Purpose: Food safety education is critical for high-risk populations. Research has shown that consumers prefer and trust healthcare professionals, including dietitians, for delivery of food safety advice. Despite this, registered dietitians (RDs) rarely give consistent food safety advice, and previous studies with RDs and dietetics students in the UK, US, and Lebanon have shown gaps in their food safety knowledge. Attitudes pertaining to the delivery of food safety message has not been reported in this population. The purposes of this study are i) to assess food safety attitudes of dietetic students in the US, UK, and Lebanon and ii) to assess what aspects of food safety education need to be emphasized to dietetic students to improve self-confidence and efficacy in educating high-risk consumers.
Research Methods: Dietetic students were recruited from four universities (two in the US and one in each the UK and Lebanon). Students completed a validated questionnaire online. Data was collected on participant demographics, food safety knowledge, attitudes towards food safety, and self-efficacy in food safety message delivery. Frequencies for Likert scale responses were quantified and analyzed in SPSS.
Findings: Of participants (UK (n=78), US (n=182), Lebanon (n=30)), 39.6% of students expressed concern that they did not know the correct food safety information to provide to high-risk patients, and 79.2% were not confident that they could list standardized food safety principles. 87.9% of students felt that it was important for immunocompromised patients to implement food safety practices. While only 20.8% believed they could identify high-risk consumer groups, 81.1% expressed enthusiasm for learning more about those groups, and 80.8% agreed that provision of food safety information should be standard procedure for dietitians.
Implications: These findings indicate low self-efficacy in teaching food safety among future dietitians, but positive attitudes toward learning and providing food safety advice for high-risk populations. This will be used to design clear and concise food safety education for dietetic students.