Factors impacting food workers' and managers' safe food preparation practices: a qualitative study, LR Green, C Selman

Tags: food workers, gloves, food preparation, raw meat, food safety, C. Griffith, food preparation practices, glove, safe food preparation practices, J. Food Prot, safe food, handwashing practices, clean hands, handwashing, proper handwashing, hand sanitizer, FoodNet, food hygiene practices, food safety practices, Emerging Infections, Food and Drug Administration, Sheryl Cates, Katherine Kosa, EHS-Net Working Group, M. Samuel
Content: Food Protection Trends,Vol. 25, No. 12, Pages 981­990 Copyright© 2005, InterNATIONAL ASSOCIATION for Food Protection 6200 Aurora Ave., Suite 200W, Des Moines, IA 50322-2864
Factors Impacting Food Workers' and Managers' Safe Food Preparation Practices: A Qualitative Study LAURA R. GREEN1* and CAROL SELMAN2 1 Health, Social, and Economics Research, RTI International, Research Triangle Park, NC, USA 2 Environmental health services Branch, Division of Emergency and environmental health Services, National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA
SUMMARY This study collected data on food workers' self-reported food safety practices and beliefs about factors that impacted their ability to prepare food safely. Eleven focus groups were conducted with food service workers and managers in which they discussed their current implementation of seven food preparation practices (handwashing, hot holding, etc.), and the factors they believed impacted their safe implementation of those practices. Some participants reported unsafe food preparation practices, such as inappropriate glove use and not checking the temperatures of cooked, reheated, and cooled foods. Most participants, however, reported safe practices (e.g., washing their hands after preparing raw meat). Participants identified a number of factors that impacted their ability to prepare food safely, including time pressure; structural environments, equipment, and resources; management and coworker emphasis on food safety; worker characteristics; negative consequences for those who do not prepare food safely; food safety education and training; restaurant procedures; and glove and sanitizer use. Results suggest that food safety programs need to address the full range of factors that impact food preparation behaviors. A peer-reviewed article *Author for correspondence: 770.488.4332; Fax: 770.488.7310 E-mail: [email protected]
INTRODUCTION Epidemiological research has indi cated that the majority of reported foodborne illness outbreaks originate in food service establishments (15, 23), and case control studies have shown that eat ing meals outside the home is a risk fac tor for obtaining a foodborne illness (11, 16, 17, 19, 27). In addition, research on foodborne illness risk factors has indi cated that most outbreaks associated with food service establishments can be attrib uted to food workers' improper food preparation practices (1), and observa tion studies have revealed that food work ers frequently engage in unsafe food preparation practices (4, 14, 20). These findings indicate that improvement of res taurant workers' food preparation prac tices is needed to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness. Food worker inter vention programs are needed to effect this improvement. However, health re searchers have argued that an understand ing of current practices and factors af fecting those practices is necessary be fore behavior change efforts can be suc cessful (7, 10). In an effort to contribute to our un derstanding of food workers' food prepa ration behavior, the Environmental health specialists Network (EHS-Net) conducted this study on food workers' and manag ers' food safety practices. EHS-Net is a
Reprinted with permission by the International Association for Food Protection
TABLE 1. Recommended food preparation practices discussed by participants1
Food Preparation Recommendation Practice
Food handlers should wash their hands frequently. For example, they should wash their hands after they use the restroom, before preparing food, and after they have handled raw meat or poultry.
Cross contamination prevention
Cross contamination from raw meat and poultry to other types of food should be prevented.Table tops, equipment, and utensils should be washed, rinsed, and sanitized after they have come into contact with raw meat and before they are used for anything else.
Glove use
To minimize hand-food contact, gloves should be worn when handling ready-to-eat food or raw food with your hands.
Determining food doneness
When cooking raw meat or poultry, a thermometer should be used to check that these foods have reached recommended temperatures at the end of the cooking process.
Hot foods should be held at 140 degrees or above, and cold foods should be held at 41 degrees or below. Additionally, the temperatures of held food should be checked periodically to ensure that the foods are being held at safe temperatures.
