T8-04 Food Safety in Ontario High School Students: Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices

Tuesday, August 2, 2016: 2:15 PM
242 (America's Center - St. Louis)
Shannon Majowicz, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada
Ken Diplock, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada
Scott Leatherdale, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada
Introduction: High school youth represent a unique audience for interventions aimed at improving safe food handling and preparation. They are the age cohort immediately prior to the ‘second weaning’ phenomenon, a hypothesized increase in foodborne illness that occurs when those in their early 20s are cooking for themselves for the first time.  They are also at an age when food preparation practices may not be fully established, such that appropriate teaching of safe food handling at this age may help instill lifetime safe food handling habits.

Purpose: The objective of this research was to determine the food safety knowledge, attitudes and practices in high school students in Ontario, Canada.

Methods: We administered a school-wide paper survey to the student body (n=2,860) of four Ontario (Canada) high schools, and conducted an in-depth survey and observed a recipe preparation in Grade 10 and 12 food and nutrition classes in these schools (n=8 classes; n=119 students), to assess knowledge, attitudes, and self-reported and actual practices.  This study was approved by a University of Waterloo Research Ethics Committee.  

Results: Although food safety knowledge was generally low, most students felt confident they could prepare safe, healthy meals. Observed practices were not ideal.  For example, although 77% of all students reported ‘always washing hands with soap/running water after handling raw meat,’ only 26% were observed doing so.  The most common method of checking chicken doneness was by time (47%).

Significance: Food safety knowledge and behaviors are poor, yet confidence in preparing safe, healthy meals is high, among high school students.  Because work and volunteer opportunities put students in contact with both the public and food, this group is important to target for increased safe food handling education.