Perceptions of Food Safety and of Personal Capability, Opportunity, and Motivation for Food Safety Practices Among Cambodians Involved with Informal Vegetable Markets
Poor food safety in informal, open-air markets remains a pressing issue in Cambodia, contributing to both foodborne illness and malnutrition. In order to design food safety programs that successfully promote positive food safety practices among the various actors involved in these markets, is important to understand their perceptions of food safety and of their own capability, opportunity, and motivation for adopting positive food safety behaviors. To that end, this research sought to explore and describe the perceptions of vegetable vendors, vegetable distributors, and vegetable growers in the Cambodian provinces of Battambang, Siem Reap, and Phnom Penh regarding food safety and their own personal capability, opportunity, and motivation for implementing specific food safety practices. To note, this research was made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) though Cooperative Agreement No. 7200AA19LE00003 to Purdue University as management entity of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Safety. The contents are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.
The first portion of the research, which examined levels of perceived capability, opportunity, and motivation for positive food safety practices among actors involved in informal vegetable markets in Cambodia, employed a quantitative questionnaire based on the Capability, Opportunity, Motivation-Behavior model of behavior and the Theoretical Domains Framework. A pilot study using this questionnaire was performed with vegetable vendors in the Province of Phnom Penh (N = 55), after which the questionnaire was revised and implemented in person with vegetable distributors in Battambang Province (n = 37) and vegetable vendors and growers in Battambang (n = 26 and n = 27, respectively) and Siem Reap Provinces (n = 61 and n = 30, respectively). To validate the questionnaire, response data from participants in Battambang and Siem Reap were evaluated using confirmatory factor analysis. The resultant nine-factor model had a comparative fit index of .91, a Tucker-Lewis index of .89, and a root mean square error of approximation of .05. Data analysis proceeded using a fitted general linear mixed model. Results of this analysis suggested that levels of perceived motivation and capability for the target food safety practice were typically significantly higher (p < .05) than levels of perceived opportunity among vegetable vendors and distributors, regardless of location. Levels of perceived opportunity and perceived capability were significantly lower (p < .05) than levels of perceived motivation among vegetable growers in both Battambang and Siem Reap. Significantly higher (p < .05) levels of perceived opportunity and motivation for the target food safety practice were observed among vendors in Battambang in comparison to vendors in Siem Reap; perceptions of all three behavioral determinants were higher among vendors in Battambang than among farmers in either location.
Subsequently, a quantitative questionnaire regarding participants’ perceptions of vegetable safety was implemented in person with vegetable growers in Battambang (n = 41) and Siem Reap (n = 28) and vegetable vendors in Phnom Penh (n = 31). Response data were analyzed using a fitted logistic regression model. Nearly all respondents indicated that they were concerned about vegetable safety (overall mean estimate 97.4%, 95% CI = [89.7, 99.4]%), with ≤ 62.7% of respondents in all groups reporting at least moderate concern (lower bounds of 95% confidence intervals 46.2% at the lowest). Across all groups, chemical contamination was perceived as more concerning than microbial contamination (84.9%, 95% CI = [76.0, 90.9]%). The majority of respondents reported that they were familiar with the potential health effects of consuming vegetables contaminated with either chemicals (71.4% [61.5, 79.6]%) or microbes (57.3% [47.2, 66.9]%). Nonetheless, when those who reported familiarity were asked to give examples of such health effects, fewer than 50% (ranging from 7.3% to 48.4%) provided an example of a commonly understood health effect of consuming contaminated vegetables.
Both chemical and microbial contamination were most frequently perceived as occurring mainly “at the farm”, regardless of participants’ occupation and location (≥ 76.7%, lower bounds of 95% confidence intervals at least 61.5%, and ≥ 39.3%, lower bounds of 95% confidence intervals at least 21.2%, respectively). Correspondingly, “vegetable farmers’ were most often perceived as having the greatest responsibility for chemical contamination prevention (≥ 51.6% across all groups, lower bounds of 95% confidence intervals at least 34.0%). There were significant between-group differences in participants’ perceptions of microbial contamination prevention responsibility, however (p = .02). With regards to practices intended to prevent vegetable contamination, 22.6% of surveyed vendors in Phnom Penh, 39.0% of surveyed growers in Battambang, and 53.6% of surveyed growers in Siem Reap described at least one commonly accepted contamination prevention practice.
Considered as a whole, these findings indicate that food safety practice adoption may be more effectively encouraged among vegetable growers, distributors, and vendors in Phnom Penh, Battambang, and Siem Reap by emphasizing the importance of microbial contamination and integrating educational components regarding the health effects of consuming vegetables contaminated with microbes or chemicals into food safety programs. Such programs should also address the relatively lower levels of perceived opportunity present among all groups; environmental restructuring-based interventions may be one means by which to do so. Programs for vegetable vendors specifically should communicate that microbial contamination of vegetables is common and highlight the significance of the role of vegetable vendors in maintaining a safe vegetable supply. Food safety programs tailored to vegetable growers could draw on growers’ perception of their own responsibility for both vegetable contamination and contamination prevention as well as their perception of contamination as a common occurrence. Programs for vegetable growers also need to incorporate efforts to address the relatively lower levels of perceived capability present within this group. These efforts could include educational programming or hands-on demonstrations that increase participants’ perceptions of their own ability to implement positive food safety practices.
Cooperative Agreement No. 7200AA19LE00003
- Master of Science
- Animal Sciences
- West Lafayette