SafePORK project offers lessons on improving food safety in developing country for University of Sydney students

Recently, three students from Sydney School of Veterinary Science, the University of Sydney, participated in a three-week internship (2–21 December 2019) at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Vietnam to learn about food safety risks and related communication issues in a developing-country context.

The students learned about ILRI’s ongoing  food safety research work in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. Hung Nguyen, ILRI regional representative for East and Southeast Asia; Fred Unger, a senior scientist at ILRI, and other senior researchers shared how ILRI applies the One Health approach in its programs in developing countries to tackle human and animal health disease risks. In particular, the students familiarized themselves with the research and outcomes of the ‘market-based approaches to improving the safety of pork in Vietnam’ or SafePORK project. SafePORK aims to improve pork safety in Vietnam and is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR), which sponsored this internship with the University of Sydney, a key partner in the project.

Internship by students from University of Sydney, 2-21 December 2019

Three students from University of Sydney and researchers of ILRI, Hanoi University of Public Health and National Institute of Animal Science who supported them during their internship at ILRI (photo credit: ILRI/Chi Nguyen).

During the internship, the students also visited and learned from researchers at the Vietnam National University of Agriculture (VNUA), the Hanoi University of Public Health (HUPH) and the National Institute for Animal Science (NIAS) who are implementing partners of ILRI’s food safety projects including SafePORK.

Angela Nguyen, who studies contamination at slaughterhouses, visited small-scale slaughterhouses in Hung Yen (Red River Delta) and Hoa Binh (Northwest) provinces. Jordan Dunham and Shonara Jayde Langley surveyed traditional markets and modern food markets in Hanoi, Hung Yen and Hoa Binh provinces to better understand the differences in awareness of pork quality among consumers in traditional markets compared to consumers in supermarkets, convenience stores and boutique markets in an urban setting.

Internship by students from University of Sydney, 2-21 December 2019

Angela Nguyen (first from left) visits a slaughterhouse in Hung Yen Province to learn about food safety risks in the pork value chain in Vietnam (photo credit: ILRI)

Internship by students from University of Sydney, 2-21 December 2019

Jordan Dunham (first from right) interviews a pork consumer at a traditional open market in Hanoi to understand her awareness of pork quality (photo credit: ILRI/Chi Nguyen).

On 19 December, the students joined ILRI researchers in a media workshop on ‘Risk communications on food safety and human health’, which was co-hosted by ILRI, CropLife Association and Vietnam Association of Journalism. The workshop brought together Vietnamese researchers and reporters to discuss ways for better communicating food safety information to the public. Here the students learned about challenges of communicating food safety.

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The students from University of Sydney, ILRI researchers and partners attend the media workshop on food safety risk communications in Vinh Phuc Province (photo credit: ILRI).

‘We see the importance of a working relationship between researchers and the media in getting accurate food safety information to consumers,’ said Jordan Dunham and Shonara Jayde Langley.

Angela Nguyen found particular value in the field visits to slaughterhouses in Hung Yen and Hoa Binh.

She said the visits gave her a more global understanding of the meat industry, which was useful to her because she may work outside of Australia after graduating.

The students later met with the local ACIAR representative and the agriculture attaché at the Australian Embassy in Hanoi to share their experiences from the internship.

Fred Unger, principal investigator of the SafePORK project said the successful internship experience of the students highlights the intensifying collaboration between the University of Sydney and ILRI. This partnership strengthens the food safety research work in the project and opens up opportunities for further engagement between the two partners to improve food safety in developing countries.

Read more on ILRI’s capacity development activities:

University of Melbourne students learn use of One Health approaches in livestock research from ILRI researchers in Vietnam

Tata Trusts team visit to ILRI Vietnam opens door for cooperation in pig production

ILRI supports capacity development in addressing emerging infectious diseases in South and Southeast Asia