Putting enough food on the table is a daily challenge faced by households around the world. Ensuring that the food contains enough protein and essential micronutrients is a further consideration, and animal products, such as fish and meat from livestock can go a long way to improving the diets of the world’s poor. In addition, small-scale production of animal source foods can be a pathway out of poverty for many communities.
While nutrition is often a priority for the hungry and under-nourished, food safety is also extremely important. As produce is transported from the farm to the market place, and onto the consumer’s dinner table, there are numerous opportunities for contamination. Foodborne diseases, chemicals, and heavy metals can all enter the food chain and pose a threat to human health.
WorldFish, in collaboration with its CGIAR research partner, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), is undertaking two complementary projects in Egypt to better understand the dual demands of safety and nutrition in food value chains. The Egyptian stream of the ACIAR funded Rapid Integrated Assessment project, brings together an international team of food safety and policy experts from WorldFish; ILRI; the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); Kafr el Sheikh University, Egypt; and the Royal Veterinary College, University of London. It builds on work carried out under the GIZ funded Safe Food Fair Food (SFFF) project which also involved the University of Ghana; the Ministry of Agriculture, Cote d’Ivoire; the Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d’Ivoire (CSRS) and the University Abobo- Adjame, Cote d’Ivoire;.
The SFFF project carried out a scoping mission in 2012, providing an overview of potential food safety risks. This included interviews with producers and other value chain actors as well as initial sampling to determine whether farmed fish poses risks to human health. The Rapid Integrated Assessment (RIA) project builds on the SFFF work and has developed a comprehensive toolkit to assess the health and safety of a range of food chains in six countries, including Egypt for fish. The second part of the RIA project puts this toolkit into practice to assess the farmed tilapia value chain in Egypt along with the milk value chain in Tanzania, the sheep and goat value chain in Ethiopia and pig value chains in Uganda and Vietnam.
In total, project staff are visiting and interviewing 100 producers, 10–20 wholesalers, 10–20 cooked fish sellers, 100 fresh fish sellers, 10–20 transporters, and 300 rural and peri-urban consumers. In addition, fish samples are being collected from producers and fresh fish sellers to test for bacterial, chemical and heavy metal contamination. Focus groups of producers and consumers are also being conducted to explore aspects of tilapia production and consumption using a collaborative approach.
Only through a thorough assessment of the role that a food product plays in the lives of all who take part in its value chain, can the need for food safety be addressed without jeopardizing the livelihoods of producers and sellers. The Rapid Integrated Assessment and Safe Food Fair Food projects are providing the tools to ensure that this is possible.’
The project started in June 2012 and will end in May 2013.