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Consumer Food Handling in the Home: A Review of Food Safety Studies

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Abstract:

Epidemiological data from Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand indicate that a substantial proportion of foodborne disease is attributable to improper food preparation practices in consumers' homes. International concern about consumer food safety has prompted considerable research to evaluate domestic food-handling practices. The majority of consumer food safety studies in the last decade have been conducted in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland (48%) and in the United States (42%). Surveys (questionnaires and interviews), the most frequent means of data collection, were used in 75% of the reviewed studies. Focus groups and observational studies have also been used. One consumer food safety study examined the relationship between pathogenic microbial contamination from raw chicken and observed food-handling behaviors, and the results of this study indicated extensive Campylobacter cross-contamination during food preparation sessions. Limited information about consumers' attitudes and intentions with regard to safe food-handling behaviors has been obtained, although a substantial amount of information about consumer knowledge and self-reported practices is available. Observation studies suggest that substantial numbers of consumers frequently implement unsafe food-handling practices. Knowledge, attitudes, intentions, and self-reported practices did not correspond to observed behaviors, suggesting that observational studies provide a more realistic indication of the food hygiene actions actually used in domestic food preparation. An improvement in consumer food-handling behavior is likely to reduce the risk and incidence of foodborne disease. The need for the development and implementation of food safety education strategies to improve specific food safety behaviors is reviewed in this paper.

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Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Food Research and Consultancy Unit, University of Wales Institute Cardiff, Colchester Avenue, Cardiff CF23 9XR, South Wales, UK

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