Food safety behaviour in the home: Development, application and evaluation of a social marketing food safety education initiative.
Foodborne disease is recognised as an important public health problem, with the domestic kitchen thought to be a point of origin for many cases. Foodborne pathogens associated with a range of raw foods can contaminate the kitchen unless appropriate food safety control measures are implemented. Consumer food safety education is therefore required to improve food safety practices during food preparation, and thus reduce the risk of foodborne disease.
Quantitative and qualitative research methods have been used to evaluate consumer attitudes towards food safety in the domestic kitchen and food safety education. Additionally, food safety behaviours have been assessed using an advanced observational technique incorporating CCTV and risk based scoring. This provided a quantitative assessment of the frequency, consistency and reproducibility of food safety malpractices, and enabled an evaluation of food safety intervention effectiveness.
Observations showed that food safety behaviours were variable and in many cases unsafe, indicating the need for food safety education. Overall, general consumer attitudes towards food safety in the domestic kitchen and food safety education were positive, although differences in respondent demographics highlighted the need for targeted educational efforts. Research findings informed development of a social marketing initiative that aimed to improve specific food safety behaviours. Observation results showed that the majority of consumers implemented unsafe cross contamination behaviours, so improvement of such actions was determined as the behavioural objective of the initiative. An evaluation of behaviours before and after intervention suggested that a 'one-off' social marketing strategy resulted in an initial behavioural improvement, which was not wholly maintained after 4-6 weeks. Results indicate that application of social marketing to food safety education may help to improve consumer food safety behaviours and reduce the risk of foodborne disease.
Cumulatively, this thesis has improved our understanding of consumer food safety behaviour, and provided important data to inform the development of future food safety education initiatives that intend to raise awareness of food safety issues, and bring about behavioural change.