Research Phd Theses

Strategies for improving safety and hygiene control practices in emerging dairy chains

In emerging dairy chains, such as in Tanzania, multiple intervention support programs have been implemented. The objectives of this research were to explore the structure of existing support programs and how they are perceived, and to develop tools that can help to precisely position safety and hygiene control practice to ultimately propose simple but tailored improvement strategies for emerging dairy chains.

Using multiple data collection tools, such as in-depth interviews, focus group discussions and systematic on-site observations, the possible causes of persistent challenges in safeguarding safety and hygiene control practices in the Tanzanian dairy chain were investigated. Rudimentary safety and hygiene practices at the farm were such that teat dipping, milk cooling, mastitis control practices and proper feed storage facilities were commonly lacking. Furthermore, specific pathogenic bacteria checks were absent across the chain.

A customized assessment tool was developed to assess and differentiate performance levels of eleven safety and hygiene practices crucial for control of microbial and chemical (i.e. aflatoxin) safety of fresh milk along emerging dairy chains. A four-level differentiation grid was developed (i.e. poor, basic, intermediate and standard) based on the type of equipment used, the degree of performance of actual practices, and the extent of documentation of procedures and data recording applied. Three distinct clusters were identified based on practice performance. However, for all the three clusters basic level performance was observed for both large- and small-scale farmers on crucial practices such as milk safety monitoring method, udder and teat care, and personal hygiene.

A follow-up study was conducted based on the previous study to investigate how lower level (i.e. poor and basic) safety and hygiene control practices translated into milk quality and safety, and the implication further in the chain. The microbial analysis of fresh milk at the farm indicated that the milk already exceeded maximum limits to an extent that no further growth was observed along the chain irrespective of the level of practice performance. High levels of AFM1 was observed among farmers who stored feed longer with limited measures to control mold growth.

We concluded that to improve safety and hygiene control practices in emerging dairy chains, tools that precisely position level of practice performance are pivotal to inform tailored programs to achieve more tangible outcomes. We proposed that for emerging dairy chains, an integrative intervention program in which the intervention goals are aligned with the core business operation of a dairy company while beneficiary farmers are supported with regular trainings and technical tools to achieve a long-term impact.


James Ledo was born in Ghana and graduated with MSc Food Quality Management from Wageningen University and Research, in the Netherlands in 2015. He was immediately accepted as one of the PhD candidates in the multidisciplinary LIQUID project in the same university in January 2016 under the Supervisory team led by Dr. Ir. Pieternel Luning of Food and Quality and Design group, and supported by Dr. Ir. Kasper Hettinga of the Food Quality and Design group, and Dr. Ir. Jos Bijman of the Business Management and Organisation group of Wageningen University and Research. His research involved a lot of stakeholder engagements with local dairy actors in Tanzania to find better approaches to improve safety and hygiene control practices. When not doing research, he enjoys volunteering, social debates and running outdoors.

Text: James Ledo