Skip to main content

‘The germs are not harmful’: health risk perceptions among consumers of peri-urban grown vegetables in Kumasi, Ghana

Abstract

Consumption of peri-urban grown vegetables has raised public health concerns due to potential risks of contamination from pathogens, pesticides and heavy metals. Understanding how the public perceives of risk is key in managing the population at risk of consuming contaminated vegetables. However, health risk perceptions research of consumers has largely been given little attention. Using both quantitative and qualitative research techniques, and drawing on risk perception theory, this study examined consumers’ health risk perceptions in relation to urban vegetable consumption in the Oforikrom sub-metropolitan area of the Kumasi Metropolis in Ghana. Results suggest that heath risk perceptions of consumers of urban-grown vegetables is generally low, an indication that consumers’ perceptions have not changed a decade after similar results were reported in Ghana. Consumers’ interpretation of the quality of vegetables and associated health risks deviates from scientific health risk assessments which, does not translate into desired risk mitigation behaviour. Continuous public education on potential health risks of consuming these vegetables and appropriate health risk mitigation measures could be vital in reducing the population at risk.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

Source GSS (2014)

References

  1. Abass, K., Ganle, J. K., & Adaborna, E. (2015). Coliform contamination of peri- urban grown vegetables and potential public health risks: Evidence from Kumasi, Ghana. Journal of Community Health, 41(2), 392–397. doi:10.1007/s10900-015-0109-y.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Afriyie, K., Abass, K., & Adomako, J. A. A. (2013). Urbanisation of rural landscape: assessing the effects in peri-urban Kumasi. International Journal of Urban Sustainable development, 6(1), 1–9. doi:10.1080/19463138.2013.799068.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Amoah, P., Drechsel, P., & Abaidoo, R. C. (2005). Irrigated urban vegetable production in Ghana: Sources of pathogen contamination and health risk elimination. Irrigation and Drainage, 54(S1), S49–S61.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Amoah, P., Drechsel, P., Abaidoo, R. C., & Henseler, M. (2007). Irrigated urban vegetable production in Ghana: Pathogen contamination in farms and markets and the consumer risk group. Journal of Water and Health, 5(3), 455–466.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Amoah, P., Drechsel, P., Abaidoo, R. C., & Ntow, W. J. (2006). Pesticide and pathogen contamination of vegetables in Ghana’s urban markets. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 50(1), 1–6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Amoah, P., Lente, I., Asem-Hiablie, S., & Abaidoo, R. C. (2014). Quality of vegetables in Ghanaian urban farms and markets. In P. Drechsel & B. Keraita (Eds.), Irrigated urban vegetable production in Ghana: characteristics, benefits and risk mitigation (pp. 116–135). Colombo: International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

    Google Scholar 

  7. Barke, R. P., Jenkins-Smith, H., & Slovic, P. (1997). Risk perceptions of men and woman scientists. Social Science Quarterly, 78(1), 167–176.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Blumenthal, U. J., Peasey, A., Ruiz-Palacios, G., & Mara, D. D. (2000). Guidelines for wastewater reuse in agriculture and aquaculture: Recommended revisions based on new research evidence. London: WELL Resource Centre. (WELL study, Task No. 68 Part 1).

    Google Scholar 

  9. Dake, K. (1991). Orienting dispositions in the perception of risk. An analysis of contemporary worldviews and cultural biases. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 22(1), 61–82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Dayour, F., Yendaw, E., & Jasaw, G. S. (2014). Local residents’ perception and adaptation/coping strategies to climate-induced disasters in Bankpama. Wa West District, Ghana, International Journal of Development and Sustainability, 3(12), 2186–2205.

    Google Scholar 

  11. De Bon, H., Huat, J., Parrot, L., Sinzogan, A., Martin, T., Malézieux, E., et al. (2014). Pesticide risks from fruit and vegetable pest management by small farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 34(4), 723–736.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Dinham, B. (2003). Growing vegetables in developing countries for local urban populations and export markets: Problems confronting small-scale producers. Pest Management Science, 59(5), 575–582.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Donkor, E. S., Lanyo, R., Kayang, B. B., Quaye, J., & Edoh, D. A. (2010). Internalisation of microbes in vegetables: microbial load of Ghanaian vegetables and the relationship with different water sources of irrigation. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, 13(17), 857–861.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Douglas, M., & Wildavsky, A. (1982). Risk and Culture. California: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Freeth, J., & Kay, R. (1987). The Lake Nyos gas disaster. Nature, 7000(325), 104–105.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Fung, J., Keraita, B., Konradsen, F., Moe, C., & Akple, M. (2011). Microbiological quality of urban-vended salad and its association with gastrointestinal diseases in Kumasi, Ghana. International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health, 4(2/3/4), 152–166.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Garvin, T. (2001). Analytical paradigms: The epistemiological distances between scientists, policy makers and the public. Risk Analysis, 21(3), 443–455.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Ghana Statistical Service. (2014). 2010 Population and Housing Census, District Analytical Report (KMA). Accra: GSS.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Grewal, I., & Ritchie, J. (2006). Ethical and language matching of the researcherand research group during design, fieldwork and analysis. In Y. N. James (Ed.), Health and Social Research in Multi-ethnic societies (pp. 65–81). London and New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Hamilton, A. J., Boland, A. M., Stevens, D., Kelly, J., Radcliffe, J., Ziehrl, A., Dillon, P., & Paulin, B. (2005). Position of the Australian horticultural industry with respect to the use of reclaimed water. Agric Water Management, 71(3), 181–209.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Karg, H., & Drechsel, P. (2011). Motivating behaviour change to reduce pathogenic Risk where unsafe water is used for irrigation. Water International, 36(4), 476–490.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Kates, R. W. (1962). Hazard and choice perception in flood plain management. Chicago: Department of Geography University of Chicago. (Paper 78).

