According to a review, there are problems with how the impact and success of food safety projects in developing countries are measured.
The study summarizes interventions evaluated between 2000 and 2020 in some Asian low- and middle-income countries, and findings on knowledge, attitudes and practice, hazard presence, and health impacts.
A total of 25 studies were considered. Most commonly, a before-after study design was used.
Methods focused on training to improve knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) related to safe food or to specific technologies. Nine studies were specific as they examined the value chains of cattle, poultry, swine and fish. All but one reported some degree of success. Some food safety work has targeted specific hazards including Taenia solium, E. coli, zoonotic fish trematodes, faecal coliforms and faecal streptococcus.
How to judge success
However, there is a clear evidence gap for the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of food safety measures in the market setting, the researchers said.
“A rigorous and standardized assessment of the effectiveness and sustainability of interventions is recommended, not only to identify areas for improvement, but also to ensure scaling of interventions with proven success and sustainability.”
The results will be used to inform the design of tools to be implemented as part of the EatSafe: Evidence and Action Towards Safe, Nutritious Food project. Reviewing interventions can help make decisions about what can be scaled up and what changes may be needed in different contexts, as found in the study published in the journal Zoonoses and Public Health.
The 25 studies were conducted in India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Nepal.
In “before and after” studies, the outcome of interest was measured before and after the intervention was administered. Five studies used randomized controlled trials. Two groups were considered, one group received the intervention while the other did not and acted as controls. Two studies measured adoption.
Most interventions were carried out at the household or grocer level and focused on consumer safety. Sixteen studies involved informal food vendors and seven took place in the formal sector.
training and technology
Sector specific studies covered the household or provider level; market and retail; Farm and production or the processing phase.
Knowledge gain through training and the provision of food safety information was the main outcome measured in most of the studies. In some cases this has been shown to lead to improved food handling practices and a reduction in the incidence of foodborne hazards.
Most training interventions assessed changes in knowledge, attitudes and practices. Anyone with technology-measured hazards, health, or hazards and health consequences. While learning fades with time and requires refreshment; New technologies can be integrated into normal work after their introduction. In terms of cost and complexity, some technologies were simpler and cheaper than training, while others were more complex and expensive.
Interventions in the review did not provide sufficient information to assess the cost-effectiveness of the programs. Further studies are needed to assess the effectiveness of different food safety intervention strategies and factors affecting their intake and sustainability, the scientists said.
All studies used different definitions of success, not always based on clear goals. Due to the lack of standardized measures or indicators of effectiveness and lack of data on the costs incurred or avoided, according to the scientists, evaluations of the cost-effectiveness of different studies cannot be made. The success of the interventions depended on the assessor’s assessment.
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