Sale of raw milk at Port-Bouët market in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

Sale of raw milk at Port-Bouët market in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (photo credit: ILRI/Sylvie Mireille Kouamé-Sina).

Every day, some 652 consumers of raw milk in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire are exposed to the risk of gastro-intestinal infection caused by harmful milk-borne bacteria, a study has shown. The study was done under the collaborative Safe Food, Fair Food project which is led by International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

As is the case in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, milk in the informal or traditional market in Côte d’Ivoire is often sold raw. Many consumers routinely boil milk before drinking it, thus eliminating the health risk presented by milk-borne pathogens. However, some choose to consume the milk raw without any form of heat treatment. Unhygienic handling and storage of milk can also compromise the quality of raw milk sold to consumers.

Sylvie Mireille Kouamé-Sina, an Ivorian researcher at the Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d’Ivoire (CSRS), led the study on bacterial risk assessment of informally marketed milk in Abidjan.

Just over half (51.6%) of sampled milk consumers in Abidjan reportedly drank their milk raw. The main disease-causing bacteria isolated from the marketed raw milk were E. coli, Enterococcus sp. and Staphylococcus aureus. These species were found in about 58% of samples of informally marketed milk.

A risk model revealed that consumers of raw milk in Abidjan have a 30% chance of drinking milk that is not microbiologically safe. For this reason, boiling of informally marketed milk is recommended as a risk-mitigation strategy against milk-borne pathogenic bacteria.

Kouamé-Sina presented these findings during a poster session at the 5th Congress of European Microbiologists (FEMS 2013) which was held on 21-25 July 2013 in Leipzig, Germany. The international conference brought together 2270 participants from 70 countries across all continents. Africa was represented by 27 participants from Côte d’Ivoire (1), Egypt (2), Nigeria (11), South Africa (12) and Tunisia (1).

Various topics on the latest advances in microbiology and biotechnology were discussed, including microbial food safety, trends in pathogen monitoring, viral ecology and evolution, new perspectives in bioenergy, and microbial interactions and climate change.

“The conference was a very interesting forum for thousands of international microbiologists from Europe and around the world to assess the current status of techniques used in microbiology,” said Kouamé-Sina.

“It was especially useful for young scientists as it allowed for interaction with leading researchers and exchange of knowledge and information on the latest advances in microbiology,” she added.

View the poster, Bacterial risk assessment of milk produced locally in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire


Read more about ILRI’s research on food safety in informal markets.