Creation and Evaluation of a Food Safety Educational Curriculum for High School Students
Burke, Anne J.
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Inadequate knowledge and unsafe food handling behaviors are a major contributory factor to the transmission of foodborne disease. Certain populations, such as young adults and ethnic minorities, may be especially at risk for infection with foodborne disease due to knowledge gaps and an increased likelihood of engaging in risky eating behaviors and food handling practices. To determine the efficacy of a foodborne disease intervention at amending knowledge gaps in these populations, an integrated curriculum and educational comic book were developed for students in a predominantly minority high school. Frequencies of correct answers to each knowledge question were examined to determine the food safety knowledge gaps. Bivariate and regression analyses were performed to identify student variables associated with the knowledge score and increase in knowledge score. The majority of participating students (n=195) were Hispanic, female, and in the 11th grade. Students completed a baseline survey to determine knowledge gaps prior to the educational intervention. Hispanic ethnicity, more experience cooking meat, less experience cooking seafood, and more experience cooking alone were significantly and independently associated with increased baseline knowledge score. A follow-up survey was completed after exposure to the intervention to determine changes in food safety knowledge, self-reported behaviors, and personal hygiene of the students. Food safety knowledge scores increased from 37% to 60% on the follow-up survey. Among the more substantial increases in knowledge, several related to the proper mechanisms for storing, thawing, and checking the temperature of food; cross contamination; and the vulnerable populations for foodborne disease. Hispanic origin, being in the 11th grade, reading all of the educational comic book, and talking to friends or family about what they learned in the curriculum were significantly and independently associated with a greater increase in knowledge score. Overall, students enjoyed the curriculum and believed that it had contributed to their knowledge about food safety and foodborne disease epidemiology. The educational intervention appeared effective at improving food safety knowledge and behaviors in a high school student population.