contamination events went down and
handwashing attempts went up. While
significant improvements were seen, a
drastic improvement or elimination of
risky practices was not.
The prevalence of indirect cross-contamination seen throughout our study
also supports the creation of a good food
safety culture—that food handlers act in a
multi-user environment but may not see
themselves as part of a team. Many of
the recorded indirect cross-contamination events occurred when multiple food
handlers used common food contact surfaces, utensils or equipment. The team-like nature of a foodservice system is
currently missing from some food safety
training packages and could in fact become a focus–it’s a way to teach and support food safety culture.
Overall, we found more risky prac-
tices in some areas than we expected.
Most previous studies relied on inspec-
tion results and self-reporting by food
handlers to estimate instances of “cross-
contamination,” finding that cross-con-
tamination was relatively infrequent. We
found approximately one cross-contamination event per food handler per hour. We
also found that when things are really busy, more mistakes are made (including cross-
contamination and poor handwashing). We saw that cross-contamination events can
largely be a team issue as many people work on the same meal and use common
equipment. Sometimes one person contaminates a cutting board and the next person,
minutes later, uses that cutting board for a ready-to-eat food.
Some of the largest foodservice, retail and food processors in the world currently
use food safety infosheets on a weekly basis. One company has anecdotally shared
that they changed their food safety training to all food safety infosheets, and reported
that they know it is effective as employees have been overheard discussing the content, especially the stories, during lunch breaks.
It is not enough to provide prescriptive information to food handlers and expect
that it will be followed, especially when recognizing the multiple priorities, and time
pressures, encountered in the kitchen system. Food safety information needs to be
tailored to specific target audiences. Sanitized, generic, social marketing campaigns
created by government and the food industry, aimed at the general workforce, may
do little to compel food handlers to change practices. Results of this study suggest
that food handlers enjoy stories about the consequences of food safety as well as
being presented with control measures realistic for the kitchen environment. A drawback of traditional food safety communication is that it is not built specifically to
integrate into to the lives of food handlers to provide a personal context. Food handlers are a varied group with multiple learning styles (which are primarily visual and
hands-on), and any tool that is directed at the group needs to utilize different communication techniques including story telling supported with graphics, surprising
messages and prescriptive messages. Food safety infosheets are just one tool that can
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