Poor Sanitation in Phnom Penh’s Food Markets
Posted On : September, 27, 2016 | By Neng Pov

Phnom Penh: In Cambodia most people are fortunate to have enough food every day. It is a shame that we continue to get sick due to a lack of knowledge about basic food hygiene.

If you visit a traditional market place in Cambodia you will see slabs of raw beef, pork and chicken that are left un-refrigerated and in the open in tropical temperatures. They are often covered in flies. Fish, vegetables, meat and other food are all kept in an unhygienic way. Meat could be left waiting on a table for buyers from the early morning until night. After being outside all day the meat dries up and smells.

Dust and germs fall onto the vegetables because they are not covered. They are placed in the baskets or put directly on a wooden floor that never gets washed. Even if the vegetables turn rotten, the sellers will still be seen trying to sell them.

Gary, a visitor from England came to visit Cambodia this year and he went to the Aurreussey market for the first time “I felt like I was going into a jungle when I first entered Aurreussey market.” He said the market is not very organized and it’s dirty.

With fish, when they are still alive some of them will jump out of the box and try to swim on the ground where the customers are walking. The sellers pick them off the floor and throw them back into the box.

Anyone who has a basic knowledge of food and kitchen hygiene will understand that poor hygiene leads to bacteria and germ growth. This in tern leads to sickness. According to a publication by the Australian Government, Salmonella food poisoning arises from poor food handling and takes up to 48 hours to develop after the food is
eaten. Symptoms include nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever and headache, and may last between 3 and 21 days. It can cause death in very young, weak or very old people.


Local market in Toul Tumpoung: this beef has been left un-refrigerated from the morning until the late evening.

In Cambodia, raw oysters are typically stored in the open with the shells removed. The outdoor temperatures can reach over 30 Degree C, yet the recommended storage temperate is a refrigerated 4 Degree C (40 Degree F). The higher storage temperature will lead to germ and bacteria growth and the effects are similar to that of salmonella poisoning listed previously.

To highlight one just incident, according to the Cambodia Herald, in 2015 approximately 570 villagers including young children became sick, dizzy and vomited due to poor food preparation.

According to an article on the LonelyPlanet, in Cambodia there is a lack of effective medical-treatment facilities, a prevalence of tropical diseases and poor sanitation compared to other countries in Southeast Asia. They recommend that shellfish,mussels, claims, oysters should be avoided and be careful with water and ice when you visit Cambodia.

Cambodia is a very traditional country and instead of modern science many people still believe in using magic rituals for protection. We can see this every day by the offerings of food and incense which are left in front of people’s homes. There is very little common knowledge about bacteria and how poor food hygiene can lead to food becoming a breading ground for germs.

To solve the problem of lacking of hygiene in Cambodia, the people should be taught basic hygiene by their parents and schools. The Government such carry out an awareness campaign via televisions or Facebook. Simple basic hygiene should have been included in the school curriculum and it would have been a lesson that the kids could take home and share. In America, many schools have different programs for teaching the students about food safety lessons. For example in Iowa State University they have four lessons that focus on the relationship between germs and food-borne illness. They also teach the students about critical control points from purchasing throw handing leftovers when food may become contaminated and the importance of hand washing plus personal cleanliness. This could easily be implemented in Cambodia.

Urban Voice Cambodia

Urban Voice Cambodia