Hot foods should be cooled from 140 degrees to 70 degrees within two hours and from 70 degrees to 41 degrees within four hours. The temperatures of cooling food should be checked periodically to ensure that the foods are being held at safe temperatures.
Reheated food (food that has been previously cooked in the establishment and is being reheated for service) should be reheated to 165 degrees or higher. The temperature of reheated food should be checked at the end of the reheating process to ensure that the food reaches 165 degrees.
1Participants were asked to discuss the factors impacting their ability to implement these recommended food preparation practices.
network of epidemiologists and environ mental health specialists from the Cen ters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US Food and Drug Adminis tration (FDA), the US Department of Ag riculture (USDA), and eight state public health agencies (in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Tennessee) that fo cuses on the investigation of environmen tal antecedents of foodborne illness. In this study, data were collected from food workers on their food safety practices and beliefs about the factors that impact their ability to prepare food safely. Focus groups were used to collect the data be cause they supply descriptive, qualitative data that can be difficult to acquire through other research methods. MATERIALS AND METHODS Eleven focus groups were conducted with food service workers and managers from restaurants in the eight EHS-Net
states. Five groups were conducted with English-speaking food workers, four groups were conducted with Englishspeaking managers, and two groups were conducted in Spanish with workers whose primary language was Spanish. Twentysix managers and 30 workers participated in the English-speaking focus groups; 14 workers participated in the Spanish-speak ing groups. The focus groups were con ducted through telephone conference calls, as they have been found to be ef fective in collecting information from par ticipants who are difficult to recruit or who are scattered geographically (12, 26), as the participants of this study were. Evi dence suggests that, compared with face to-face focus groups, telephone focus groups generate as much information and provide more anonymity for participants (26). To obtain participants, recruiters called restaurants randomly selected from purchased business lists to request par ticipation from a kitchen worker or man
ager. To be eligible for participation, work ers had to have worked in a restaurant kitchen for at least three months and managers had to have worked as a kitchen manager for at least three months. Be cause of initial difficulty in recruiting Span ish-speaking participants, recruitment for Spanish-speaking participants was limited to areas within the EHS-Net states with relatively high proportions of Hispanic populations. Study participants received an incentive of 60 dollars for their partici pation. Each focus group consisted of 4 to 8 participants who responded to questions posed by a group moderator. Participants discussed seven food preparation prac tices--handwashing, prevention of cross contamination, glove use, determining food doneness, hot and cold holding, cooling, and reheating. These practices were chosen for discussion because their improper implementation has been asso ciated with foodborne illness in food ser vice establishments (1, 9). In the worker
TABLE 2. Practices described by worker participants
groups, participants first discussed their current implementation of these seven practices and then discussed the factors that influenced their ability to engage in these practices according to recommen dations. (These recommendations are based on FDA's 2001 Food Code [9 ] and are presented in Table 1). For example, participants were asked to describe when they washed their hands while at work. After this discussion, the moderator read the recommendations concerning handwashing, and participants were then asked to discuss what made it easier or more difficult for them to wash their hands according to the recommendations. In the manager groups, participants were not asked to discuss their current food prepa ration practices because of concerns about their willingness to discuss unsafe pract ices. Thus, managers discussed only fact ors that influenced their and their work ers' ability to implement recommended practices. The focus group questions and recommendations were derived in part
from questions developed by Kendall, Melcher, and Paul (18). Each focus group discussion was taped and transcribed. We systematically reviewed these transcripts and identified and categorized common themes among the responses. This study was approved by CDC's Institutional Review Board (protocol # 3773). RESULTS Described in this section are the themes identified in the workers' discus sions of their current food preparation practices and in the workers' and manag ers' discussions of the factors that influ enced their ability to engage in these prac tices according to recommendations. These themes are also presented in Tables 2 and 3 along with the number of groups that discussed each theme. The findings for all groups (English and Spanish-speak ing worker groups and manager groups)
