2020 Landscape Review of Food Safety in Cambodia
Cambodia’s food system is comprised of complex production chains which connect small-scale producers with the informal, fresh air markets where the majority of consumers purchase food. Production chains and markets are fluid and non-uniform, with opportunities during transport, distribution and sale for food to be cross-contaminated with organisms that cause foodborne illness. Although comprehensive statistics on the burden of foodborne illnesses in Cambodia are not available, the high incidence of diarrheal diseases, which are responsible for 6% of childhood mortalities in the country and affect all socioeconomic groups, indicates that strengthening food safety policies and practices could help realize the country’s goal of well-nourished individuals, households and communities.
Funded through the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Safety, this analysis describes current food safety initiatives in Cambodia, with an emphasis on efforts funded by or working in concert with USAID. Authors Paul Ebner (Purdue University), Jessie Vipham (Kansas State University) and Lyda Hok (Center of Excellence on Sustainable Agricultural Intensification and Nutrition (CE SAIN), Royal University of Agriculture, Cambodia) conducted reviews of the literature, site visits and informal conversations with government, private sector and academic stakeholders.
The report highlights the key laws, government ministries, interagency collaborative programs and national initiatives involved in food safety, including the recent assessment of Cambodian health security by the Asian Development Bank; food safety-allied programs, such as infectious disease-focused aid projects; and Cambodian food safety research programs and their current research directions. The authors present a roadmap for closing major data gaps, developing informed policies, linking food sector stakeholders and enhancing food safety communication throughout the country, with an emphasis on the creation of locally-sustained food safety policies and practices. The authors identify the following gaps and opportunities:
- Identifying the causative agents for foodborne disease throughout the country.
- Understanding transmission routes and critical control points to maximize reductions in contamination.
- Implementing practices to reduce Cambodians’ exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria through their diets.
- Expanding consumer perceptions of food safety beyond chemical contamination to include the role of microbial pathogens in diarrheal diseases.
- Improving the sanitation practices for foods obtained through informal markets.
- Assessing the impact and efficacy of innovative food safety interventions, including research on consumers’ willingness to adopt and economic impacts.
- Integrating food safety into existing infectious disease programs.