Ngale Lyonga, N. Agnes; Ph.D.
Program of Education;
College of Human Development and Education; North Dakota State University
Culture and Food Safety Awareness: A Study of International College Students’ Need for Food Safety Training in the U.S.
Major Professor: Dr. Myron Eighmy
This research determined food safety concerns and perceptions of food safety risks among international students by cultural regions and explored cultural influences on food handling and preparation behaviors. The study further examined the prevalence of self-reported foodborne illness and food safety risks among international students, including factors associated with unsafe food handling practices. The aim was also to assess international students’ preferred delivery and learning methods for food safety training and convenient sources of receiving information to mitigate food safety risks.
The study utilized mixed methods for primary data collection, an electronic group discussion method with 58 international students at the NDSU Group Decision
Center and an online survey sent to international students (n = 904) across eight land-grant institutions. As indicated by the results, international students strongly agreed that food safety is an important issue. Their major food safety concerns were foodborne diseases, unsafe or contaminated food, chemical residues and toxins in foods, food additives and preservatives, high sugar and high fat diets, and obesity. Majority of the respondents (83.2%) were unlikely to perceive the occurrence of a food safety problem in their residence, whereas 24.9% do not believe that foodborne illness is common. A self-reported prevalence rate of 28.6% of the study sample had been sick of a foodborne within the past year in the U.S., 10.1% have sought medical attention, and 3.2% have reported a suspected foodborne illness. Factors influencing unsafe food handling practices among international students from the findings are lack of hand washing practices before food preparation (38.3%), incorrect thawing practices, holding of cooked food or leftover for prolonged periods at room temperature, and improper cooking behaviors. International students’ food safety behaviors and food handling practices is influence by their cultural or traditional beliefs and family backgrounds. Respondents across the eight cultural regional agreed (88.8%) that the ways in which they handle and cook food is influenced by their cultures.
International students indicated interest in multiple avenues for food safety education, half of the sample preferred workshops and seminars (50%), brochures (48%), and campus orientation seminars (45%) as a delivery method. For delivery settings and time, more (42%) international students prefer learning in a social setting, while 29% prefer face-to-face class lectures or a classroom setting, and 20% prefer learning about food safety in interactive online classes for one hour or in short-time segments. They also indicated multiple sources as the most convenient ways of receiving information which include: food packages (56%), TV programs (52%), leaflets (40%), magazines (34%), campus emails (33%), blog postings (17%) and radio (12%).
Foodborne illness is a concern among international students. An examination of international students’ concerns and perceptions of food safety risks, including their food handling behaviors and preferred delivery methods for receiving training could lead to an exploration of a new food safety curriculum and risk messages for this population. Educators can target this audience using the preferred delivery methods.