are discussed together. The practices of determining food doneness, holding, re heating, and cooling were not discussed in every focus group, either because time constraints prevented a topic from being discussed or because participants were unfamiliar with the practice (e.g., partici pants did not work in a restaurant that engaged in the practice or did not have responsibilities pertaining to the practice). Handwashing practices When asked to describe when they washed their hands at work, some work ers in every group said they washed their hands after visiting the restroom, before preparing food in general and raw meat or poultry specifically, and when they changed tasks, work stations, or items they were handling (e.g., changing from handling money to food) (Table 2). Some workers in every group also said they washed their hands periodically, either because their hands felt dirty, or because
TABLE 3. Factors impacting food preparation practices discussed by worker and manager participants
of a restaurant process that required handwashing (e.g., a bell rings every hour signifying that workers must wash their hands). To a lesser extent, workers also said they washed their hands before putting on gloves or when changing their gloves, and after handling money, sneez ing or coughing, eating or drinking, tak ing a break, or touching their face, hair, or clothes. Workers also said they cleaned their hands with bottled hand sanitizer or cloths stored in sanitizer buckets. Factors impacting handwashing practices Workers and managers most fre quently identified sink accessibility as a factor that impacted the ability to wash hands as recommended (Table 3). Some participants in all groups said that hav ing too few sinks or sinks inconvenient
to the work area were barriers to handwashing, particularly when work ers were experiencing time pressure. Time pressure, because of high volumes of business or inadequate staffing, was also frequently mentioned as a factor that negatively impacted proper handwash ing. Participants indicated that they were not able to take the time to wash their hands when they had a large number of orders to prepare (e.g., "When your place is booming...only thing they're worried about is those customers getting their food"). Participants identified several factors they believed impacted handwashing positively. They said management and coworker emphasis on and attention to proper handwashing was a facilitator of handwashing (e.g., "If I forget to wash my hands, my supervisor speaks up."). Negative consequences for improper
handwashing was also discussed as a handwashing facilitator (e.g., workers getting reprimanded or fired; customers getting sick). Other positive factors included restaurant procedures that en couraged handwashing (e.g., a bell rings every hour signifying that workers must wash their hands; logs in which workers were required to record every handwashing); worker motivation and food preparation experience (often as sociated with age, according to partici pants); expectations of reciprocal treat ment from other food workers (e.g., "If I expect that of somebody else, I expect that of myself"); personal preferences for clean hands; food safety education and training on proper handwashing practices and their importance; concerns about ap pearing sanitary to customers (particu larly in kitchens where workers can be seen by customers); and adequate re
sources (e.g., soap). A few participants indicated that frequent handwashing sometimes made hands chapped and raw, which they believed could be a barrier to handwashing. Some participants discussed sanitizer as a facilitator of clean hands. These par ticipants said they sometimes used sani tizer in situations in which they did not feel they had the time to stop and wash their hands. Some workers said the use of sanitizer in place of handwashing was acceptable only in some situations (e.g., acceptable after making a sandwich but not after preparing raw meat). Even though these participants typically dis cussed sanitizer positively, comments sug gested that sanitizer may actually nega tively impact handwashing, as some par ticipants seemed to be using sanitizer in stead of washing their hands. Similarly, some participants said they used gloves to ensure the cleanliness of their hands. However, other participants expressed concern that glove use was a barrier to handwashing. These participants said that compared to workers who did not use gloves, some workers who used gloves washed their hands less, perhaps because they assumed that they did not need to wash their hands if they wore gloves. Cross-contamination prevention practices When asked to describe how they handled raw meat or poultry, participants described several different cross-con tamination prevention practices (Table 2). Workers in all groups said they cleaned and/or sanitized their work surfaces, uten sils, and equipment after preparing raw meat or poultry. Some said they cleaned and sanitized; however, some participants' comments indicated that although they wiped their work surfaces with a sani tizer, they did not clean and rinse those surfaces first (e.g., "Every time you put raw meat on there [your work surface], you should wipe it down with a clean towel [from your sanitizer bucket]"). Workers said they used gloves and utensils to prevent bare hand contact with raw meat and poultry and kept raw meat and poultry separate from other foods or from other types of raw meat and poultry during storage and preparation. Workers mentioned two methods for keeping these foods separate during preparation: sepa rate work areas (e.g., meat is cut in the cooler, vegetables are cut elsewhere); and separate work surfaces, examples of which typically included color-coded cutting boards for use with different kinds of food
