High school students' perceptions of food safety

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Ellis, Jason
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Animal Science

The Department of Animal Science originally concerned itself with teaching the selection, breeding, feeding and care of livestock. Today it continues this study of the symbiotic relationship between animals and humans, with practical focuses on agribusiness, science, and animal management.

The Department of Animal Husbandry was established in 1898. The name of the department was changed to the Department of Animal Science in 1962. The Department of Poultry Science was merged into the department in 1971.

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Food safety knowledge, perceptions, and practices of adults have been researched extensively. However, little research exists about high school students' awareness of foodborne pathogens, perceived risk of foodborne illness, or concerns about food safety, providing little basis for educational material and program development with potentially great impact on future adult consumers. This study determined Iowa high school students' perceptions of food safety by measuring awareness of foodborne illness sources; assessing differences in food safety attitudes associated with home, restaurants, and school; determining perceived risk of foodborn illness from various foods; and assessing demographic influences on perceptions. Seventeen Iowa high schools from urban and rural areas were randomly selected. Telephone calls to biology teachers at these schools determined willingness to participate before survey distribution. All seventeen agreed to participate. Twelve high schools returned 289 completed surveys. A majority of students had heard of Salmonella (90.7%), E. coli (88.9%), and Hepatitis A (83.7%), but few students were aware of Campylobacter (4.8%), Listeria (12.8%), or Clostridium (14.2%). Students' concern for getting sick from meat was not different from eggs, but was greater than for fruits and vegetables. Food processors/manufacturers were identified as the most likely source of food safety problems (75.8%), followed by restaurants (64.4%), transportation (58.1%), supermarkets (47.1%), home (40.5%), and farms (38.4%). Students believe it is more common for illness to be caused by food handling in restaurants than in schools, and both are more common than food handled at home. Nearly a third of students (32.5%) had foodservice employment experience and 62.3% of students received some food safety education in school, but still reported to have a limited awareness of common foodborne illness sources and perceived risk of foodborne illness. Education and training efforts are needed to increase food safety awareness and risk perceptions because students handle food at home and in foodservice establishments frequently. Further, education and training efforts have potential to modify food-handling practices positively in a group of soon-to-be adult consumers.

Wed Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2003