ETHIOPIA – A research conducted by  EatSafe on “Consumer and Vendor Perspectives and Practices Related to Food Safety in Ethiopia” has revealed that there appears to be an alignment in the food safety-related practices and perspectives of consumers and vendors.

To support EatSafe in Ethiopia by providing insights on prior research on food safety-related perspectives and practices among consumers and food vendors in Ethiopia, EatSafe conducted a systematic search and review of three databases and grey literature sources in July 2021, retrieving 4,704 records.

The synthesis was based on 116 articles that all passed the review’s qualifying requirements. Collectively, articles spanned eight of the ten Ethiopian regional states and the two chartered cities, with the majority of the work concentrating on metropolitan regions and a sample inside a single state or chartered city.

The majority of studies (94) focused on vendors or food handlers, with a comparatively limited number of consumer studies (7).  

Fifteen articles examined both consumers and vendors, but only four attempted to assess interactions between the groups.

Vendor-focused studies assessed knowledge, attitudes, and practices for common themes: critical times for handwashing, personal appearance, environmental cleanliness, maintaining fingernails, training on food safety and handling, frequency of medical check-ups, and importance of segregating utensils/knives for different foods.

Studies tended to find observed practices “poor,” whereas knowledge and attitudes were deemed to be “sufficient” and “satisfactory,” respectively.

In consumer-focused research, the themes for knowledge and practice evaluations generally pertained to food safety awareness, handwashing practices, cross-contamination of foods at home, food storage conditions, food vendors’ hygiene, and the significance of proper cooking or refrigeration.

Consumers’ willingness to pay for wholesome food was only examined in one study.

Based on the scant information available on customer-vendor interactions, it appears that both groups used sensory-based physical characteristics such as color, smell, and consistency to evaluate the quality and safety of animal-source foods, had personal “coping” mechanisms to lower levels of food safety-related anxiety, and shared perceptions of the consumer motivations influencing purchase.

Meat, milk (and other dairy products), and ready-to- eat (street) foods were the most studied food groups (40). Food service establishments such as cafeterias, restaurants, hotels, and juice bars were the most examined outlets (41). Forty-six studies examined generic food safety issues or concerns.

Hygiene/Sanitation issues

According to the research, food safety is largely conceptualized as practices, with limited focus on knowledge, attitudes, or the combination of all three.

The study noted that in-depth insights into deep-rooted beliefs, behaviors, and underlying factors that can translate knowledge or attitudes into practice are lacking.

It also discovered that there is a gap between vendors’ observed practices and their knowledge and attitudes, with consumers surprisingly basing their perceptions of food safety and microbial quality on vendor practices.

Nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, and fish have received comparatively little attention, as have traditional markets and local eateries

A high level of contamination was seen in foods, the food environment and carried by food handlers. These foodborne hazards have been found to be associated with hygiene and sanitation practices and/or demographic traits of vendors.

Twenty-eight studies isolated a range of intestinal pathogens in feces of food handlers, and three studies identified food handlers’ carrying pathogens on their hands and/or clothes.

Thirty-four studies identified at least one hygiene/sanitation practice and/or demographic trait associated with these food safety issues.

EatSafe however clarifies that the studies suffered from numerous methodological weaknesses. Of the 116 studies, only nine were assessed to be of high quality.

One intervention study examined a training intervention and found it to be effective in influencing knowledge, attitudes, and practices, albeit only in the short to medium term.1 The paucity of evidence from high-quality studies is a limitation, highlighting th

The study found that although training seems to be a successful intervention, more work must be done to achieve a long-lasting benefit.

It also pointed out that there is an urgent need to enhance study designs and techniques since there is a lack of evidence from high-quality studies utilizing standardized, verified tools.

Evidence and Action Towards Safe, Nutritious Food (EatSafe) is a USAID-funded, five-year program aiming to enable lasting improvements in the safety of nutritious foods in informal markets, by focusing on the consumer.

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