Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Robin Bernstein

Second Advisor

Darna Dufour

Third Advisor

Terrence McCabe

Abstract

While most mammals cease milk consumption after the weaning period, humans continue drinking milk into later-life. However, the milk integrated into human diets post-infancy comes from non-human sources, such as cattle. Livestock hold great importance for the livelihoods and nourishment of low-income populations, and as agropastoralists, many Gambians rely on milk throughout their lifespans. Milk is especially integrated into early-life diets where it is commonly given to infants in unpasteurized form. While weaning, infants are especially vulnerable to illness due to exposure to new environments and foods because of their immature immune systems, and diarrheal diseases have contributed greatly to infant mortality in Gambia. Research examining livestock-handling practices and milk bacterial contamination in the country is limited, which may influence food safety. By investigating milk bacterial contamination and conducting ethnographic work in Gambia, this thesis concludes that food safety of milk, especially as a weaning food, requires greater attention.

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