Improving food safety in Uganda: Piloting the nudge theory to change risky practices amongst Uganda’s pork handlers
Pork joint operators in urban and peri urban Kampala in Uganda have been trained on meat safety interventions aimed at reducing risks from ‘farm to table’ using the nudge theory. The training was developed and implemented by the Boosting Uganda’s Investments in Livestock Development (BUILD)- veterinary public health (VPH) team together with 17 Triggers. The nudge theory is an approach that aims at understanding and influencing human behavior by indirectly encouraging people to make decisions that are in their broad self-interest. Nudges aim to influence individual choices but without taking away the power to choose.
Despite the cultural and religious differences surrounding its consumption, pork is one of the popular meats in Uganda. Over the past decade, the country had the highest per capita consumption of pork in East Africa estimated at 3.4 kilograms per person per year (FAO, 2018). Unfortunately, the food safety status, influenced by food handling and processing practices at slaughter, transport, markets, eating points remains grossly neglected; making it a major driver for foodborne diseases. Food safety has emerged as a significant global issue with public health and international trade implications (WHO, 2020). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every year, foodborne diseases cause loss of 33 million healthy life years. Foodborne diseases can be deadly among children under 5, resulting in 420,000 deaths, primarily in the African region. One third of deaths among children are attributed to foodborne diseases.
As part of a pilot phase, a baseline study was conducted to understand the current situation, generate evidence-based data on the knowledge, attitudes and practices of stakeholders in order to inform the strategy for behavior change by identifying key intervention points. Some of the challenges reported by the pork joint owners during the pilot included absence of formal qualification for those working in the meat sector as well as rare and poor-quality informal training. Other challenges observed are lack of oversight at slaughter houses, lack of refrigeration at the retail points and that current behaviors do not align with regulations.
Pork joints were specifically targeted because they are the closest environment to client consumption and can mitigate risks that come from earlier on within the meat value chain. The environment at pork joints captures the 5 keys of safety as stipulated by WHO; (1) keep clean; (2) separate raw and cooked; (3) cook thoroughly; (4) keep food at safe temperatures; and (5) use safe water and raw materials. Pork joints were believed to be easier environments to change because they are private sector business-oriented investments which makes uptake of both physical and nonphysical behavior triggers more acceptable. Also, it is hoped that the presence of clients motivates the pork joints to adopt better hygienic practices. To develop the programme, current behaviors that needed to be changed were identified; nudges to be deployed decided, tested and evaluated before upscaling to other sites.
Overall indicators of pilot project success included bacteria reduction within locations, information sharing in-between locations, knowledge of key hygiene moments in the pork joints as well as confidence on behaviors and customer trust.
This work is being conducted by an ILRI led consortium supported by the One Health Research, Education and Outreach Centre in Africa (OHRECA) and implemented by 17 triggers, VSFG Uganda, BUILD programme and funded by the Germany Federal ministry of economic cooperation and development (BMZ).
BUILD-VPH is building on a previous ILRI project, Safe Food Fair Food which was co-implemented along the CRP Livestock under CRP A4NH: