Bacterial contamination in fresh vegetables: Focusing interventions in Cambodia

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Project Description

Distribution centers are essential infrastructure in Cambodia’s food system, connecting vendors with produce to sell to consumers in the country’s ubiquitous open-air markets, but they are also possible sources for cross-contamination with pathogenic bacteria. Repeated exposure to these pathogens puts consumers, especially children, not only at risk of acute gastrointestinal infections, but also of enteropathy/environmental enteric dysfunction. Strategic food safety interventions along the value chain can reduce, manage, and mitigate these risks.

This project, led by Jessie Vipham of Kansas State University and Paul Ebner of Purdue University, is assessing pathogen transmission on vegetables at distribution levels in Cambodia. Environmental sampling is identifying both the specific organisms of concern and the key points where contamination is present. This analysis is being coupled with surveys to identify current practices and perceptions of food safety to inform the design and implementation of interventions to strengthen food safety in Cambodia.

This work is enabling focused interventions in specific areas of the value chain where changes in food handling practices can lead to a measurable reduction in the risk of contamination of vegetables that reach consumers. Data from this project will be used to identify targeted interventions that are effective and scalable. In addition, a landscape analysis of food safety programs and opportunities will characterize the current food safety challenges in a Cambodian context and provide a baseline for future food safety efforts in the country.