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Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Apr;63(4):572-9. Epub 2007 Nov 14.

Comparison of food safety cognitions and self-reported food-handling behaviors with observed food safety behaviors of young adults.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA.



Developing tailored and effective food safety education for young adults is critical given their future roles as caregivers likely to be preparing food for populations who may be at greater risk for foodborne disease (FBD). The objective of this study was to examine the relationship between food safety self-reported food-handling behaviors and cognitions of young adults to observed food-handling behaviors.


Participants were 153 young adults (mean age 20.74+/-1.30 s.d.) attending a major American university. Each prepared a meal under observation in a controlled laboratory setting, permitted researchers to observe their home kitchen and completed an online survey assessing food safety knowledge, behavior and psychosocial measures. Descriptive statistics were generated for participants' self-reported food-handling behaviors, psychosocial characteristics, knowledge, food preparation observations and home kitchen observations. Determinants of compliance with safe food-handling procedures while preparing a meal and home food storage/rotation practices were identified using backward regression models.


Participants engaged in less than half of the recommended safe food-handling practices evaluated and correctly answered only two-thirds of the food safety knowledge items. They reported positive food safety beliefs and high food safety self-efficacy. Self-reported compliance with cross-contamination prevention, disinfection procedures and knowledge of groups at greatest risk for FBD were the best measures for predicting compliance with established safe food-handling practices.


Food safety education directed toward young adults should focus on increasing awareness of FBD and knowledge of proper cross-contamination prevention procedures to help promote better compliance with actual safe food handling.

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