ABSTRACT

Although vast amounts of consumer food safety knowledge and self-reported data exist, attitudinal data detailing perceptions of risk, control, and responsibility are lacking. Such data relating to vulnerable groups, including older adults, are particularly scarce. Perception determination is essential in consumer food safety research to facilitate a comprehensive understanding of the cognitive factors that may impact behavior. Previous research has indicated a relationship between food safety perceptions and behavior. Perceptual data can inform the development of targeted food safety educational interventions. This study was conducted to ascertain older adult consumers' cognitive perceptions regarding food safety. Older adults (≥60 years, n = 100) participated in a computer-assisted personal interview to determine perceived risk, control, and responsibility associated with food safety. Although the potential severity of foodborne illness may be understood, the association between foodborne illness and domestic food preparation may be underestimated. Significant differences were found between perceived personal risk, control, and responsibility and the risks, control, and responsibilities of others (P > 0.001). Older adults perceived themselves to have lower levels of risk than other individuals have, suggesting perceptions of optimistic bias and personal invulnerability. Perceived greater levels of personal control and responsibility, compared with those of others, suggest perceptions associated with the illusion of control. Correlations were evaluated between personal perceptions of risk, control, and responsibility (P < 0.05). Low levels of risk were correlated with high levels of control. Those respondents ≥80 years of age perceived higher levels of risk and lower levels of control and responsibility. Cumulatively, older adult consumers expressed perceptions of invulnerability, optimistic bias, and the illusion of control regarding food safety. Such perceptions may undermine attempts to provide education regarding food safety. Food safety messages for this audience must be tailored to overcome such perceptions.

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