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Customization of Food Safety Messaging for Retail Foodservice Employees

Objective No.1: Identify key motivators and barriers contributing to the safe food knowledge-behavior gap. We will determine factors that motivate and hinder employees within the different generational ages of the retail foodservice industry. We know that internal and external motivators related to employees following safe food handling behaviors is an important issue. We also know that there is strong suggestive evidence that the age of the foodservice employee is also involved. However, the extent to which motivators and barriers to following safe food handling behaviors would be dependent upon employee age has not been established. The objectives of the studies that we will pursue in this section of the project will determine internal and external motivators and barriers to follow safe food handling behaviors of employees in different age categories. When the proposed studies for Objective No.1 have been completed, it is our expectation that we will better understand how different aged foodservice employees perform safe food handling behaviors, their motivations and barriers for doing so. Such a finding would be of importance because it would allow us to address these generational barriers and motivators with subsequent improved safe food handling behaviors in the workplace. It is expected that differences will be seen in both barrier area and motivation area for the various age groups. The major accomplishment will be the development of the only known valid and reliable bilingual questionnaire to assess motivators and barriers to following safe food handling practices.

Objective No. 2: Develop, implement and evaluate "customized" safe food training modules. A gap exists between knowing about food safety and practicing safe food handling in retail foodservice operations. Additionally, there are different barriers and motivators affecting safe food handling practices. The objective of this study will be to develop age-specific safe food handling training modules that will be delivered using a variety of delivery methods. These training modules will incorporate the motivators and barriers revealed during Objective No.1. When the proposed studies for Objective No. 2 have been completed, it is our expectation that we will have developed "customized" training modules, including preferred delivery method, that have been proven to affect overall safe food handling behavior positively. These modules (English and Spanish) will be promoted and made available free via our established food safety website, professional conferences, state inspectors, and other Extension distribution channels such as state and national list serves. It is expected that food safety training including motivational strategies (specific to the age of employee being trained) will result in food safety behavior change. We expect there to be a high correlation with the age appropriateness of the delivery methods and changes in employee practices regarding food handling within the different age groups.

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: 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. We know that food safety training translates to acquired food safety knowledge. However; a gap exists between food safety knowledge acquisition and practicing food safety behaviors. We do not know the effect of incorporating age-specific motivational strategies into training on safe food handling behavior. Therefore, 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: 1. Develop, test, and distribute a nationwide bilingual questionnaire to assess generational motivators and barriers to following safe food handling practices in retail foodservice operations 2. Identify "age-specific" motivators and barriers to safe food handling behaviors 3. Develop and deliver bilingual food safety training modules customized for age-specific foodservice employee groups 4. Evaluate the customized training modules with retail employees of different age groups in commercial and noncommercial retail foodservice operations 5. Disseminate training modules through the Iowa State University food safety website. A mixed methods research approach will be undertaken, whereby qualitative and quantitative data will be collected and analyzed for bilingual questionnaire development. Educational modules will be developed and tested using multiple methods of evaluation, including pretest/posttests to determine knowledge gain and observations to determine behavior change. Validated modules will be made available through Iowa State University's food safety website.

APPROACH: To achieve Objective No. 1, we plan to utilize a mixed methods approach by collecting observational data (more qualitative data) and survey data (more quantitative data). Observations and interviews with different age-groups of retail foodservice employees will be conducted. Observations will be recorded on a validated audit form used in previous research. Observational data will be analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively. After the observational period is completed, the employees will be interviewed by the observer as to how and why food safety practices were/were not followed. These interviews will be taped, transcribed, and analyzed using a combination of hand coding and software data display. Upon completion of the observational data, a nationwide questionnaire will be developed in English and Spanish to evaluate barriers and motivators on a larger scale. This questionnaire will be developed based on findings from past research and the observational data. Once the questionnaire has been determined to be reliable and valid, it will be distributed nationally. Data analysis will follow. To achieve Objective No. 2, we plan to develop, deliver and evaluate "customized" training modules. We will use food safety messages and motivators/barriers that emerged during Objective No. 1 as themes of training modules tailored for each of the four broad generational age groups: 18-25 (New Millennium; Gen X); 26-39 (Gen X and Y); 40-60 (Gen Y and Boomers); and over the age of 60 (Boomers). The module content and delivery method will be arranged in a way to appeal to a variety of learning, motivation and working styles and delivery methods. A total of six customized modules with the same food safety message will be developed using social marketing approaches and instructional design principles and practices. Once developed, educational modules (Spanish and English) will be reviewed by an Industry Advisory Group. Modules will then be disseminated to select foodservice operations, evaluated by employees and manager/supervisors. Following training, employee observations (as in Objective No.1) will be conducted to assess behavior change. Observation audits will be tallied with a food safety practice score tallied for each employee. Comparisons will be made for differences in behaviors pre- and post-training, and to determine if changes in behavior occurred among employees in different age groupings. Employee assessments will be analyzed within age groupings, gender, and type of operation. The evaluation plan will also consider perceptions of training efficiency, effectiveness, and learner satisfaction. The perceptions of training efficiency will be assessed through researcher-conducted formal interviews with the person in charge of the participating retail foodservices immediately following completion of the training modules by participating employees. All training modules will be made available in the public domain post project or post data collection through the existing Iowa State University Food Safety Website ( or

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Strohbehn, Amber
Wohlsdorf Arendt, Susan
Food Safety Categories:
Education and Training