ABSTRACT

High school students have limited food safety knowledge and lack safe food handling skills. However, youth of high school age are frequently employed in food service and will prepare food for themselves. This study was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of a food safety educational intervention for changing students' food handling behaviors, and the theory of planned behavior was used to construct factors that contribute to behavior change. A combination of stationary and wearable (GoPro) cameras was used to observe the food handling practices of high school students in key areas, including food thermometer use, hand washing and hand drying, glove changing, and environmental cleaning. The percentage of correct food handling techniques was measured categorically, and the number of groups who complied with thermometer use and environmental cleaning guidelines was recorded. The percentage of students using correct hand washing, hand drying, and glove changing techniques significantly increased in the postobservation cooking session. However, the percentage of correct hand washing and glove changing events remained <50% for certain subcategories: hand washing time (38%), hand washing after handling raw produce (36%) and touching skin (20%), changing gloves after gloves became contaminated or torn (47%), and washing hands between glove changes (15%). Students modified their behaviors to comply with subjective norms related to the study, including instructor expectations, but some students did not plan to change the behaviors they practiced at home. Students cited food handling behaviors they observed their parents using when making decisions about how to prepare food. This study highlights the need for the development of food safety educational interventions that encourage safe food handling skills and address influences from key subjective norm groups.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Students' hand washing techniques improved after the intervention.

  • The number of students who wore gloves significantly increased after the intervention.

  • Student attempts at thermometer use decreased after the intervention.

  • Most cross-contamination events resulted from touching skin and then handling food.

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