Cognitive biases play an important role in creating and perpetuating problems that lead to foodborne illness outbreaks. By using insights from behavioral ethics, we argue that sometimes people engage in unethical behavior that increases the likelihood of foodborne illness outbreaks without necessarily intending to or being consciously aware of it.
We demonstrate these insights in an analysis of the 2011 Listeriosis outbreak in the U.S. from the consumption of contaminated cantaloupes. We then provide policy implications that can improve our understanding of other kinds of disease outbreaks and epidemics.
Behavioral Ethics and the incidence of foodborne illness outbreaks
Due to its ability to colonise, grow and form in niches in food manufacturing environments, the management of Listeria monocytogenes can be complex, particularly for food manufacturing small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). In addition to an effective food safety management system, the perceptions of risk, control and responsibility within a food manufacturing business are important influential factors associated with the management of L. monocytogenes. Research exploring managerial perspectives of L. monocytogenes in food manufacturer SMEs is lacking. Consequently, this study conducted in-depth interviews (n=10) with technical leaders from food manufacturing SMEs to ascertain factors that may influence listeria management, such as factors associated with cultural dimensions.
Perceived risks associated with L. monocytogenes were related to business reputation and consumer health impacts, but such events were perceived to be unlikely. Technical leaders reported having clearly defined and well executed processes to ensure food safety; but for some, L. monocytogenes, as a single pathogen was seldom considered. Despite acknowledging that “everyone” had responsibility for ensuring control of the pathogen, technical leaders indicated that the ‘people’ attributes associated with organisational culture were difficult factors to control and manage. Trust in staff ability to assure food safety was widely discussed, with technical leaders acknowledging that food handlers may not necessarily have specific knowledge regarding L. monocytogenes. Some technical leaders perceived themselves as having the greatest levels of responsibility for L. monocytogenes.
Overall, technical leaders perceived a medium level of risk, with high levels of control and high levels of responsibility for L. monocytogenes. Optimistic bias, illusion of invulnerability, illusion of control, and perceived attribution of responsibility are discussed, which may hinder implementation of effective listeria management in SME food manufacturing businesses. Consideration of specific pathogen risks in food manufacture in relation to food safety cultural dimensions may assist development of highly targeted and effective interventions.
Exploring listeria monocytogenes perceptions in small and medium sized food manufacturers: technical leaders’ perceptions of risk, control and responsibility
In 2000, my lab was awarded slightly more than $1 million Canadian as part of a vitamin litigation settlement. I added some staff, merged with the existing food safety hotline and offered it nationally, and hired a few decent grad students.
I knew the local students, but I wanted something different, people who could shake things up with their research.
I’d been running the Food Safety Network since 1993 with subscribers joining daily. At some point it occurred to me, I have thousands of people already subscribed to FSnet, take advantage of that.
So I did.
I haven’t gotten a pay check in over four years, so why not use the same list, which is now barfblog.com, to reach out to all those microbial food safety types and see if anyone’s got anything for me to write or research.
So I’m asking.
It’s fairly ironic my full professor contract at Kansas State University was not renewed in 2013 – I got fired for bad attendance – yet millions of students in the U.S. were told to stay at home on their computers for much of the past year while teachers and profs scrambled to put together distance ed programs.
I’ve done distance teaching and talks since 2000 – anyone remember IAFP’s Ivan Parkin lecture that year?
And it’s charming that the rest of the world has discovered the way I’ve been working for the past 30 years – by distance.
My American/Australian/Canadian (added that last passport in because I could) daughter is now 12 and increasingly independent.
I need to get back out there in some capacity.
You know how to reach me.
(This was the official song for the barfblog videos we did; the live versions have crappy video, so you get this. Tom Thompson was a famous Canadian painter, and an unofficial member of the Group of Seven. He’s in the pic, above right.)
I included this abstract because it was one of the two papers today that cited papers my lab and I produced, all those years ago. Google scholar alerts is wonderful, and tells me when one of the 70 or so peer-reviewed papers, book chapters and a book is cited by someone else. It averages out to about once a day, or 400 times a year. Certainly something we weren’t aiming for, but a pleasant reminder when I get one of those e-mails.
