ABSTRACT

Improper food handling among those working in retail and food service settings is a frequent contributor to foodborne illness outbreaks. Food safety training and education interventions are important strategies to improve the behaviors and behavioral precursors (e.g., knowledge and attitudes) of food handlers in these settings. We conducted a comprehensive systematic review to identify, characterize, and synthesize global studies in this area to determine the overall effectiveness of these interventions. The review focused on experimental studies with an independent control group. Review methods included structured search strategy, relevance screening of identified abstracts, characterization of relevant articles, risk of bias assessment, data extraction, meta-analysis of intervention effectiveness for four outcome categories (attitudes, knowledge, behavior, and food premise inspection scores), and a quality of evidence assessment. We identified 18 relevant randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and 29 nonrandomized trials. Among RCTs, 25 (64%) unique outcomes were rated as high risk of bias, primarily owing to concerns about outcome measurement methods, while 45 (98%) nonrandomized trial outcomes were rated as serious risk of bias, primarily because of concerns about confounding bias. High confidence was identified for the effect of training and education interventions to improve food handler knowledge outcomes in eight RCT studies (standardized mean difference = 0.92; 95% confidence interval: 0.03, 1.81; I2 = 86%). For all other outcomes, no significant effect was identified. In contrast, nonrandomized trials identified a statistically significant positive intervention effect for all outcome types, but confidence in these findings was very low due to possible confounding and other biases. Results indicate that food safety training and education interventions are effective to improve food handler knowledge, but more evidence is needed on strategies to improve behavior change.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Food safety training and education interventions improve food handler knowledge.

  • There is low confidence that these interventions improve other food safety outcomes.

  • Risks of bias were present for most study outcomes.

  • Further research is needed on strategies that can change food handler behaviors.

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