Using Food Safety Practices to Prevent Food Waste in Traditional Markets
Every day, traditional markets provide nutrition and livelihoods for people around the globe. The majority of people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) shop at traditional markets. Food sold at traditional markets can vary depending on the season. Sometimes, often daily, there is an abundance of a particular food item that does not get sold.
What Happens to Leftover Food Items?
In a survey of 150 vendors from Hawassa, Ethiopia, EatSafe found that unsold food was primarily kept at the shop for the next day. If food is not stored properly, it can be eaten by animals or exposed to biological contaminants found in the environment such as E.coli spp., Salmonella spp. or Campylobacter spp. Food that is partially eaten by animals or highly contaminated with bacteria is not safe for human consumption.
Another common practice was that vendors would discard unsold food. If discarded food waste is not disposed of properly, it can attract flies and rodents that can spread bacteria from the waste to other food products in and around the market. When it rains, runoff from piles of market waste can lead to contamination of water that is used to wash produce. These events can lead to increased food safety concerns in the market and an increased risk of unsafe food being sold to and purchased by consumers.
From the climate perspective, decomposing food can also lead to increases in carbon dioxide emissions. Globally, food loss and waste has been attributed to around 8-10 percent of emissions due to greenhouse gasses. This month at COP27, food systems were recognized for the first time, highlighting the need to recognize the interconnections among climate change, resilience in food systems and food safety.
How Can Markets Decrease Food Waste While Maintaining Food Safety?
Traditional markets can use strategies to support food safety and decrease food waste simultaneously in traditional markets.
For example, traditional markets can:
- Work with vendors to identify products that lead to food waste and alternative methods of storage or preservation; and
- Increase access to cold storage, such as coolers or refrigerators for vendors, to increase the shelf life of food in the market, maintain freshness and safety and decrease food waste.
They can also encourage vendors to:
- Avoid the danger or hazard zone of 40°F to 140°F (4°C to 60°C). Keep stored food at a temperature below 40°F (4°C) and cooked food above 140°F (60°C). This helps prevent food safety concerns;
- Cover food to limit contact with flies or environmental contamination; and
- Maintain a clean environment by separating raw and cooked foods, as well as cleaning food storage containers at regular intervals.
Using best practices to increase food safety for local communities and consumers can simultaneously decrease food waste generated in local markets. EatSafe’s work in traditional markets aims to increase food safety. The approaches being developed, like a food safety stand for individuals to learn about optimal food safety practices, can result in other positive impacts, such as decreased food waste in traditional markets.
For more information, visit EatSafe’s Activity Page on Agrilinks.
This blog was made possible through support provided by Feed The Future through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), under the terms of Agreement #7200AA19CA00010. The opinions expressed herein are those of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.