Abstract

In several areas, Kentuckians practice more risky health behaviors than most of the rest of the nation. The Health Belief Model states that individuals with lower perceived risks practice less healthy behaviors. This study sought to determine if this was true for food safety by assessing food safety perceptions and behaviors of Kentucky consumers. Data were collected through a telephone questionnaire based on a survey by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; 728 respondents participated. Food safety perceptions were analyzed by examining participants' responses to confidence in the safety of the food supply, perception of likelihood of people becoming sick because of foodborne illness, and perception of where food safety problems are most likely to occur. Significant differences were found in food safety perceptions for age, gender, household income, education, and employment in the food industry. Analysis of food safety behaviors revealed differences in food handling behaviors for gender, education level, household income, race, and households with a member aged 65 years or older. Significant relationships were found between respondents' food safety perceptions and behaviors. In general, Kentucky consumers who perceived higher risks exhibited safer food handling behaviors. Strategies to increase the understanding of real and perceived food safety risks in the home combined with strategies that target specific demographic groups may be the most effective approach to improve food handling practices. A better understanding of consumers' food safety risk perceptions and behaviors could lead to more effective food safety education materials and messages.

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