Unsafe food causes 600 million cases of foodborne related illness and 420,000 deaths a year worldwide, one-third of which are among children under the age of 5.(1) The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that every year, one in every 10 people will fall ill due to foodborne illness.(1) Unsafe food containing pathogens, chemical hazards (e.g., pesticides, radiological residue), or physical agents such as plastics can cause more than 200 different diseases.(2) Foodborne disease can include both acute and long-term effects. Foodborne diseases are also closely linked with nutrition, as many of the most nutritious foods such as vegetables and meat can be highly susceptible to contamination.
Worldwide, 92% of foodborne illnesses and 55% of deaths are due to diarrheal diseases, most often caused by food contaminated with norovirus, pathogenic E. coli, and Salmonella.(3) An estimated 33 million years of healthy life (DALYs - Disability Adjusted Life Years) are lost every year due to foodborne disease, mostly occurring in low- and middle-income countries, where regulation of food production processes and food handling are less restrictive and consumers and food handlers have less access to water and adequate food storage.(3) The economic consequences of foodborne disease for these countries are also significant. The World Bank estimates approximately $110 billion US dollars are lost in productivity and medical expenses each year (4), At the individual level, this translates to an inability to care for oneself and one’s family, perpetuating cycles of poverty. It also impacts the greater society, including national economies, trade, tourism, and sustainable development.
Prevention of foodborne illness is a shared responsibility across the food chain, including both consumers and food vendors. At the local level in lower-income countries, food safety practices of local stakeholders (such as farmers, vendors, and consumers) may have a large impact on reducing the burden of foodborne disease. This is particularly true in settings where regulations may not be enforced due to a lack of knowledge or government resource constraints. Central to the approach of EatSafe is that the interaction between consumers and vendors offers a leverage point for significantly improving food safety in informal markets in lower-income countries by empowering consumers to demand safe food, and vendors to deliver it. This makes it essential to understand how both food vendors and consumers conceptualize food safety, their attitudes and beliefs about the risk of foodborne illness and how to prevent it, and how this knowledge and these beliefs are reflected in their practices. It is also essential to better understand how consumers and food vendors interact in order to develop effective, targeted interventions to improve food safety.
To meet these goals, EatSafe commissioned two scoping reviews, one on consumer perceptions of food safety (Part 1) and one on vendor perceptions of food safety (Part 2). We present them here as two separate sections within this document, though some differences in scope and methods are unique to each.