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Awareness and Attitudes of Student Dietitians in Lebanon, UK and USA Towards Food Safety

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posted on 07.12.2021, 11:21 authored by Ellen W. Evans, Elizabeth Redmond, Nisreen Alwan, Sanja Ilic
Allied health professionals such as dietitians can play a critical role in providing food safety advice to vulnerable consumers. To maximize food-related health and wellbeing, food needs to be safe and nutritious; consequently, food safety is referred to in international curricula for the training of dietitians. The purpose of this study was to explore the awareness and attitudes of student dietitians from three international institutions towards food safety. A total of 207 student dietitians participated in the study from Columbus, OH, USA (n = 99), Cardiff, Wales, UK (n = 78) and Beirut, Lebanon (n = 30). Completion of the study established that the students in three dietetic training programs lacked awareness of key food safety concepts. Close to half (43%) were not familiar with Campylobacter, with the USA students being significantly less knowledgeable (p < 0.001) with 58% being unaware of the pathogen. Understanding of safe handling of leftovers was the lowest for the students in all institutions; only 46% described appropriate reheating practices, with significantly lower (p < 0.001) understanding in Lebanon (28%). The students reported a good understanding of vulnerable populations and perceived food safety to be important for these groups. However, the knowledge of certain high-risk foods was lacking. For instance, 69% of students thought that fresh squeezed juices and smoothies made with raw fruits and vegetables were safe for vulnerable patients, with the UK students being the least familiar with this risk (16%). This is the first study of its kind to take an international perspective of student dietitian food safety awareness and attitudes; the findings are important to dietetic food safety educators and recommendations are made to further explore the interpretation of food safety requirements in international dietetic curricula. Future studies should extend student dietetic research to address attitudes, self-efficacy and the overall readiness to deliver food safety advice to the patients and the community.

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