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Food Safety Education for the Prevention of Foodborne Illness among U.S. Residents 65 and Older


<ol> <li>To identify variables that are determinants of safe food-handling practices.
<li>To develop and deliver safe food-handling messages to mature adults.
<li>To experimentally test the extension education program designed for this program in relation to existing messages aimed at mature adults.
<li>To develop, implement, and evaluate instructional units into the curriculum of post secondary students in fields serving mature adults.</ol>

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY:Individuals 65 and older are at higher risk for contracting foodborne illness and are more likely to suffer chronic consequences and death due to infection than the general population.
APPROACH: During the research phase of this project, telephone surveys will be used to determine assess mature adults' adoption or rejection of safe food-handling practices. Focus groups will be used to refine this assessment, explore why they choose some practices and not others, and test messages. Based on these findings, Extension materials will be developed and tested using an experimental design. The final component of the project is the development, implementation, and distribution of a formal education component aimed at post-secondary students in fields serving mature adults.
PROGRESS: 2002/09 TO 2006/08<BR>
This three-phased, integrated project examined determinants of safe food-handling practices and food preparation behaviors of individuals 65 and older. In the first phase (research), a telephone survey (N=353) and eight focus groups contributed to our understanding of why mature adults choose to adopt or reject safe food-handling practices. Results indicated general knowledge of safe food-handling behaviors but lack of utilization of adaptive behaviors (i.e. refrigerating food quickly, using meat thermometers). Need for further education about behaviors realized. In the second phase (extension), a communication program was delivered, experimentally tested (N=354), and assessed. The program used the FDA/USDA publication, To Your Health: Food Safety for Seniors, in combination with messages developed for this project. Determinants of safe food-handling behaviors including risk perception and self-efficacy were examined. Witte's Extended Parallel Process Model, suggesting that increasing risk and self-efficacy perceptions would significantly impact preventive health behaviors was not supported. The final phase (education) included the development and dispersal of a formal learning component targeted to current university students who will serve the at-risk mature audiences in future careers. Modules were developed and testing among undergraduate and graduate human nutrition and communications students and then produced as an interactive CD-ROM for dispersal to human nutrition educators and students. Content for the modules was based on findings from the research and extension phases of this project. This project's objectives were 1) to identify why mature adults choose to adopt or reject safe food-handling practices; 2) to develop, execute, and evaluate an extension education effort that provides effective food-safety education for the high-risk audience; and 3) to develop, implement, and distribute a formal education component aimed at post-secondary students in fields of study that deliver health education, food-safety education, and services to mature adults. Results, findings, implications, and education modules of the project have been widely disseminated through publications, conferences, and professional organizations.

IMPACT: 2002/09 TO 2006/08<BR>
Study participant were U.S. residents 65 years and older. Many indicated maladaptive behaviors (up to 90%, depending on theme) and/or lack of knowledge (57% did not know the proper cooking temperature for ground beef) related to overall safe food-handling behaviors. Higher educational levels were associated with less adaptive attitudes. However, most participants did indicate understanding of the dangers of micro-organisms, and attitudes were generally adaptive. Findings indicated a dichotomy and a one-size-fits-all educational process will not work effectively with this at-risk population. Study participants indicated that educational programs will be more effective in the future if communicators and food-safety/aging professionals utilize avenues, methods, and timelines specifically designed for the mature-adult audience.

Penner, Karen
Kansas State University
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