(e.g., green boards for vegetables, yellow boards for chicken). Workers also said they washed their hands after preparing raw meat or poultry. Some workers re ported using stainless steel bowls and work surfaces when working with raw meat or poultry, and a few said that when working with raw meat or poultry, they did nothing else until they completed the task. Finally, a few workers said that after getting one side of the cutting board dirty, they flipped the board over to its other side rather than cleaning it or getting a new one. Factors impacting cross-contam ination prevention practices When asked what factors impacted their ability to engage in practices to pre vent cross contamination from raw meat and poultry to other foods, participants most frequently identified multiple colorcoded cutting boards as a positive factor (Table 3). Multiple boards helped ensure that workers could get clean boards when they needed them, as opposed to re using dirty boards, and color-coded boards helped ensure that workers used different boards for foods that needed to be kept separated. The use of gloves and utensils with raw meat or poultry was also mentioned as a facilitator of crosscontamination prevention. However, as with handwashing, some participants expressed concern that glove use could act as a barrier to cross-contamination prevention because glove wearers may not wash their hands as often as they should. Participants in most groups also said that using sanitizer (e.g., "bleach water") was a facilitator of cross-contami nation prevention because it allowed them to sanitize their equipment (e.g., knives, cutting boards) quickly. Other identified facilitators of crosscontamination prevention included: sepa ration of work areas and tasks, to ensure that raw meat or poultry and other foods are kept apart; management and coworker emphasis on and attention to cross-con tamination prevention (e.g., "We look out for each other, and we say things to each other if it's not being done"); food safety education and training on cross-contami nation prevention and its importance (e.g., "If they don't know the reason why, they'll keep doing it"); pre-cooked or prepared meat, which allows minimal meat prepa ration; and negative consequences for lack of cross-contamination prevention (e.g., restaurant receiving violations; em ployee getting fined). Time pressure and language differences between managers
and workers (e.g., "Sometimes it's just really hard to relay the facts") were iden tified by some participants as barriers to cross-contamination prevention. Glove use practicess When asked when they used and changed gloves at work, workers in six groups said they wore gloves when in the kitchen or preparing food and when they worked with raw meat or poultry (Table 2). To a lesser extent, workers also said they wore gloves when they had cuts on their hands and when preparing food that they did not want to touch directly (e.g., food to which they had allergies or would make their hands smell). Some workers said they washed their hands with every glove change, and changed their gloves when they changed tasks or prod ucts (e.g., changing from making one sandwich to another), after preparing raw meat or poultry, and when their gloves were damaged or dirty. Several workers made comments that suggested their glove changing was not necessarily based on their food preparation activity; rather, they simply changed their gloves periodically throughout their shift. A few workers said they did not wear gloves at all (some of these said they used tongs or tissue pa per when preparing some foods), and several workers said they did not use gloves when cutting food because gloves made the task more difficult. A few work ers described unsafe glove practices, such as changing gloves without washing hands and washing hands with gloves on. Factors impacting glove use practices Workers and managers identified several factors that positively impacted glove use when handling raw or readyto-eat food (Table 3). These factors in cluded management and coworker em phasis on and attention to glove use (in cluding glove use requirements and man agers wearing gloves appropriately as a model for proper glove use); negative con sequences for not wearing gloves (e.g., workers getting suspended from work); personal preferences; allergies to glove materials; concerns about appearing sani tary to customers; adequate resources (e.g., gloves); and worker motivation and experience. Participants said gloves were often uncomfortable or did not fit well, which they believed negatively impacted glove use. The type of work was also mentioned
as a factor that impacted glove use, as participants believed that gloves made some work more difficult. For example, participants said gloves interfered with cutting foods (because the gloves got in the way of the knife) and checking the doneness of meat with a finger. Time pressure was also mentioned as a barrier to glove use. Determining food doneness practices Although some workers in all six groups that discussed determining food doneness practices said they sometimes used thermometers to check the tempera tures of some cooked foods, many felt they did not need to use a thermometer because they had learned through experi ence to determine doneness by how long food cooked, the appearance of the food, and/or the feel of the food (Table 2). Workers were more likely to say they used thermometers with some types of food than with others (e.g., seafood versus steak; larger pieces of meat versus smaller pieces). Comments also suggested that those employees working with new foods, who were inexperienced, or who were training inexperienced workers were more likely to use thermometers. Factors impacting determining food doneness practices When asked what factors impacted their use of thermometers to