    Google Scholar 

  23. Keraita, B., & Drechsel, P. (2015). Consumer perceptions of fruit and vegetable quality: Certification and other options for safeguarding public health in West Africa (pp. 1–23). Colombo: International Water Management Institute. doi:10.5337/2015.215. (IWMI Working Paper 164).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  24. Keraita, B., Drechsel, P., & Amoah, P. (2003). Influence of urban wastewater on stream water quality and agriculture in and around Kumasi, Ghana. Environment and Urbanization, 15(2), 171–178.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Keraita, B., Drechsel, P., Huibers, F., & Raschid-Sally, L. (2002). Wastewater use in informal irrigation in urban and peri-urban areas of Kumasi, Ghana. Urban Agriculture Magazine, 8, 11–13.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Keraita, B., Drechsel, P., & Konradsen, F. (2008). Perceptions of farmers on health risks and risk reduction measures in wastewater-irrigated urban vegetable farming in Ghana. Journal of Risk Research, 11(8), 1047–1061.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Keraita, B., Drechsel, P., Seidu, R., Amerasinghe, P., Cofie, O. O., & Konradsen, F. (2010). Harnessing farmers’ knowledge and perceptions for health risk reduction in wastewater-irrigated agriculture. In P. Drechsel, C. A. Scott, L. Raschid-Sally, M. Redwood, & A. Bahri (Eds.), Wastewater irrigation and health: assessing and mitigation risks in low-income countries (pp. 337–554). London: Earthscan.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Lente, I., Keraita, B., Drechsel, P., Ofosu-Anim, J., & Brimah, A. K. (2012). Risk assessment of heavy metal contamination on vegetables grown in long-term wastewater irrigated urban farming sites in Accra, Ghana. Journal of Water Quality, Exposure and Health, 4(4), 179–186.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Mc Daniels, T., Axelrod, L., & Slovic, P. (1995). Characterising perception of ecological risk. Risk Analysis, 15(5), 575–588.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Mensah, E., Amoah, P., Abaidoo, R. C., & Drechsel, P. (2001). Environmental concerns of (peri-urban vegetable production—Case studies from Kumasi and Accra. In P. Drechsel & D. Kunze (Eds.), Waste composting for urban and peri-urban agriculture—Closing the rural-urban nutrient cycle in sub-Saharan Africa (pp. 55–68). Wallingford, UK: IWMI/FAO/CABI.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  31. Mensah, P., Yeboah-Manu, D., Owusu-Darko, K., & Ablordey, A. (2002). Street foods in Accra, Ghana: How safe are they? Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 80(7), 546–554.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Messner, F., & Meyer, V. (2006). Flood damage, vulnerability and risk perception- challenges for flood damage research. In J. Schanze, E. Zeman, & J. Marsalek (Eds.), Flood risk management: Hazards, vulnerability and mitigation measures. The Netherlands: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Muchuweti, M., Birkett, J. W., Chinyanga, E., Zvauya, R., Scrimshaw, M. D., & Lester, J. N. (2006). Heavy metal content of vegetables irrigated with mixtures of wastewater and sewage sludge in Zimbabwe: implications for human health. Agriculture, Ecosystem and Environment, 112(1), 41–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Ntow, W. J., Tagoe, L. M., Drechsel, P., Kelderman, P., Nyarko, E., & Gijzen, H. J. (2009). Occupational exposure to pesticides: Blood cholinesterase activity in a farming community in Ghana. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 56(3), 623–630.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Nurah, K. G. (2001). Quality labelling and marketing of organic vegetables in Brong- Ahafo and Ashanti Regions of Ghana. Final draft report to Ghanaian-German project for Integrated Crop Production (ICP), Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD), German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), Kumasi, Ghana. Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

