Barriers to Adopting Safer Fish Smoking Practices among Senegalese Artisanal Processors
In Senegal, artisanally processed fish is an important component of the economy and diet. In 2018, nearly 40,000 tons of fish were processed, worth an estimated $47.5 million. The main types of processed fish include kéthiakh which represents 63%, guédji 17%, tambadjang 6%, and methora 5% (Ministère des Pêches et de l’ Economie Maritime, 2019). Fish processing is labor- intensive and provides many jobs, making it an important source of income generation in coastal communities which often suffer high levels of poverty and unemployment. Women represent more than 90% of workers in the fish processing associations (University of Rhode Island, 2018). The role of women is particularly important as they typically contribute more of their income to household well-being and nutrition than their male counterparts, helping fight impoverishment and hunger.
Some of the main health risks associated with fish processing and the consumption of processed fish include smoke inhalation during processing, consuming contaminated or spoiled products, and the consumption of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which have genotoxic, carcinogenic, and teratogenic effects (Ifegwu & Anyakora, 2015) Of the four main types of processed fish, kéthiakh and methora are braised and smoked, respectively, and because of these processing techniques, they contain relatively high levels of PAHs. Guédji and tambadjang are fermented and dried rather than smoked and therefore are not at risk of containing PAHs.
In 2020, Business Drivers for Food Safety (BD4FS) undertook a food safety situational analysis of the artisanal seafood sector in Senegal and confirmed that traditional smoking of fish remains a common practice (Food Enterprise Solutions, 2020). BD4FS also completed a desk review of the health risks associated with consuming smoked products, the different types of fish smokers and the levels of PAHs produced by each smoker, as well as costs and financing options for adopting modern smokers that produce lower PAH levels (Food Enterprise Solutions, 2021). Based on findings from the literature review (FES, 2020), focus group discussions were held with women’s associations of artisanal fish processors in Senegal to better understand their knowledge of PAHs, and to identify gaps and barriers within the food system that need to be overcome to improve the health and well-being of processors and consumers.