Texas State researchers tackle food safety in Bangladesh through USAID
The Department of Agricultural Sciences at Texas State has received a $700,000 grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to enhance farm-to-table food safety in fish and chicken in Bangladesh.
The project is funded by USAID as part of Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Safety (FSIL), the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. FSIL is administered through Purdue University and Cornell University.
Madan Dey, chair of the Department of Agricultural Sciences, will serve as the principal investigator for the 3.5 year project, with Pratheesh Sudhakaran, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Sciences, and Prasanna Surathkal, a research associate in the Department of Agricultural Sciences, serving as co-PIs. Bangladesh partner institutions are Bangladesh Agricultural University and the University of Dhaka.
"It is essentially market research to find out how we can reduce the safety concerns of fish and chicken consumers in the country," Dey said. "The unique aspect of this project is that we will be analyzing fish and chicken samples for chemical residues, like antibiotics or heavy metals, and harmful microbes, like pathogenic bacteria. Once these quality characteristics are identified, we will look at what consumers are willing to pay to have better quality seafood and chicken.
"Then we will go back to industry and the regulatory authority in Bangladesh to design appropriate strategies," he said. "This project is essentially market research to find out the situation at the ground level as far as food safety of fish and chicken products are concerned."
The multidisciplinary project will involve economists, microbiologists, food scientists and sociologists looking at the entire farm-to-plate system in Bangladesh.
"This project is distinguished by its approach: looking at food safety through the lens of economics," said Haley Oliver, director of the Food Safety Innovation Lab and professor of food science at Purdue University. "With its complementary partnership of microbiologists and economists, the team will not only assess contamination rates in fish and chicken products, but they will also help us understand consumers' decision making processes related to purchasing safe food."
Improved food safety is a national priority for Bangladesh, and the researchers will work with the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority—equivalent to the Food and Drug Administration in the United States—to help achieve that goal. A crucial component of that is identifying how much Bangladesh consumers are willing to pay for that improved food safety, which is no small consideration in a developing nation.
"If we do not know what the consumers are willing to pay for a safer product, then the industry may adopt stringent measures, but the price becomes very high and nobody is going to buy it," Dey said. "If we find out what are consumers are willing to pay for a better quality product, then the chicken and seafood industry can take over and implement those measures. That's why we are looking at this issue from a market economist point of view, but it is ultimately a multidisciplinary project."
About Feed the Future
Feed the Future is the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. With a focus on smallholder farmers, particularly women, Feed the Future supports partner countries in developing their agriculture sectors to spur economic growth and trade that increase incomes and reduce hunger, poverty and undernutrition. For more information, visit www.feedthefuture.gov.