Barriers to Informing Restaurant Consumers about Safe Food Handling

Via Media Distributed at Point-Of-Purchase

 

Speaker:                     Brae V Surgeoner, BComm; MSc candidate

Student, University of Guelph

 

Level of Knowledge:  Basic

 

Short Abstract:

In this qualitative study, barriers to the distribution of food safety information to consumers via the use of a safe food handling label affixed to take-out food containers were evaluated. In-depth interviews (n=10) were conducted with a convenience sample of restaurant personnel who reported that 3 key barriers exist in transferring the labels from the roll onto the take-out container. These are: employee forgetfulness, laziness and time constraints. It is recommended that labels be applied to a specified number of take-out containers at the beginning of each shift as part of an opening duty and that staff be given frequent reminders about the importance of recording the time and date the food was packaged. Lastly, perhaps the greatest barrier to distributing food safety information to consumers is the belief that consumer food safety educational material will stimulate negative publicity for the restaurant.

Long Abstract:

Food safety problems are often perceived by North American consumers to originate outside of the domestic environment. However, experts believe that a significant number of foodborne illnesses originate in the home and are caused by inadequate consumer food handling practices. As convenience is a driving force in today’s food industry, addressing time-and-temperature abuse of restaurant take-out food that contribute to the risk of foodborne illness are important food safety facts that consumers need to know. In this qualitative study, barriers to the distribution of food safety information to consumers via the use of a safe food handling label affixed to take-out food containers were evaluated. In-depth interviews (n=10) were conducted with a convenience sample of restaurant gatekeepers (owners, managers, chefs) from seven full-service Southwestern Ontario restaurants eight months after labels were circulated. Informants reported that three key barriers exist in transferring the labels from the roll onto the take-out container. These are: employee forgetfulness, laziness and time constraints. In some cases the restaurant gatekeepers reported hesitation about filling in the space allocated for the time the food was packaged for fear of guest complaints that it was prepared too far in advance of the time of pick-up or delivery. These barriers highlight the reality of the foodservice industry. It is recommended that labels be applied to a specified number of take-out containers at the beginning of each shift as part of an opening duty and that staff be reminded to record the time and date of packaging for each food order. Further, guests need to be informed that the time of packaging has been included for their health protection and not as a measure of food quality. Finally, perhaps the greatest barrier to distributing food safety information to consumers is the belief that consumer food safety educational material will stimulate negative publicity for the restaurant.

Learning Objectives:

  1. To understand the key barriers to transferring food safety information to consumers at the restaurant level.
  2. To develop an awareness of some of the attitudes that restaurant gatekeepers have about transferring food safety information to their guests.  
  3. To appreciate the complexity of conducting research with foodservice personnel.