A grant to identify the key motivators and barriers contributing to the safe food knowledge-behavior gap and develop, implement and evaluate “customized” safe food handling training modules was awarded to a team of ISU researchers by the United States Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension (Project Number 2009-51110-20144). This is a three-year project (September 2009 – August 2012) funded for $598,607.
Project team members are:
- Susan Arendt, PhD, RD
Assistant Professor, Apparel, Educational Studies, and Hospitality Management
- Catherine Strohbehn, PhD, RD, CP-FS
HRIM Extension Specialist/Adjunct Associate Professor
- Ana-Paula Correia, PhD
Assistant Professor, Curriculum & Instructional Technology
- Mack Shelley, PhD
Professor, Statistics and Political Science
- Janell Meyer, MBA
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has estimated that about half of every food dollar is spent for food prepared away from home (USDA, 2006). For the first time in history, there are four generations of employees in the retail foodservice workforce; each generational age group has different motivations and barriers to performing work. In addition, each generation has different technology capabilities and learning styles. Research has shown that food safety training translates to a gain in food safety knowledge. However, a gap exists between food safety knowledge acquisition and the actual practice of food safety behaviors. We do not know the effect of incorporating age-specific motivational strategies into training on safe food handling behavior.
Project Goals and Objectives
The goal of this project is to identify key motivators and barriers contributing to the safe food knowledge-behavior gap and develop, implement and evaluate “customized” safe food training modules. Specific objectives are to:
- Develop, test and distribute a nationwide bilingual questionnaire to assess generational motivators and barriers to following safe food handling practices in retail foodservice operations.
- Identify “age –specific” motivators and barriers to safe food handling behaviors.
- Develop and deliver bilingual food safety training modules customized for age-specific foodservice employee groups.
- Evaluate the customized training modules with retail employees of different age groups in commercial and noncommercial retail foodservice operations.
- Disseminate training modules through the Iowa State University food safety website.
A mixed methods research approach will be taken whereby qualitative and quantitative data will be collected and analyzed prior to bilingual questionnaire development. Educational modules for employees will be developed and tested using multiple methods of evaluation, including pretest/posts to determine knowledge gain and observations to determine behavior change. Validated modules will be made available to all retail foodservice operators through Iowa State University food safety web site.
The project proposal has been reviewed by the Iowa State University Office of Research Assurance. All instruments and protocols will be approved prior to data collection.
Emerging Food Safety Training Approaches
It has been well established that effective training for the acquisition of food safety knowledge and skills be interactive between trainee and training material (Lillquist et al., 2005). An emerging training approach involves the customization of training in three major areas 1) targeting culturally diverse employees 2) using computer based training and 3) recognizing age diverse employees.
Preliminary study by Arendt, Strohbehn, and Ellis (2009) identified internal and external factors that would motivate employees to follow safe food handling practices. Examples of external motivators included: 1) firing employees for non-compliance with safe food handling practices 2) giving prizes/rewards for employees who followed safe food handling practices and 3) receiving “paid time off”. In our preliminary study, employees (n=283) were asked to rate 24 external motivators on a Likert-type scale (1=strongly disagree 5=strongly agree) as to whether these motivators would impact their safe food handling behaviors. With external motivation questions, younger employees agreed more strongly than older workers. Regarding firing employees for noncompliance, younger employees agreed more strongly (4.34+ 1.0 for 18-20 year olds) as compared to older groups (2.60 + 1.6 for 40-49 year olds and 2.37 + 1.55 for 50-60 year olds). The oldest group of employees (n=17) showed stronger agreement than the 40-49 and 50-60 year old groups. Additionally, foodservice employees were asked to respond to factors related to internal motivation as reason for following safe food handling practices. These included “pride in my work” and “feeling satisfied when I follow safe food handling practices”. A similar pattern to internal motivators was not seen.
By understanding employees’ motivations to following safe food handling practices, strategies can be included in food safety training to have real affect on overall behavior change. This work will address knowledge acquisition and, the real goal of food safety training, behavior change.