Dear all,

Apologies for coming late into this discussion. Fascinating contributions!

Mine is not so much a contribution as a plug for a forthcoming report documenting people’s views on processed and unsafe foods in 10 countries (Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Vietnam, Zambia)/

As part of the Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility, a joint programme with the Institute of Development Studies and Oxfam GB we have been looking at the impacts and responses to high and volatile food prices across 23 communities. More info here.

Each year we focus on a  ‘special topic’ such as young people’s perceptions of farming or local accountability for food security.

This year we chose to focus on understanding the adequacy and acceptability of the food people are eating in the research communities, focusing specifically on how food habits and customs are being influenced by processed foods and foods perceived to be unsafe. In particular, we ask 1) what kinds of processed or adulterated foods people consume, 2) Why they do so, 3) What their worries and concerns are, and 4) What is being done to address people’s concerns (eg. education, regulation, inspections etc.).

Why are we interested in these issues? Concerns about food safety have emerged in earlier rounds of the research, as have signs that cooked (out of the house), processed or ‘fast’ foods are becoming more important in many people’s diets, including in rural areas. People may think the food they are consuming (or selling) is inadequate in various ways – they may worry about how nutritious it is, how clean it is, or they may feel that an important part of culture and wellbeing is being undermined as food habits change. Others may disagree: they may like the new tastes and believe processed foods bring better nutrition and a modern way of life.

While food safety and quality are growing issues for people who are poor, they are also raising anxiety among middle class consumers – campaigns have been started and people are talking about it in the media and day-to-day. We think that our research can make a contribution at a moment when these issues are getting a more responsive hearing in policy circles.

Our national research teams have been conducting focus group discussions as well as interview with households, and key informants in the area of food safety, the informal food industry and nutrition. We are currently in the process of collecting all the data and will soon be proceeding with the coding and analysis. For now, there are a couple of blog posts online (here and here). We’re hoping to be able to share our findings in the spring. 

If anyone is interested please do not hesitate to email me via this forum.


Best regards,


Alexandra Wanjiku Kelbert