Food Hygiene

Community-Based Intervention Study of Food Safety Practices in Rural Community Households of Lao PDR

Warnock F.  WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific, Manila (2007)

Between July 2007 and December 2007 the writer undertook three missions to Lao PDR to provide technical assistance and support to food safety personnel in the Department of Food and Drugs (FDD), Ministry of Health Laos, to conduct a community-based food safety intervention study in rural communities. The project built upon earlier work conducting food safety training workshops for Lao Women Union representatives from Phonehong District, Vientiane Province.

The current project, which was conducted over five months and in three phases, made further progress towards gaining a sound understanding of high risk food handling practices in rural households. Information gathered from a baseline study engaging Lao Women to observe food safety practices in 180 village households in Phonehong District formed the basis for developing an evidenced-based approach to food safety education aimed at behaviour change.

Specific activities included: training workshops followed by observation of household food safety practices and completing a food safety checklist tool (baseline assessment and final evaluation); taking time-temperature measurements of selected high risk foods/dishes; using the baseline assessment to develop key food safety messages and produce a food safety information poster specifically targeting rural households; dissemination of information materials to rural village households and Lao Women conducting small group education sessions; and a focus group feedback workshop with Lao Women and FDD to explore next steps in progressing this activity.

This food safety intervention study in rural households in Phonehong District has led to a better understanding of high risk food safety practices, and in particular, identified the consumption of raw meats and raw fish products to be a common practice among rural people and a significant problem. It has highlighted the importance of adopting an evidence-based approach to food safety education and not simply adapt/ translate existing information materials. Culture and traditional habits must be considered in food safety education programs if there is to be any impact on changing behaviours.
Involvement of the Lao Women’s Union as a key partner to provide food safety education in rural communities, with training and technical support provided by FDD, has demonstrated to be quite a successful model. It is recommended that this collaborative approach continue and the education activity expanded to other Provinces of Lao PDR in 2008.

It is recognised that broad behavioural change requires years of consistent effort to achieve. But through sustained effort and action at the grassroots level in rural communities there is potential to mobilize community action and improve household food safety practices, thereby reducing the burden of foodborne illness in Lao PDR.

Financial resources are required to support this important food safety education work, and it recommended that funding be sought from the Government and International Agencies to ensure this important work continues in rural communities of Laos.


Written by geraldmoy

February 10, 2012 at 10:07 am