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Food safety knowledge, practices, and educational needs of students in grades 3 to 10

Barclay, Martha, Greathouse, Karen, Swisher, Marian, Tellefson, Sue, Cale, Lynnette, Koukol, Barbara A.
The Journal of child nutrition & management 2003 v.27 no.1
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, analysis of variance, attitudes and opinions, botulism, boys, child nutrition, cutting, data collection, educational materials, elementary students, food consumption, food handling, food safety education, gender, girls, lunch, questionnaires, raw meat, risk factors, Illinois
One of the 2000 Priority Research Needs identified by the Food and Drug Administration/Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition was to “determine the population trends with respect to food safety knowledge, attitudes, and practices, especially behaviors that may be significant risk factors for foodborne illness (e.g., food consumption, in-home food preparation, and handling)” (Buchanan, 2000). Results from a study of safe food-handling knowledge and practices of 4th- and 5th-grade students in west-central Illinois indicated a need to expand the investigation into their food safety knowledge and practices (Barclay, Greathouse, Swisher, & Cale, 2001). This research examined food safety-handling practices, barriers to safe food practices, and food safety knowledge of 3rd- through 10th-grade students in west-central Illinois. Two questionnaires were developed for data collection, one for 3rd- and 4th-grade students and one for 5th- through 10th-grade students. Questionnaires were completed and returned by 1,368 students. The Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), version 10.0 was used for data analysis. Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was used to determine significant differences (≤0.05) in knowledge and practices based on gender and grade. Food safety practices and knowledge did not improve with grade level. Less than 10% of the students knew: (1) which sources of food were most unsafe; (2) the most common source of botulism; and (3) the most common source of staphylococcus. More than 50% of the 5th- through 10th-grade students knew: (1) the correct actions to take after cutting raw meat; (2) the most common source of salmonella; and (3) the best choice for a brown bag lunch. Using gender comparisons, boys appeared less concerned about food safety practices than did girls. Barriers to implementing safe food-handling practices included a lack of information about what practices were unsafe, previous experience by the student with unsafe practices and not getting sick, and observations of family and friends practicing unsafe handling of food and not getting sick. Results of this research indicate a need for food safety educational materials for elementary grades. Food safety information should be reinforced during students' progression through the educational system.