Observed food safety behaviours of young adults

Carol Byrd-Bredbenner, Jaclyn Maurer, Virginia Wheatley, Ellen Cottone, Michele Clancy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to observe young adults preparing two recipes in a controlled laboratory setting to identify food-handling errors. Few studies have investigated actual consumer food safety and food-handling practices. Design/methodology/approach - The paper shows that one of four trained observers used a check-list to directly observe and record food-handling practices; observation data were later analyzed to assess how closely participants followed recommended practices. The observation check-list had four criterion-referenced scales based on Fight Bac food safety recommendations (e.g. clean, cook, separate, chill). Each recommended behaviour performed earned one point. Scale scores were calculated by summing points earned and could range from zero to the maximum observed behaviours on the scale. Means, standard deviations, and comparison of mean scores using analysis of variance were calculated. Findings - Participants (n=154, mean age 20.73+1.30SD) were from a major US university. Overall, participants were observed performing only 50 percent of the recommended behaviours. Scores ranged from a low of 29 percent on the cook scale to a high of 67 percent on the separate scale. Females scored significantly higher on the clean scale (e.g. hands, produce, work surfaces) than males. No other significant gender differences were noted in the scales, despite a trend for higher scores for females in all scales. Young adults, particularly males, engage in unsafe food-handling practices, putting them at increased risk for food-borne disease. Originality/value - The paper shows that innovative education and training opportunities for young adults are needed to assist them in developing and practising safe food-handling practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)519-530
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Food Journal
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)


  • Food safety
  • United States of America
  • Young adults


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