determine the doneness of cooked meat and poultry, workers and managers most frequently mentioned time pressure (Table 3). Par ticipants said taking the temperature of every piece of meat would be too time consuming and possible only with addi tional staff. Participants also said the type of meat impacted the difficulty of check ing temperatures with a thermometer; they believed it was easier and took less time to check the temperatures of some foods (e.g., large pieces of meat) than others (e.g., hamburgers). Restaurant pro cesses such as temperature logs were seen as facilitators of using a thermometer to check temperatures, as were health regu lations and inspections, as temperature logs were kept as documentation for health inspections. Worker experience was also identified as a factor that impacted ther mometer use--participants said experi enced staff did not need to check tem peratures because their experience al lowed them to use other factors (e.g., appearance and feel of food; length of cooking time) to determine when food was done. One participant said that check
ing temperatures may be more likely with "fast" thermometers (e.g., infrared ther mometers) than with other thermometers. Finally, a few workers said having to sanitize the thermometer between each use was a barrier to temperature check ing. Holding practices Participants indicated that holding of hot foods occurred in steam tables, and holding of cold foods occurred in walk-in coolers, in sandwich or preparation tables where food is kept in stainless steel inserts in the top of a table and cooled from below, or in salad bars where food items are set in ice that is kept cool from below (Table 2). Most workers said they periodi cally checked the temperatures of held food, although there was variation in how often temperatures were checked (from "every half-hour to hour" to every shift change). Temperatures were checked with probe thermometers or with thermom eters built in to equipment that display the temperature continuously. Several work ers said their restaurants used temperature logs to record temperatures of held food every time they were checked. Comments from participants suggested that manag ers were more likely to check and record temperatures than were workers. Some workers mentioned that they had "shelf lives" for products that were being held (e.g., two or three hours), particularly during busy times when holding lids were likely to be open for long periods of time. Others said they threw away food that had not been held at appropriate tempera tures or was held too long. Some workers also indicated that they periodically stirred foods that were being held hot to ensure even temperatures, and kept held foods covered as much as possible. Factors impacting holding practices Equipment was the most frequently mentioned factor impacting managers' and workers' ability to hold food at the proper temperatures and to check those tempera tures periodically (Table 3). Workers and managers said that equipment problems, such as malfunctioning refrigerator blow ers and heating elements, were barriers to proper holding, while properly maintained equipment and special kinds of equip ment were facilitators of proper holding. Such equipment included hot-holding equipment that notified workers when ever the temperature drops below a set point and "ice blankets" that are placed on
top of cold-held food during busy times when lids were open. Participants also said having an adequate number of ther mometers for checking temperatures was important. Other factors believed to posi tively impact proper holding included: management emphasis on and attention to proper holding (e.g., "[when it's busy], "...the manager has got to remember to come back and grab them [temperatures]"; food safety education and training; restau rant procedures (e.g., temperature logs); negative consequences for improper hold ing (e.g., being required by health inspec tor to throw out costly food because it was held improperly); worker motivation and experience; adequate space for all foods that need to be held (e.g., "He's got limited space in his steam table, he will start jockeying things...to put something that he feels is more important to have hot"); and hours of operation that allow restau rants to close between lunch and dinner to check holding temperatures. Identified barriers to proper holding included time pressure and high volumes of business, which cause frequent opening of lids and doors of the holding equipment, and concerns regarding reduced quality of food (e.g., a small amount of hot-held cream soup easily burns). Cooling practices Workers in most groups that dis cussed cooling described the following practices: placing cooling food in walkin coolers; transferring cooling food to shallow or smaller pans; and using ice baths (Table 2). A few workers indicated that they used cooling wands or paddles to cool food, and one worker indicated that his establishment used a blast chiller to cool food. Some workers said they checked the temperatures of cooling foods and recorded them in a temperature log. However, at least some workers in each group said they did not take the tempera tures of cooling foods, and some work ers reported other unsafe practices, such as leaving cooling food out on counters and only checking the temperature of cooling food the morning after the food had been placed in a walk-in cooler. Factors impacting cooling practices Workers and managers most fre quently said the time at which cooling occurs, usually closing, was a barrier to proper cooling, as workers often did not take the time to cool properly (Table 3).
