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Home Food Safety Relevant Behaviors of Mexican-Americans Who Cook for Children and the Elderly

Investigators
Gravani, Robert; Shapiro, Michael
Institutions
Cornell University
Start date
2009
End date
2012
Objective
The project goal is to investigate home food practices of Mexican-Americans and recent Mexican immigrants to identify practices relevant to improving home food safety including developing a greater understanding of how food safety behaviors change as this population group acculturates to U.S. eating habits. The overall goal is to increase food safety knowledge and encourage better food preparation practices among Mexican-Americans and recent Mexican immigrants in New York, Texas, California and nationally, to reduce the risk of food borne illness among the most susceptible in these groups, including pregnant women, young children, and the elderly. Knowledge about home food safety practices specific to the Mexican-American and recent Mexican immigrant community will inform future communication and education efforts in this community and assist extension professionals in creating, producing and distributing effective culturally embedded risk messages.

Specific objectives include:

  1. Use focus groups to assess food safety knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of New York and Texas Mexican-Americans who cook in their homes for young children and the elderly;
  2. Determine the most effective kinds of communication strategies indigenous to this population;
  3. Develop and administer a national sample survey of Mexican-Americans, to determine the most salient food preparation practices and communication strategies for this population;
  4. Using this information, develop culturally appropriate food safety educational materials for dissemination;
  5. Hold an in-service training workshop for extension educators, to assist in designing more effective ways to encourage safe home food preparation practices among Mexican-Americans;
  6. Use this information to develop proposals to CSREES/USDA and/or other agencies, aimed at creating, producing, and distributing food safety messages for Mexican-Americans.
Expected outputs include:
  1. Increasing knowledge of current food preparation practices of Mexican-Americans residing in New York, Texas, and the U.S.
  2. Developing a greater understanding of how food safety behaviors change as Mexican-Americans acculturate to U.S. eating habits.
  3. Hold in-service workshop to provide extension educators with tools to apply this knowledge in their day-to-day interactions with Mexican-Americans to improve home food preparation practices.
Timeline. Year 1: Oct 09-May 10: Plan and conduct focus groups NY and Texas; June-Sept 10: Transcribe, analyze and write up report of focus group findings. Year 2: Oct 10 -May 11: Development of web survey; Knowledge Networks administers web survey; June-Sept 11: Conduct data analyses of Knowledge Networks survey results. Year 3: Oct-Dec 11: Develop bi-lingual culturally appropriate food safety education materials for food safety educators working with Mexican-Americans; Jan-Aug 12: Plan an in-service workshop, prepare reports, and write research papers and proposal(s) to CSREES/USDA and/or other funders aimed at creating high quality, narrative food safety materials that will serve the Mexican-American community. September 12: Hold In-service training workshop in NY State.
More information
NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Overall little is known about home food safety practices specific to the Mexican-American and recent Mexican immigrant community. The proposed research will provide much-needed information on home food preparation related behaviors of Mexican-Americans, in particular those who cook for family members at high risk for food-borne illness, including pregnant women, children and the elderly. Hispanics are the largest growing ethnic population in the US, and Mexican-Americans comprise 64% of the Hispanic population. What little is known indicates there is reason to be concerned about food-borne illness in the Mexican-American and recent Mexican immigrant community. In order to design appropriate communication campaigns targeting this community, more needs to be known about home food safety practices specific to the Mexican-American and recent Mexican immigrant community. The research proposes to conduct a series of focus groups in New York and Texas with first and second generation Mexican-Americans and recent Mexican immigrants who cook for their families including young children and the elderly. These focus groups will investigate home food preparation related behaviors, including diet, food handling practices and how traditional foods and practices are adapted to living in the United States as well as the differences between assimilated groups and those less assimilated. Also, this study focuses on the one in four people---including children and the elderly--who have increased susceptibility to food-borne illness due to compromised immune systems. Participants will be asked about their food safety related practices knowledge, attitudes and behaviors. They will also be asked about their preferred forms of communication, including those specific to the Mexican-American community. These findings will be used to develop a national survey that addresses the most salient home food preparation issues among this ethnic group. This survey will be administered to a nationally representative sample of Mexican-Americans. Findings will then be shared with extension educators in New York through an in-service workshop, and by providing materials for outreach to this population. A broader goal is to produce culturally appropriate and effective food safety risk messages serving the Mexican-American population throughout the U.S. The investigators will seek additional funds from other sources, such as through a CSREES/ USDA grant, and/or through Research Enhancement Funds solicited by our collaborators in Texas to develop and distribute such messages. The proposed research has the potential to increase safe home food preparation knowledge and practices among Mexican-Americans in New York, Texas and nationally, in order to reduce the risk of food borne illnesses occurring among this group, and particularly among young children and the elderly. It will also provide new information on food safety practices of Mexican-Americans to members of the food and health care sectors, as well as information to advance the field of risk communication.

APPROACH: Objectives 1 & 2: Focus groups will be conducted in New York and Texas with Mexican-Americans, who regularly cook for family and friends--particularly those who cook for children, the elderly and pregnant women. Participants will be asked about safe food preparation practices including their knowledge, attitudes and behaviors; preferred channels of communication that would be suitable for message development; and how much their food preparation reflects Mexican or U.S. practices. Objective 3: A survey will assess which of the most salient home food preparation practices that emerge from the focus groups are important to Mexican-Americans nation-wide. Questions will address specific home food preparation practices, the degree of acculturation into U.S. culture, and explore communication outlets used by this community. Risk perception, compliance with and attitudes toward USDA-recommended home food safety behaviors will be measured. The survey will be administered to a web panel of a nationally representative sample of Mexican-Americans by Knowledge Networks, an organization capable of providing a scientific probability sample of U.S. Mexican-American households. Knowledge Networks addresses "digital divide" issues by providing computers to panel households who do not have one. The Knowledge Networks Hispanic Panel represents the broad diversity and key demographic dimensions of the U.S. Hispanic population, and from this panel it is possible to screen for Mexican-Americans of a particular demographic. Objectives 4 & 5: The results of the focus groups and survey will be presented to extension educators involved in food safety education in New York at an in-service workshop. Bi-lingual educational materials will be prepared for those working with Mexican-Americans to assist them in encouraging safe food preparation practices among this important constituency. Objective 6. A proposal to CSREES/USDA will be written aimed at creating food safety materials that will serve the Mexican-American community. Data analyses: Focus groups will be analyzed using standard qualitative data analyses using the software program Atlas-Ti. Survey data will be analyzed following standard quantitative data analysis procedures using SPSS version 17. Efforts aimed at causing a change in target audience include holding an in-service workshop during which extension professionals will be assisted with outreach strategies including creating, producing and distributing effective culturally embedded risk messages. Outputs will be evaluated by the increased knowledge about food safety related practices, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors in the U.S. Mexican American community enabling the successful conductance of an in-service workshop during which educational materials targeting the specific audience are disseminated.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
NYC-131472
Accession number
219752
Categories
Bacterial Pathogens
Risk Assessment, Management, and Communication
Natural Toxins