Fish Smokers and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) Risks in Senegal
Smoked fish is widely traded and consumed in the entire West African region and is also exported internationally. In Senegal, artisanally-caught fish is typically processed by women’s groups using a variety of traditional processing techniques, most-commonly smoking. Traditional smoking produces high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are recognized as carcinogenic when consumed.
Modern smoking ovens, such as the Thiaroye model by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Ahotor oven model by the University of Rhode Island, have been developed to reduce PAH levels in smoked fish; however, these improved methods have not been widely adopted in many regions.
Business Drivers for Food Safety (BD4FS), a USAID-funded project implemented by Food Enterprise Solutions (FES), is engaging food businesses in Feed the Future countries to improve post-harvest processing, handling and transport practices for safer foods. In the Spring of 2020, BD4FS undertook a Food Safety Situational Analysis (FSSA) of the artisanal seafood sector in Senegal and confirmed that traditional smoking of fish remains a common practice. To further investigate, BD4FS completed a desk review of the health risks associated with consuming smoked products, the different types of smokers and the levels of PAHs produced by each smoker, as well as costs and financing options for adopting modern smokers that produce lower PAH levels. The findings, summarized in this technical learning note, are informing the next phase of research, which will include: 1) a survey to understand consumer demand and consumption levels of smoked fish and 2) focus groups with women fish processors to learn barriers to adopting modern smokers. Ultimately, this research aims to identify implementable actions to help reduce PAH levels in smoked fish, contributing to the BD4FS mission of working with businesses towards safer foods.