TABLE 4. Factors impacting safe food preparation practices discussed by worker and manager participants
Hand- Cross Glove
washing contam. use doneness Holding Cooling Reheating
Time pressure/high volume

of business/staffing
Structural environment,

equipment, resources
Management/coworker emphasis

Worker characteristics

Negative consequences

Education and training

Restaurant procedures

Gloves and sanitizers

Note: A check mark indicates that the factor was mentioned by participants in discussions of that practice.
Similarly, a few participants said that time pressure caused by high volumes of busi ness was a barrier to proper cooling. One worker believed that additional staff that could be responsible for cooling during busy times would help alleviate this prob lem. Facilitators of proper cooling de scribed by participants included worker motivation, availability of thermometers and equipment such as cooling wands, management emphasis on and attention to proper cooling, and adequate space for cooling equipment, (e.g., space for mul tiple, shallow containers and quick chill equipment). Reheating practices Several workers said they reheated food prior to placing it in hot holding, although one participant said workers in his establishment sometimes place food directly on the steam table without first reheating it to the proper temperature on the stove. Some participants indicated that their practice was to discard left-over food rather than reheat it or to reheat left-over food only once. Most, but not all, workers said they checked the temperatures of reheated food (Table 2), and some said they recorded temperatures of reheated food in temperature logs. One worker indicated that inexperienced workers were not responsible for reheating--only he and his manager reheated food.
Factors impacting reheating practices Workers and managers identified few factors during the discussions on reheat ing (Table 3). However, participants did say that food safety education and train ing were important for safe reheating prac tices, as were thermometers. A few also said time pressure could be a barrier because reheating can be time consum ing and workers may take shortcuts. Consistencies in factors impacting practices There are a number of consistencies in the factors participants identified as impacting their safe food preparation prac tices. Eight factors were mentioned in the context of two or more food preparation practices, and these factors are discussed below and presented in Table 4. · Time pressure/high volume of business/staffing. The issue of time pressure was mentioned in the discussions of all seven food preparation practices. Partici pants said time pressure caused by high volumes of business and/or inadequate staffing made it difficult for them to wash their hands, change their gloves, clean their cutting boards, check the temperatures
of cooked and held food, and cool and reheat foods properly. · Structural environment, equip ment, and resources. Issues as sociated with the structural en vironment of the restaurant kitchen, equipment, and re sources arose in the discussions of all seven practices. Partici pants said accessible sinks and adequate resources, such as soap and gloves, facilitated handwashing and glove use; multiple color-coded cutting boards and separate work ar eas for different types of food helped prevent cross contami nation; and multiple thermom eters, well-maintained equip ment, and certain kinds of equipment (e.g., blast chillers and infrared thermometers) fa cilitated temperature control. Not having enough workspace, however, made cooling and holding foods at proper tem peratures difficult. · Management/coworker empha sis. Management and coworker emphasis on safe food prepa ration practices was discussed in relation to five food prepara tion practices. Participants said having managers and cowork ers who emphasized safe food preparation and who paid at-
tention to others' food prepara tion practices facilitated food safety. · Worker characteristics. Partici pants identified several charac teristics of food workers that positively impacted five prac tices. These included experi ence, motivation, age, prefer ences for clean hands, concerns about appearing sanitary to cus tomers, and expectations of re ciprocal treatment from other food workers. A few said aller gies to glove materials nega tively impacted glove use prac tices. · Negative consequences. In dis cussions of four practices, par ticipants said workers were more likely to engage in safe practices when they knew there would be negative conse quences if they did not. These negative consequences could be for workers, for the restau rants, or for the restaurants' cus tomers. · Education and training. Partici pants indicated in the discus sions of four practices that they thought food safety education and training was important to safe food preparation. Several participants emphasized that workers should be taught why engaging in safe food prepara tion practices was important, not just how to engage in those practices. · Restaurant procedures. In dis cussions of three practices, par ticipants' comments suggested that some restaurant procedures facilitated safe food preparation. For example, some restaurants required workers to record handwashing activities and food temperatures in logs. · Gloves and sanitizers. Some par ticipants believed that gloves and sanitizers facilitated food safety because their use helped to prevent cross contamination and keep hands clean. How ever, comments indicated that use of these sanitary supple ments may sometimes have a negative impact on food safety. For example, some participants said they sanitized their cutting boards without first cleaning them and used sanitizer instead of washing their hands, and
