Understanding how food safety risk perception influences dietary decision making among women in Phnom Penh, Cambodia: A qualitative study

Objectives To determine women’s perception of the risk of food safety and how it relates to diet, health and decision making as part of formative research for a market-based intervention that aims to improve the safety of animal-source foods sold in informal markets. Design Qualitative study including in-depth personal interviews with 24 caregivers were conducted and complemented with a second follow-up PhotoVoice interview, which allowed the women to photograph their meals and perceptions of food safety and nutrition. Interview data were analysed using thematic analysis in MAXQDA. Participants were purposively sampled from a larger Safe Food, Fair Food for Cambodia study, conducted from May to August 2018. Setting Urban and periurban neighborhoods of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Participants 24 female caregivers (mothers and grandmothers) of children under age 5, each interviewed twice. Findings A primary food safety concern expressed was that chemicals (pesticides and other agricultural additives) in animal-source foods, fruits and vegetables may impact the health of their families by causing diarrhoea and problems during pregnancy. This fear created a lack of trust in markets, which influenced their food purchasing behaviours and strategies for making the food safer for their families. These mitigation strategies, including food selection and cleaning, vary among the women but are perceived as important to be able to provide their families with what they define as safe meals. Conclusions Interventions that wish to decrease rates of foodborne illness and increase animal source food consumption should also address the belief that the food system has been compromised by the addition of pesticides and agricultural additives.