Traditional Fermented Foods of North African Countries: Technology and Food Safety Challenges With Regard to Microbiological Risks
North African countries have a rich tradition in food technology, and many traditional foods of animal or plant origin are still widely consumed and highly appreciated. In fact, these foods play an important role in the economy and food security in these countries. Yet, they are still mainly prepared at the household level under poor sanitary conditions and marketed through informal routes. They thus remain beyond any official control for their compliance to national regulatory standards. Therefore, their consumption is anticipated to put the public health at risk, although such risk has never been estimated on a scientific basis due to the lack of consumption patterns, epidemiological data, and appropriate surveillance programs. The scarcity of scientific studies on the incidence of hazards in this specific category of foods adds to the difficulties in conducting scientifically sound risk assessment or profiling studies. This review provides a brief description of technologies of the most popular traditional foods of animal and plant origin in North Africa and discusses the potential microbiological risks associated with their consumption and the food safety challenges that they raise. The review also aims to draw the attention of stakeholders including decision makers in North African countries to the imperious need to assess or profile the health risks associated with their consumption, and consequently, take the necessary measures to reduce such risks. A tentative risk profiling of selected traditional North African foods is presented using as a template the “risk categorization model for food retail/food service establishments” developed by Health Canada.