Millions of foodborne illness cases occur in China annually, causing significant social and economic burdens. Improper food handling has been observed not only among commercial food handlers but also among residential food handlers. It is critical to conduct a comprehensive scoping review of previous efforts to identify food safety knowledge gaps, explore the factors impacting knowledge levels, and synthesize the effectiveness of all types of food safety educational interventions for commercial and residential food handlers in China.
This review aims to analyze food safety education studies published over the past 20 years and provide foundations for developing more effective food safety educational interventions in China. A total of 35 studies were included in this review. Most studies reported that Chinese commercial and residential food handlers had insufficient food safety knowledge, especially in the areas of foodborne pathogens and safe food-handling practices. The factors impacting food handlers’ knowledge levels included education level, gender, income level, residency (rural vs. urban), the use of WeMedia, college students’ major, and food safety training experiences. Food handlers in the following demographic groups tend to have lower levels of food safety knowledge: lower education levels, the elderly, males, lower-income levels, rural residents, those who do not use WeMedia, those without food safety training experience, or college students in nonbiology-focused majors.
Many food handlers did not always follow recommended food safety practices, such as proper meat handling practices, handwashing practices, and cleaning and sanitation practices. Thirteen studies evaluated the effectiveness of educational interventions, and knowledge increases were reported after all interventions. The findings of this review provide guidance to researchers, educators, and government agencies in their future efforts to develop education programs emphasizing the importance of microbial food-safety content and behavior change regarding food safety and hygiene practices.
Moving forward to the future: A review of microbial food safety education in China
Some time about 2009, I was walking the dogs on a Sunday morning on the Kansas State University campus with a Canadian graduate student who was getting her MS degree at K-State, and we ran into University president, Jon Wefald.
We exchanged pleasantries, he was enamored by the dogs, and soon the conversation turned a pet food recall that had sickened dozens of humans with some bad bug.
Jon asked me, how are people getting sick from pet food and I explained the sometimes lack of process validation in pet food, the wonderful world of cross-contamination, of and that sometimes people ate pet food directly.
Jon was aghast.
I was, meh.
So that’ why these pet food recalls s are important, because the product can all to easily sicken humans along with their pets.
Carmine Galloof wrote in the Harvard Business Review last year that ideas are the currency of the twenty-first century. The ability to persuade, to change hearts and minds, is perhaps the single greatest skill that will give you a competitive edge in the knowledge economy — an age where ideas matter more than ever.
More than 2,000 years ago Aristotle outlined a formula on how to master the art of persuasion in his work Rhetoric. A summary of Galloof’s article appears below.
1) Ethos or “Character”
Aristotle believed that if a speaker’s actions didn’t back their words, they would lose credibility, and ultimately, weaken their argument.
2) Logos or “Reason”
Once ethos is established, it’s time to make a logical appeal to reason. Use data, evidence, and facts to form a rational argument.
3) Pathos or “Emotion”
According to Aristotle, persuasion cannot occur in the absence of emotion. People are moved to action by how a speaker makes them feel. Aristotle believed the best way to transfer emotion from one person to another is through the rhetorical device of storytelling. More than 2,000 years later, neuroscientists have found his thesis accurate. Studies have found that narratives trigger a rush of neurochemicals in the brain, notably oxytocin, the “moral molecule” that connects people on a deeper, emotional level.
Aristotle believed that metaphor gives language its verbal beauty. “To be a master of metaphor is the greatest thing by far,” he wrote. When you use a metaphor or analogy to compare a new idea to something that is familiar to your audience, it clarifies your idea by turning the abstract into something concrete.
Those who master the metaphor have the ability to turn words into images that help others gain a clearer understanding of their ideas — but more importantly, remember and share them. It is a powerful tool to have.
Here again, Aristotle was ahead of his time. “Aristotle had discovered that there are fairly universal limits to the amount of information which any human can absorb and retain,” writes Kings College professor Edith Hall in Aristotle’s Way. “When it comes to persuasion, less is always more.”
Brevity is a crucial element in making a persuasive speech. An argument, Aristotle said, should be expressed “as compactly and in as few words as possible.” He also observed that the opening of a person’s speech is the most important since “attention slackens everywhere else rather than at the beginning.” The lesson here is: start with your strongest point.
