‘I got to publish a paper with Ninja in title’: evaluation of a food safety education game

Erstwhile food safety nerd and friend of the blog, Don Schaffner of Rutgers, was one of the authors of a new paper in the British Food Journal exploring food safety education for middle school youths.

“Teaching people about food safety is easy, says Schaffner. “Getting them to really get it – especially when it’s busy – is hard. This game shows the balancing act that kitchen employees have to master to keep customers happy while still keeping food safe.  Plus I got to publish a paper with Ninja in the title.  How cool is that?”

The game is available at http://ninjakitchengame.org.

ninja.kitchenAbstract below.

Ninja Kitchen to the rescue: Evaluation of a food safety education game for middle school youth

British Food Journal, Vol. 115 Iss: 5, pp.686 – 699

Virginia Quick, Kirsten W. Corda, Barbara Chamberlin, Donald W. Schaffner, Carol Byrd-Bredbenner


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to assess the effect of Ninja Kitchen, a food safety educational video game, on middle school students’ food safety knowledge, psychographic characteristics, and usual and intended behaviors.

Design/methodology/approach – The experimental group (n=903) completed the following activities about one week apart from each other: pretest, played the game, posttest, and follow-up test. The control group (n=365) completed the same activities at similar intervals but did not have access to the game until after the follow-up test.

Findings – Linear mixed-effects models, controlling for gender, grade, and geographic location revealed significant time by group effects for knowledge of safe cooking temperatures for animal proteins and danger zone hazard prevention, and usual produce washing behaviors. Pairwise comparisons, adjusted for multiple comparisons, indicated that after playing the game, the experimental group felt more susceptible to foodborne illness, had stronger attitudes toward the importance of handling food safely and handwashing, had greater confidence in their ability to practice safe food handling, and had greater intentions to practice handwashing and safe food handling. Teachers and students found the game highly acceptable.

Originality/value – The game has the potential to promote positive food safety behaviors among youth, in a fun and educational format.