Fruit drying has traditionally received little food safety attention in spite of Salmonella outbreaks and recalls involving low-moisture foods. This study aimed to assess the food safety implications during the home drying process, using dried apples as an example. A cohort of home apple dryers (N=979) participated in an online survey through Qualtrics XM in May 2021. The results showed that participants’ food handling regarding dried fruit was low. Participants, on average, practiced only eight of 18 identified food safety practices during apple drying. The survey revealed inadequate frequency of handwashing during apple preparation, potential points of cross-contamination from kitchen tools, a lack of hurdle technology without a pre-treatment step, failure to incorporate a thermal kill step during drying, and a lack of objective measurements to ensure that target parameters are attained. Participants mainly pre-treated apples for sensory improvement instead of microbial reduction. When presented with some benefits of pre-treatment, participants who did not pre-treat their apples considered doing so to kill bacteria. Level of safe food handling differed within demographic groups. Participants aged 18-39 years old (mean=7.47; 95% CI=7.26, 7.67) and 40-59 years old (mean=7.43; 95% CI=7.16, 7.70) reported less safe practices than those older than 60 years old (mean=8.49; 95% CI=8.22, 8.75), and participants who identified as males (mean= 7.38; 95% CI=7.16, 7.60) reported lower mean practices than females (mean= 7.92; 95% CI=7.74, 8.11). The findings of this study can provide handling practice data to support the development of more accurate food safety risk assessment models, as well as to guide the development of food safety education for home produce dehydrating consumers.

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