Food Safety Programs and Academic Evidence in Senegal
PUBLISHED ON Oct 1, 2020
LAST UPDATED Oct 1, 2020

Smallholder farmers and consumers in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) face numerous biological- and chemical-based food safety threats. According to estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO), this region of the world faces the highest burden of foodborne illness per capita, with an estimated 137,000 deaths and 91 million acute illnesses per year (WHO, 2015). WHO also estimates that 70% of the disease burden is caused by bacterial contaminants (e.g., Salmonella, pathogenic E. coli), while parasites (e.g., pork tapeworm) contribute to 17% of the burden. The remainder of the burden arises from other hazards, including chemical hazards such as aflatoxins (mainly affecting cereals and grain legumes), pesticide residues, cyanide (affecting processed cassava), and dioxins (commonly found in dairy products, meat, fish, and shellfish). While African policymakers, donors, and the broader international development community have traditionally placed resources and emphasis on food production and food security, food safety is beginning to rise on the development agenda. This report contributes to this focus by documenting and analyzing the current landscape of projects and evidence about food safety threats in major food commodities in Senegal, including rice, maize, millet, groundnuts (peanuts), and fish.

The Global Food Safety Partnership database shows that international donors spent $383 million1 to support 323 projects aiming to improve food safety throughout Africa between 2010 and 2017. The projects with the largest funds and presence in Senegal include the Aflasafe Technology Transfer and Commercialization and the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa II. Both are funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Other donors funding significant efforts to improve food safety in Senegal include the U.S. Agency for International Development and the European Commission.

The academic evidence on the burden of foodborne diseases in Senegal, and the effectiveness of approaches to reducing it, is sparse. Our review found no indicators of the burden of foodborne illnesses in the country, and there are few peer-reviewed publications measuring bacterial or parasitic contamination in rice, maize, millet, groundnuts, or fish in Senegal. There is evidence of contamination from aflatoxins, which are widespread in Senegal, although levels vary among crops, varieties, regions, seasons, post-harvest management practices, and storage locations (Diedhiou et al., 2011; Watson et al., 2015). We found only one study estimating the impacts of a scalable approach to reducing aflatoxin levels by improving smallholder production practices in Senegal (Bauchet et al., 2020). The authors found that providing hermetic (airtight) storage bags along with a suite of inputs including training on proper post-harvest practices, tarps, and low-cost moisture meters reduced aflatoxin levels in stored maize by approximately 30%. The combination of the other inputs without the hermetic storage bags, however, did not significantly affect aflatoxin levels.

Our review of the literature indicates that more research is required to (i) document the extent of contamination in foods produced and consumed in Senegal and in Africa, and (ii) rigorously test the impact of scalable, integrated pre- and post-harvest strategies aiming to improve production practices and increase the safety of crops for food and feed. With much of the international development community’s focus shifting towards food safety issues, funding for these approaches could then be dedicated to scaling up successful interventions and boosting populations’ food safety and nutrition, together with smallholder farmers’ income and consumption.