raises concerns over food safety and quality
More than 60 percent of food vendors in the country’s three largest cities – Accra, Kumasi and Tamale – do not have licences to sell, research on ‘Drivers of food decisions in Ghana’ and the urban food environment has revealed.
Conducted by Nutrition in Urban African Food Systems-Evidence and Strategies (NOURICITY), the findings also noted that for all the 205 retailers in Accra, 160 in Tamale, and 200 in Kumasi who were involved in the survey, only 54 percent of them are aware of food safety issues concerning their products.
“More than 60 percent of interviewees had no licence, either in the form of a business licence or of a food safety permit to sell food. The percentage decreases as one moves up the education gradient; the type of business structure the retailers operate under (from a mat or other structures laid on the floor, to a fixed stall or a shop) improves among those with higher education levels, and better structures are also associated with higher ratios of permit-holders,” it stated.
Speaking in an interview with the B&FT, Principal Investigator NOURICITY Ghana, Professor Felix Asante, said the study – which seeks to identify the gaps and inefficiencies and how to address them – is crucial, as even monitoring some vendors with licences is poor.
“So we have identified that there are a lot of food vendors without licences; and even for those with licences, monitoring is weak. So, at the end of the day, this has an impact on what we finally consume… and that is a concern,” he said.
The research findings also noted that the current urban food system cannot consistently guarantee food safety for all consumers, as there’s a disconnect or gap between food safety knowledge and the behaviour of actors in the sector.
For instance, the test result indicates that: “Listeria was detected from tomatoes collected at a wholesaler and a retailer, from maize at a wholesaler, and from groundnut at a truck. Also, Total coliforms were detected in most samples for all products and all stages (truck, wholesaler and retailer)”.
It added that most retailers source their products from wholesalers within the markets, and the lack of diversity in product sourcing makes consumers vulnerable to the same supply-side shocks.
To this end, the team spearheaded by the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana in collaboration with the Centre for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn-Germany, has suggested providing training on food safety issues including food safety awareness campaigns; and also, regular visits by health and food safety inspectors and sanitation officers can improve knowledge among food retailers.
Also, they are confident that significant financial investments in the sector is extremely essential, but non-financial interventions like improved coordination and collaboration can bring a change in the current status quo.
“Improving the food and nutrition sector, thematic areas such as education, regulations such as licencing, monitoring and enforcement, and service delivery must be checked. Improved outcomes are assured when all institutions are working together with streamlined mandates along the product/supply chain with the needed financial investment,” Prof. Asante said.
The study, ‘Partnerships for healthy diets and nutrition in urban African food systems –evidence and strategies’, is being conducted in Ghana, Uganda and South Africa.
The study’s overall aim is to understand the food consumption choices of urban populations in cities, and how these choices impact their nutrition from both the individual and systemic perspectives. This is achieved by gathering and analysing missing evidence on African urban food systems to outline a partnership concept for effective interventions in the food environment.