Surveys still suck, here’s an alternative: video observation and data coding methods to assess food handling practices at food service

Ben Chapman, who was a Phd student with me at Guelph and is now plying his trade at North Carolina State University, Tanya MacLaurin, who used to be at Kansas State and is now at Guelph, and me, who used to be at Guelph and now is at Kansas State, got together to create a how-to paper for video observation to measure food safety behaviors. Abstract below.

Eating at foodservice has been identified as a risk factor for foodborne illness. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified four food handler-related factors that contribute to foodborne illness: improper cooking procedures; temperature during storage; lack of hygiene and sanitation by food handlers; cross-contamination between raw and fresh ready to eat foods.

Evaluation of food handler behaviors, important for risk assessment calculations and for the effectiveness of training strategies, has historically been limited to self-reported data, inspection and participatory observation. This article describes the framework of a video observation methodology, novel to food service situations used capture and code food handler practices for analysis.

Through the piloting of this technique in a working foodservice establishment, a number of lessons were learned, including best equipment to use, equipment location and configuration, as well as pitfalls in coding practices. Finding and working with partner organizations and navigating institutional ethics review is also discussed.

Chapman, B., MacLaurin, T. and Powell, D.  2013. Video observation and data coding methods to assess food handling practices at food service. Food Protection Trends. 33 (3). 146–156.