We plan to develop and evaluate educational materials and training programs for enhancing retail grocery store food safety. This project will focus on grocery stores or supermarkets since they not only have all the concerns described previously, but they are also increasingly conducting more in-store food preparations, such as cutting and slicing, (re-)packaging, and cold-holding. We plan to develop and evaluate a curriculum that will provide researchers with information on knowledge gained, self-reported and observed practices, changes in attitudes and behaviors, both immediately after training and several months later. The educational delivery methods to be employed include, but are not limited to: computer mediated training; face-to-face training; videos; or written materials. The success of the educational components of this project may lead to future opportunities for Extension and outreach educators to deliver specific food safety messages to food handlers.
Specific objectives and deliverables are:<OL> <LI> Convene a project steering committee consisting of food safety professionals to provide logistical support to the project. <LI> Develop and implement an educational needs assessment for grocery employees in Virginia and Pennsylvania to determine demographics, existing food safety knowledge, literacy level, preferred educational delivery methods, and applicability of current educational materials. <LI> Develop educational tools (e.g. CD-ROM, video, face-to-face trainings, or printed materials) to educate grocery store workers and managers on food safety that can be incorporated into existing store training activities. <LI> Develop and evaluate graphical food safety messages. <LI> Disseminate the educational materials to employees and managers of the participating grocery stores, and assess the effectiveness of the materials. <LI> Improve and refine the educational materials for a larger distribution to the target audiences. <LI> Assess the knowledge gain and attitude/behavior changes for the target audiences.
NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: The goal of this project is to develop, evaluate and deliver educational materials and training programs to enhance retail grocery store food safety. Continued efforts are needed to provide food safety education to the retail food and foodservice industries, including grocery stores. Retail grocery industries may not allocate sufficient time, money or personnel toward food safety training for their employees. Additionally, high employee turnover and increasing numbers of workers who do not read English well are important barriers to effective training. This project will focus on grocery stores or supermarkets since they not only have these concerns, but also are increasingly conducting more in-store food preparations, such as slicing, cooking, packaging, and cold-holding. The target audience of this proposal includes grocery store employees (deli, meat and poultry, seafood, and produce departments), State government retail food inspectors, and Extension Agents. Proposal objectives include: a) develop and implement a food safety educational needs assessment (demographics, existing food safety knowledge, literacy level, preferred educational delivery methods, and applicability of current educational materials) for grocery employees in Virginia and Pennsylvania; b) develop and evaluate food safety educational programs for grocery store workers and managers; c) develop and evaluate graphical and bilingual (English and Spanish) food safety messages (reminders, warnings, instructions) for the grocery industry; d) disseminate educational materials to grocery stores and others, and assess their effectiveness; e) assess the knowledge gain and changes in food safety behaviors and attitudes for the target audiences.
APPROACH: The target audience of this project includes State government retail food inspectors, Extension Agents, and grocery store employees (Deli, Meat and Poultry, Seafood, and Produce Departments). Our aim is to improve food handling practices and behavior using focused training at the food retail level. This will be accomplished primarily by evaluating current food safety educational materials and training programs, developing and evaluating a defined learning tool set for grocery store retail outlets with an emphasis on graphical food safety messages, and distribution of the educational materials with an assessment of knowledge gain and attitude/behavior changes that promote safe food handling. Evaluation of the educational efforts and evaluation instruments of this project will be conducted by several methods. Evaluation criteria will include 1) accuracy and comprehension of subject matter presentations; 2) determination of the effectiveness of food safety training efforts (e.g. knowledge pre- and post-tests or interviews, and observation or video surveillance); 3) evaluation of project processes (e.g. communication, timeliness, enhanced collaboration, outreach material development and distribution). Other outreach efforts will be focused on integration of research findings on effective educational tools, with evaluations of effective distribution and use of these tools and the effectiveness of training sessions to enhance food safety practices. Outreach or Extension communications efforts can be disseminated through a Cooperative Extension publication and/or website. Project results and conclusions will also be disseminated through presentations at national conferences of pertinent professional organizations and food retail industry meetings or conferences. Significant findings in the areas of applied food safety research and food safety education and training will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal for publication. Dr. Eifert (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) will be the lead Project Director (PD). Dr. Cutter will serve as the lead Project Director at Pennsylvania State University (collaborating institution). The Project Directors and co-PDs will work together to develop, evaluate, refine, and disseminate the needs assessment and educational intervention(s) and evaluate and disseminate the educational components in each state.