  36. Obuobie, E., Keraita, B., Danso, G., Amoah, P., Cofie, O. O., Raschid-Sally, L., et al. (2006). Irrigated urban vegetable production in Ghana: Characteristics benefits and risks. Accra, Ghana: IWMI-RUAF-CPWF.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Obuobie, E., Keraita, B., Hope, L., Sampson, K., & Agodzo, S. K. (2014). Health risk perceptions of stakeholders. In P. Drechsel & B. Keraita (Eds.), Irrigated urban vegetable production in Ghana: characteristics, benefits and risk mitigation (pp. 116–135). Colombo: International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

    Google Scholar 

  38. Odai, S. N., Mensah, E., Sipitey, D., Ryo, S., & Awuah, E. (2008). Heavy metals uptake by vegetables cultivated on urban waste dumpsites: Case study of Kumasi, Ghana. Research Journal of Environmental Toxicology, 2(2), 92–99.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Oforikrom Sub-Metro (2015). Unpublished sub-metropolitan facts sheet.

  40. Oliver-Smith, A. (1996). Anthropological research on hazards and disasters. Annual Review of Anthropology, 25, 303–328.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Otway, H. (1992). Public wisdom, expert fallibility: Towards a contextual theory of risk. In S. Krimsky & D. Golding (Eds.), Social theories of risk (pp. 215–228). Westport: Praeger.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Peters, E., & Slovic, P. (1996). The role of affect and worldviews as orienting dispositions in the perception and acceptance of nuclear power. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 26(16), 1427–1453.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Plapp, T. (2001). Perception and Evaluation of Natural Risks: Interim report on first results of a survey in six districts in Germany. Risk Research and Insurance Management Working Paper 1:1–10. No. 1. http://www.gknk.uni-karlsruhe.de/tina/Plapp_WP1.pdf. 9 January, 2007.

  44. Rohrmann, B. (1994). Risk perception of different societal groups: Australian findings and cross-national comparisons. Australian Journal of Psychology, 46(3), 150–163.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Scott, C. A., Faruqui, N. I., & Raschid-Sally, L. (2004). Wastewater use in irrigated agriculture: management challenges in developing countries. In C. A. Scott, N. I. Faruqui, & L. Raschid-Sally (Eds.), Wastewater use in irrigated agriculture: Confronting the livelihood and environmental realities (pp. 1–10). UK: CABI Publishing, Oxford-shire.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  46. Seidu, R., Heistad, A., Amoah, P., Drechsel, P., Jenssen, P. D., & Stenstrom, T. A. (2008). Quantification of the health risk associated with wastewater reuse in Accra, Ghana: A contribution toward local guidelines. Journal of Water and Health, 6(4), 461–471.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Slovic, P. (1987). Perception of risk. Science, 236(4799), 280–285.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Slovic, P. (1992). Perception of risk: Reflection on the psychometric paradigm. In S. Krimsky & D. Golding (Eds.), Social theories of risk (pp. 153–178). Westport: Praeger.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Smith, K. (2001). Assessing risk and reducing disaster. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Starr, C., & Whipple, C. (1980). Risk of risk decisions. Science, 208(4448), 1114–1119.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Stewart-Taylor, A. J., & Cherries, J. W. (1998). Does risk perception affect behaviour and exposure? A pilot study amongst asbestos workers. Annals of Occupational Hygiene, 42(8), 565–569.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Suruchi Khanna, P. (2011). Assessment of heavy metal contamination in different vegetables grown in and around urban areas. Research Journal of Environmental Toxicology, 5(3), 162–179.

  53. WHO (World Health Organization) (2006). Guidelines for the safe use of wastewater, excreta and greywater, volume 2: Wastewater use in agriculture. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO).

  54. WHO (World Health Organization) (2014). Food safety. Fact Sheet No. 399. Geneva: World Health Organization(WHO). Accessed on March 5, 2015. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs399/en/.

  55. Yates, M. V., & Garba, C. P. (1998). Microbial considerations in wastewater reclamation and reuse. In T. Asano (Ed.), wastewater reclamation and reuse (Vol. 10, pp. 437–488). Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Technomic. (Water Quality Management Library).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kabila Abass.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

This research was funded from the researchers’ personal resources and not from any funding agency. Besides, no potential conflict of interest is anticipated

Ethical approval

Ethical issues were complied with. As indicated in Section 4.6 of the methodology, participation in the research was voluntary.

Informed consent

Informed written and verbal consents were obtained from all research participants. Individual respondents/participants were requested to sign or thumbprint a written informed consent form. Those who were uncomfortable signing or thumb printing the written consent form were given the option to give verbal consent. Participants were also assured of strict confidentiality of information. Opinion leaders and traditional rulers were briefed on the main purposes of the study and necessary permissions were sought before data collection commenced.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Abass, K., Ganle, J.K. & Afriyie, K. ‘The germs are not harmful’: health risk perceptions among consumers of peri-urban grown vegetables in Kumasi, Ghana. GeoJournal 82, 1213–1227 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10708-016-9747-6

Download citation

Keywords

  • Risk perception
  • Peri-urban
  • Health risk
  • Vegetables
  • Ghana