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Relationship between Consumer Food Safety Knowledge and Reported Behavior among Students from Health Sciences in One Region of Spain

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A survey was conducted to investigate the relationship between knowledge about food safety and actual food handling practices among Spanish university students (mainly from the health sciences disciplines) who usually prepare meals at home. Based on level of education in food safety topics, students were divided in three groups: high, which included students from Food Science and Nutrition; medium, which included students from other health sciences; and low, which included students from non–health-related studies. More than two thirds of the 562 people selected had an accurate knowledge of the eight foodborne pathogens included in the survey, but only 5.2% were able to identify Staphylococcus aureus as a foodborne pathogen. Significant differences in responses were found depending on educational level concerning the food safety topic. For food handling, up to 60% of the responses reflected accurate knowledge of proper storage of prepared meals and washing of hands and materials to avoid cross-contamination. However, with the exception of questions related to storage temperature, there was considerable difference between knowledge and reported behavior. Although 98.6% of the participants recognized the importance of hand washing before and during food preparation, only one quarter (24.4%) affirmed that they washed their hands with soap and water. On questions concerning food practices, more accurate answers were given by the older students. Women answered questions regarding cross-contamination more accurately, whereas men were more accurate in response to questions concerning temperature and food preservation. In general, students with more knowledge of food hygiene had better reported practices, but even these students reported some high-risk behaviors. These results confirm the need to improve educational programs, ensuring that the acquired knowledge actually modifies consumer behavior.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Navarra, C/Irunlarrea s/n 31008 Pamplona, Spain 2: Department of Microbiology, University of Navarra, C/Irunlarrea s/n 31008 Pamplona, Spain 3: Department of Clinical Sciences, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Apartado de Correos 550, 35080 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain

Publication date: December 1, 2005

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    The Journal of Food Protection (JFP) is a refereed monthly publication. Each issue contains scientific research and authoritative review articles reporting on a variety of topics in food science pertaining to food safety and quality. The Journal is internationally recognized as the leading publication in the field of food microbiology with a readership exceeding 11,000 scientists from 70 countries. The Journal of Food Protection is indexed in Index Medicus, Current Contents, BIOSIS, PubMed, Medline, and many others.

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