- Heath professionals could play an important role in addressing health concerns by better educating their patients on frequently ignored and often unknown proper food safety techniques that could help to avoid their current health concerns.
- Adding endpoint cooking temperatures in recipes and educational materials are helpful cues to action for the consumer.
- Recipe HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) allows consumers to pinpoint steps in a recipe that may increase food safety hazards and think ahead about how to resolve them.
Practice HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points)
There are several avenues of education that health professionals can offer to help consumers handle food more safely.
Many consumers are aware of the food safety basics. However, there are many others that have food safety knowledge gaps and their knowledge of safe food handling practices does not always correspond with reported use. This suggests a need to build consumer knowledge, activate existing knowledge, and motivate information application.
Consumers are less likely to take precautionary steps when they believe their risk of foodborne illness is controlled by fate or luck. Helping consumers understand the magnitude of control they have in their own kitchens as food safety risk managers can help provide behavioral change. Tools that help consumers pinpoint problems in their kitchens, such as home kitchen food safety self assessments could personalize the message and increase their awareness of problem spots. Another tool is Recipe Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, which is used in retail food service kitchens. This tool teaches consumers to identify steps in a recipe that may increase food safety hazards and think ahead about how to resolve them.
Emphasizing the recognition of personal susceptibility and severity of foodborne illness outcomes can help consumers learn who is at greatest risk for foodborne illnesses.
If consumers are worried about possible embarrassment of performing new behaviors, like using a cooking thermometer, improving attitudes toward the behavior and changing beliefs about how others in their social network perceive the behavior, can build the confidence needed to motivate consumers to make changes. Studies of other health behaviors strongly suggest that utilizing social networks in food safety interventions could increase their effectiveness.
Many consumers take food safety precautions when they perceive a risk. But others may act out of habit and make food handling mistakes because they lack cues to action. When making dinner at home many hazards are not visible and there are few if any cues to remind us to provide safe food handling. Adding food safety cues to food packages may be particularly effective given that nearly 50% of consumers indicate that they commonly read cooking instructions on food packages. Placing soap dispensers in direct line of sight helps improve hand washing. Adding endpoint cooking temperatures in educational materials and cook books are other cues to action. Printing washing instructions on reusable grocery bags could cue consumers to wash them.
Consumers of all ages usually develop some degree of interest in the safety of their food and have a positive attitude towards learning about food safety. If the food safety material is personalized and tailored to the sensibilities and interests of their sociodemographic group, consumers may be amenable to food safety information more often.
Some especially teachable moments are after publicized foodborne illness outbreaks or recalls, before major holidays, during the perinatal period, and after being diagnosed with an immune compromising condition.
Athletes seeking sports health advice rarely receive food safety information despite the foodborne illness risk they face in the often long distance transport to and lengthy unrefrigerated storage of food at training and competition venues.
Many consumers are interested in food safety regarding storage and reheating instructions for restaurant left overs or take out. But this information is infrequently provided.
Other missed food safety educational opportunities include food safety concepts in elementary and secondary school science textbooks.
Registered dietitians need to keep in mind the myths, misperceptions, and attitudes about safe food handling that may be present in various cultures.
Health professionals need to recognize the important role they have in educating and counseling clients about home food safety. There are many opportunities for health professionals to extend their practice by incorporating safe food handling in consumer communications.
Poll: Do you use a thermometer to temp your food while cooking? The Hydra Rinse team wants to know.
Dr. Gary Russotti MD, MS
Idea Boxx – Director of Medical/Biochemical R&D and Regulatory Compliance
Summarized from: Byrd-Bredbenner, C. et.al, “Food Safety in Home Kitchens: A Synthesis of the Literature”. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health. 2013, 10: 4060-4085.