A quantitative study exploring the knowledge, attitudes and behaviour of undergraduate students in the United Kingdom towards food safety
Environmental Health Dissertation Prize Winner
Keywords:Food safety, knowledge, attitudes, practice, undergraduate students, university students
Food-borne illness is a major public health concern that results in over 2.2 million deaths per year in the United Kingdom (UK) due to consumption of contaminated food. Studies conducted worldwide have noted shortcomings in food safety knowledge, attitudes and behaviour among university students. Although students themselves are not considered to be at high risk, there are broader implications, as they will eventually become caregivers for their households and a majority will be responsible for vulnerable groups in their immediate environment. The study aimed to explore the overall food safety knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of UK undergraduate students and to compare the relationship between their knowledge, attitudes and behaviour and demographic characteristics. To gather data for this study, a quantitative research design was employed using an online questionnaire as the data collection method. The questionnaire was distributed through the researcher’s social media page, Canvas and with the help of a gatekeeper to recruit Public Health Institute students. Data analysis was conducted using SPSS (version 27) and Spearman’s correlation was used to measure association between variables. The sample for this study consisted of 54 undergraduate students in the UK, with half of the respondents being between 18-25 years, with more than half being female. The mean knowledge score was 3.31 out of seven questions. There was a weak positive correlation found between food safety knowledge and behaviour scores [r=0.168], as well as a weak positive correlation between food safety attitudes and behaviours (r=0.295). The study found that female respondents had better food safety knowledge, attitudes and more hygienic food behaviours. Most respondents did not correctly answer questions related to keeping foods at safe temperatures and cross-contamination. Additionally, participants rarely practiced using a thermometer to determine correct temperatures of foods and they discarded leftover food prematurely. The results can help students to increase their knowledge and awareness of food poisoning. The study highlights the need for educational initiatives, particularly in the context of food insecurity for this population.
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