“Sometimes You Get Good Ones, and Sometimes You Get Not-so-Good Ones”: Vendors’ and Consumers’ Strategies to Identify and Mitigate Food Safety Risks in Urban Nigeria


This paper uses detailed data from in-depth interviews with consumers (n = 47) and vendors (n = 37) in three traditional markets in Birnin Kebbi, Nigeria. We used observations from those markets to examine how consumers and vendors identify and avoid or manage food safety risks and whom they hold responsible and trust when it comes to ensuring food safety. At the level of the vendor, consumers mentioned seeking “clean” or “neat” vendors or stalls. Cleanliness was primarily related to the appearance of the vendor, stall, and surroundings; reliance on trusted, known vendors was also noted. Food products themselves were largely evaluated based on visual cues: insects, holes, and colors—with some reliance on smell, also. Similarly, vendors assessed safety of food from suppliers based on a visual assessment or reliance on trusted relationships. On the second research question, both consumers and vendors largely placed responsibility for ensuring food safety on government; when asked specifically, consumers also named specific steps that vendors could take to ensure food safety. Consumers and vendors also generally felt that they could limit many food safety risks through identifying the “good” products in the market or from suppliers. The paper discusses the implications of these results for behavior change interventions.