and Nutrition (CE SAIN) at the Royal University of Agriculture in Phnom Penh.
The course was taught by Dr. Nora Bello, professor of systems modeling in the Department of Animal Sciences at The Ohio State University and co-principal investigator (PI) of a FSIL-funded, Cambodian-led research project to reduce foodborne pathogens in nutritious, but highly perishable, salad vegetables in Cambodia. Through this project and others, Bello recognized that Cambodia’s surging research capacity had created a need for more advanced statistics training.
Strengthening food safety is ultimately about behavior change, which can be bolstered by motivation and stymied by obstacles. To develop effective outreach programs in Cambodia informed by behavior change theory, researchers funded by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Safety (FSIL) conducted a survey that revealed relatively higher motivation to implement a food safety behavior — but lower perceived opportunity — among produce farmers, distributors and vendors.
“In Cambodia, the produce sold in informal vegetable markets comes from farms via distributors, and preventing contamination with foodborne pathogens is important at every step,” said lead author Sabrina Mosimann, who participated in the research as part of her master’s degree in Animal Sciences at Purdue University. “If you want to encourage someone to adopt a food safety practice, whether or not they know how to do it is one thing. Our goal was to figure out whether or not people thought they could do it, whether they felt they had the opportunity to do it and whether they felt like, ‘Oh, this would motivate me to do it’.”
The rapid growth of Senegal’s dairy sector has outpaced the implementation of food safety practices and policies to reduce the risk of foodborne disease from the consumption of raw and fermented milk. Recent outreach by a project funded by the FSIL has equipped partners at the Food Technology Institute (ITA) and the Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research (ISRA) with knowledge and tools to detect and identify foodborne pathogens in the domestic milk supply.
“To date, Senegal’s milk production and processing industries have not yet been thoroughly studied beyond a literature review and a handful of student theses,” said Woubit Abebe, professor and director of the Center for Food Animal Health, Food Safety and Food Defense in the Department of Pathobiology at Tuskegee University and co-principal investigator (PI) of the FSIL dairy safety project. “Our partners in Senegal will be identifying the issues and pathogens relevant to the sector that deserve a closer look.”
Food safety research often focuses on the supply side — production and processing — and identifying ways to reduce, manage and mitigate contaminants and foodborne pathogens. However, consumers are important actors who can drive positive change in market systems through their demand for safe, nutritious foods. Their purchasing decisions can create demand, impact pricing and spur the supply side to offer value-added products with sustainable production practices, nutrient enrichment or higher levels of food safety. Even with limited budgets, consumers in low- and middle-income countries balance priorities such as food type, quantity and quality, including food safety. Understanding and quantifying consumer demand for food safety can provide incentives to producers and to make informed decisions on market development of safer food products.
Olufemi Aluko vividly remembers the day his father took him to visit their local hospital in Nigeria. As a young boy still in primary school, he initially wondered why, since he neither felt sick nor had a doctor’s appointment. However, Olufemi soon realized that his father, a schoolteacher, wanted him to witness firsthand the medical professionals hard at work, helping others in their community.
Continue reading on Agrilinks
Food safety priorities for fish consumed in Bangladesh — which boasts over 12 million fish farmers and robust domestic demand — should focus on reducing levels of formalin, heavy metals and antibiotics and other growth promoters, according to a new paper from researchers with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Safety.
Continue reading on Agrilinks
Earlier in her career, Samina Luthfa resisted the idea of becoming a gender researcher. Her interests as a political sociologist in Bangladesh ranged from the environmental justice movement to media — which, like most issues, can certainly be viewed through a gender lens. But she refused to be pigeonholed and never envisioned herself working as a gender expert.
Continue reading on Agrilinks
Foodborne pathogens, such as E. coli and Salmonella, are a significant source of intestinal illness in Cambodia. Identifying where they enter the vegetable supply chain — on farms, during transport, at distribution centers or in markets — is key information for developing strategies to strengthen food safety. A recent training has equipped Cambodian researchers at three institutions in a cutting-edge genomic technique to bolster pathogen tracking and reduce foodborne illness.