some participants expressed concern that glove use actually lowered handwashing rates be cause some workers used gloves incorrectly. DISCUSSION Some food workers in this study re ported unsafe food preparation practices. A few workers reported unsafe hand hy giene practices, such as not washing their hands when changing gloves and using sanitizers instead of washing their hands. Several workers said they sanitized but did not wash and rinse their equipment after working with raw meat and did not check the temperature of all the meat they cooked because they believed they could determine food doneness through other methods (e.g., appearance and feel of the food). Others said they did not check the temperature of food being reheated or cooled. Most workers, however, reported safe food preparation practices. For ex ample, workers described a variety of situ ations in which they washed their hands and changed their gloves, and said they cleaned their work surfaces and equip ment after preparing raw meat or poultry and checked the temperatures of held food. These findings indicate that our participants were aware of and engaged in multiple food safety practices. Previous research, however, suggests that food workers (and consumers) re port engaging in food safety practices more frequently than they actually engage in those practices (20, 24, 25). This phe nomenon is likely the result of the social desirability bias, which is the tendency for people to report greater levels of so cially desirable behavior (such as safe food preparation practices) than they actually engage in, or to report their best behav ior rather than their typical or worst be havior. Although it is not possible to de termine the extent to which our partici pants over-reported their safe food prepa ration practices, it is likely that they do not engage in these practices as frequently as they have reported. Participants in this study identified a number of factors that impacted their abil ity to engage in safe food preparation practices. Time pressure and structural environments, including equipment and resources, were the two most consistently identified factors. Participants said time pressure had a negative impact on safe food preparation while structural environ ments, equipment, and resources support ive of food safety (e.g., accessible sinks, sufficient space for food safety procedures,
multiple cutting boards, equipment that facilitated food safety, availability of soap and gloves) had a positive impact on safe food preparation. Other factors consis tently identified by workers as having positive impacts on safe food preparation included managers and coworkers who emphasized food safety; worker charac teristics, such as age, experience, and pref erences for clean hands; negative conse quences for those who do not handle food safely; food safety education and train ing; and restaurant procedures that en couraged food safety. Participants also identified glove and sanitizer use as fac tors influencing safe food preparation practices. Although some participants believed that these sanitary supplements had a positive influence, other participants indicated that these supplements could have a negative influence if used incor rectly. The few other studies on this topic have reported similar findings. Kendall, Melcher, and Paul's (18) and Clayton and Griffith's (3) studies with food workers identified several of the same barriers and facilitators reported here, including time shortages, inadequate staffing, education and training, sink accessibility, availabil ity of properly working equipment, and management concern for and attention to food safety. Many of these factors are heavily in fluenced by management. For example, although managers may not be able to control the customer "rushes" that often result in time pressure, managers can emphasize the importance of food safety over speed and attempt to ensure that staffing is adequate to meet the demand. Additionally, managers often directly im pact whether: workers have the equip ment needed to prepare food safely; there are negative consequences for workers for unsafe food preparation practices; food safety training is provided to work ers; and restaurant procedures support food safety. The findings reported here suggest that management plays a signifi cant role in the extent to which food workers engage in safe food preparation practices. The findings also support FDA's contention that active managerial control ­ implementation and supervision of food safety practices by the person-in-charge -- is important to food safety (8) and sug gest that future food safety initiatives should ensure a significant focus on man agement and active managerial control. Although the findings presented here suggest that a variety of factors impact safe food preparation practices, many of the current efforts in food safety are fo
