What works best? Food safety education interventions

Participants were placed in one of three interventions: positive deviance group (PD), standard reading material group (Standard) and story reading material group (Story). After the interventions, all participants reported significant self-reported knowledge gain. Participants in the diabetics group raised their mean score from 3.6 to 4.0 (p<0.05, t-test two tailed), with positive deviance intervention, and pregnant women raised from 3.6 to 3.8 (p<0.05, t-test two tailed).

food.safe.story.jauce.pregWhen asked to list the three most useful things they learned from this program, most participants responded ‘washing hands’, ‘cooking temperature’, ‘2-hour rule of refrigerating’, ‘refrigerator temperature’. Many participants also listed ‘not thaw on the counter’, ‘using shallow  container for refrigerator storage’. Nearly 10% of pregnant women mentioned that they learned that pregnant women were at increased risk of foodborne illness, including Listeria.

Of those pregnant women, six responses were from the Story intervention, and two from the PD intervention. Only six participants from the diabetes group listed that they learned they personally were at increased risk for foodborne illness, three from Story, and three from PD. Some reported that they learned that some of their practices were not recommended, such as rinsing meat/poultry before cooking (from Diabetics group Standard intervention). Responses from PD intervention group were more specific and including more detail techniques than the other two interventions, like ‘wash cantaloupe before cutting’, ‘wash cuties (an orange)’, and ‘freezing does not kill bacteria’.

Across the interventions, the PD intervention tended to have the greatest increase of

participants’ self-efficacy, self-risk assessment, and knowledge gain. This preliminary study suggests that PD intervention is a promising food safety education module, especially for high-risk population.

Some study limitations merit comment. These study results were based on self-report survey data. Future research may benefit from observational research, which can validate the compliance of self-reported food safety behavior. Additionally, the relatively small sample size reduced the power of the analysis, and many of the comparison differences were not statistically significant. Future research needs to include a larger sample size and use a randomizing sampling process, in order to generalize findings to a larger population.

Future research efforts are needed to develop an effective food safety educational curriculum targeting people with diabetes, pregnant women and other immunocompromised patients, and delivered by health professional, like physicians, nurses and dieticians. This will facilitate health professionals’ ability to provide information about food safety to their patients and hereby help protect high-risk population from foodborne illness.

Yaohua Feng, Christine Bruhn, and David Marx. 2016. Evaluation of different food safety education interventions.

British Food Journal, Volume 118, Issue 4, February 2016, http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-10-2015-0372