Cross-contamination of raw food to other surfaces, hands, and foods is a serious issue in foodservice. With individuals eating more meals away from home, contracting a foodborne illness from a food service establishment is an increasing concern. However, most studies have concentrated on hands or food contact surfaces and neglected atypical and unusual surfaces (surfaces that are not typically identified as a source of cross-contamination) and venues. This review seeks to identify atypically cross-contaminated surfaces and atypical venues where cross-contamination could occur that have not been examined thoroughly in the literature.
Most surfaces that could be at risk for cross-contamination are frequently touched, rarely cleaned and sanitized, and can support the persistence and/or growth of foodborne pathogens. These surfaces include, menus, spice and condiment containers, aprons and coveralls, mobile devices and tablets, and currency, among others. Venues that are explored, temporary events, mobile vendors, and markets, are usually limited in space or infrastructure, have low compliance to proper handwashing, and provide the opportunity for raw and RTE foods to come into contact with one another. These factors all create an environment where cross-contamination can occur and potentially impact food safety. A more comprehensive cleaning sanitizing regime encompassing these surfaces and venues could potentially help mitigate the cross-contamination described here.
This review highlights key surfaces and venues that have the potential to be cross-contaminated that have been underestimated in the past or are not fully explored in the literature. These knowledge gaps demonstrate where further work is need to fully understand the role of these surfaces and venues in cross-contamination and how it can be prevented in the future.
Cross-contamination on atypical surfaces and venues in food service environments, 05 February 2021
International Association for Food Protection
Rebecca Goulter; Margaret Kirchner; Benjamin Chapman; James S. Clayton; Lee-Ann Jaykus
Poor hygiene when handling food is a major cause of foodborne illness. To investigate whether hygiene practices visible in television cooking shows influence viewers’ kitchen hygiene, a study on the adoption of demonstrated hygiene behavior was conducted under controlled, experimental conditions.
In a study ostensibly on cooking by following recipes participants (n = 65) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions, in which they watched a cooking video that differed only with regard to the hygiene behavior of the chef. In condition 1, the chef engaged in poor hygiene practices while preparing the dish, in condition 2 the chef’s hygiene behavior was exemplary and in condition 3, the chef’s hygiene behavior was not visible (control condition). After watching the video, participants were instructed to cook the recipe individually in the fully equipped laboratory kitchen. Cooking sessions were videotaped and experimenters blind to condition coded hygiene lapses committed by participants.
The level of kitchen hygiene displayed in the cooking video significantly affected hygiene practices of participants cooking the recipe. Participants who had watched the cooking video with correct hygiene practices committed significantly fewer hygiene lapses than those who had watched the video with poor hygiene practices. From a risk communication perspective, TV cooking shows are well placed to convey knowledge of essential hygiene practices during food preparation to a broad audience. To facilitate behavioral change toward safer food‐handling practices among viewers, visibly performing correct hygiene practices in cooking shows is a promising strategy.
Kitchen hygiene in the spotlight: How cooking shows influence viewers’ hygienepractices
NASA’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system created decades ago for the lunar landing initiative is credited to this day with reducing foodborne illnesses.
Originally developed for astronaut food in the early days of the Apollo program – because no one wanted diarrhea in a space suit or barf in a space helmet — the HACCP system has been adopted by major players in the food industry
Sixty years ago, at what is now Johnson Space Center in Houston, a nutritionist and a Pillsbury microbiologist partnered with NASA to provide uncontaminated food for the astronauts on the Gemini and Apollo missions.
Instead of testing end products, Paul Lachance and Howard Bauman came up with a method that identified and controlled potential points of failure in the food production process.
To make astronaut food safe, the duo introduced hazards in the production line, observed the hazard and determined how it could be prevented.
In 1971, the deaths of two people from botulism, a severe foodborne illness caused by bacteria, prompted the National Canners Association to adopt stricter standards. The Food and Drug Administration and the canners association implemented the HACCP regulations for low-acid canned food.
In 1993, an outbreak of food poisoning at a fast-food chain prompted meat and poultry manufacturers to adopt to the HACCP regulations as part of an effort to restore public confidence in the industry. A decade after that, the FDA and the Department of Agriculture made HACCP regulations universal for meat, poultry, seafood and juice producers.
Standardization was further strengthened in 2011 when the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act came into existence. While HACCP applies to all U.S. food producers, all applications are unique to particular foodstuffs.