ABSTRACT

Consumer implementation of recommended food safety practices, specifically relating to time and temperature control of ready-to-eat (RTE) food products associated with listeriosis are crucial. This is particularly the case for at-risk consumers such as older adults, given the increased listeriosis incidence reported internationally among adults aged ≥60 years. However, data detailing older adults' cognitive risk factors associated with listeriosis are lacking. Combining data about knowledge, self-reported practices, and attitudes can achieve a cumulative multilayered in-depth understanding of consumer food safety behavior and cognition. This study aims to ascertain older adults' cognition and behavior in relation to domestic food handling and storage practices that may increase the risks associated with L. monocytogenes. Older adults (≥60 years) (n = 100) participated in an interview and questionnaire to determine knowledge, self-reported practices, and attitudes toward recommended practices. Although the majority (79%) had positive attitudes toward refrigeration, 84% were unaware of recommended temperatures (5°C) and 65% self-reported “never” checking their refrigerator temperature. Although most (72%) knew that “use-by” dates indicate food safety and 62% reported “always” taking note, neutral attitudes were held, with 67% believing it was safe to eat food beyond use-by dates and 57% reporting doing so. Attitudes toward consuming foods within the recommended 2 days of opening were neutral, with 55% aware of recommendations and <84% reporting that they consume RTE foods beyond recommendations. Although knowledgeable of some key practices, older adults self-reported potentially unsafe practices when storing RTE foods at home, which may increase risks associated with L. monocytogenes. This study has determined that older adults' food safety cognition may affect their behaviors; understanding consumer food safety cognition is essential for developing targeted food safety education.

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