Roesel, K. and Grace, D. 2014.
This compilation finds that informal markets provide essential sources of food and income for millions of poor, with milk and meat that is often safer than supermarkets.
Misguided efforts to control the alarming burden of food-related illnesses in low-income countries risk intensifying malnutrition and poverty — while doing little to improve food safety. Blunt crack-downs on informal milk and meat sellers that are a critical source of food and income for millions of people are not the solution.
Our work across eight countries found that we are right to be concerned about food safety in informal markets — from milk in Mali, to fish in Ghana, to chicken in Mozambique, to beef in Kenya — particularly for spreading gastrointestinal diseases that are a leading cause of sickness and death in developing countries, but it also shows that we are wrong to think that we can just adopt solutions developed in wealthy countries that favour large commercial operations over small producers. That will just exacerbate hunger and further limit money earning options for the poor. Delia Grace, program leader for food safety and zoonoses at ILRI.
The book probes the complicated world of traditional or ‘informal’ markets in livestock products. These are often called ‘wet’ markets because they use so much water in cleaning due to the perishable and often contaminated nature of the foods they sell. These venues sell most of the livestock and fish products consumed in Africa. And they are growing rapidly as rising populations and incomes drive greater demand for meat and milk.
While the food sold in informal markets is often safe, in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world, they are suspected of spreading dangerous pathogens ranging from Salmonella and E. coli to SARS, avian influenza and tuberculosis.
- But ILRI researchers warn that the push for greater food safety standards in these markets must be informed by an understanding of their vital role as a provider of food and income to several hundred million people who rank among the world’s poorest.
- Researchers have found that poor consumers are willing to pay a 5 to 15 per cent premium for safety-assured products, and that demand for food safety increases with economic development, rising income, urbanization, increased media coverage and education level.
- Informal markets are growing, not shrinking, across the developing world and in many ways mirror the “locavore” trend occurring in wealthy countries. If we are going to improve food safety in these markets, we need policies that are guided by an understanding of producer and consumer behaviour, local diets and customs, and interventions that can reduce illness without imperilling food security or increasing poverty.’
The CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) helps realize the potential of agricultural development to deliver gender-equitable health and nutritional benefits to the poor. This program is led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). a4nh.cgiar.org