cused primarily on one factor--education. The findings from this study and others (5, 21) indicate that education is impor tant for food safety. However, our results also suggest that providing food safety education to food workers is not enough to ensure that they will handle food safely, as a number of factors may impact their ability to implement that education. Other research supports this implication. Sev eral studies have found that even when food workers demonstrate knowledge of safe food preparation practices, they do not always engage in those practices (2, 3, 14, 20). In order to be successful, food safety intervention programs must do more than provide food safety training; they must also address the full range of factors that impact food preparation be haviors. Other researchers have made similar arguments; for example, Clayton and Griffith (3) argued that programs de signed to increase safe food preparation practices will be effective only if the re sources and management systems are in place to enable and encourage food work ers to implement those practices. Ehiri and Morris argued that food safety training would be more effective if it were founded on "principles which take into account employee motivations and other resource and environmental constraints..." (6). Participants' mixed beliefs concern ing the influence of glove use on food safety reflects the ongoing glove use de bate among food safety regulators, re searchers, and industry representatives. Research indicates that proper glove use can decrease the transfer of pathogens from hands to food (22). However, there is also evidence that glove use may pro mote poor handwashing practices (12). More research is needed to determine the relationship between glove use, contami nation, and handwashing. The results presented here are quali tative and should not be generalized to a larger population in any statistical sense. However, these results can be useful for guiding future work in food safety. For example, future research might focus on determining which of the factors identi fied in this study have the greatest impact on food preparation practices. The findings in this study have impli cations for food safety programs. Pro grams may wish to evaluate and modify their food safety activities in light of the findings provided here. For example, they could develop and implement activities that would contribute to a fuller under standing of the factors that impact food safety in food service establishments in their jurisdiction. They could then de velop and test strategies designed to ad
dress those factors and eventually incor porate successful strategies into their regu lar food safety activities. Such activities should improve the effectiveness of these food safety programs as well as contribute to our broader understanding of effective food safety strategies. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The authors wish to thank Sheryl Cates and Katherine Kosa (Health, Social and Economics Research, RTI Inter national) for their assistance with study design, participant recruitment, and data collection, and the EHS-Net Working Group (National Center for Environmen tal Health, CDC) for their guidance con cerning study topics and questions. REFERENCES 1. Bryan, F. 1988. Risks of practices, procedures, and processes that lead to outbreaks of foodborne diseases. J. Food Prot. 51:498­508. 2. Clayton, D., and C. Griffith. 2002. Commercial food handlers' knowl edge, attitudes and implementation of food hygiene practices. J. Food Prot. 65 (Sup. A):109. Available at http://www.foodprotection.org/ meetingsEducation/IAFP%202002/ IAFP%202002%20Posters%20Abstracts. pdf. Last accessed November 1, 2005. 3. Clayton, D., C. Griffith, P. Price, and A. Peters. 2002. Food handlers' be liefs and self-reported practices. Int. J. Env. Health Res. 12:25­39. 4. Clayton, D., and C. Griffith. 2004. Observation of food safety prac tices in catering using notational analysis. British Food J. 106:211­ 227. 5. Cotterchio, M., J. Gunn, T. Coffill, P.Tormey, and M. Barry. 1998. Effect of a manager Training Program on sanitary conditions in restaurants. Public Health Rep. 113:353­358. 6. Ehiri, J., and G. Morris. 1994. Food safety control strategies: A critical review of traditional approaches. Int. J. Env. Health Res. 4:254­263. 7. Ehiri, J., and G. Morris. 1996. Hygiene training and education of food han dlers: Does it work? Ecol. Food Nutr. 35:243­251. 8. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 2001. FDA's recommended national retail food regulatory pro gram standards.Available at http://
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