ASSESSING AND IMPROVING STUDENT FOOD HANDLING KNOWLEDGE AND PRACTICES AT CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY FULLERTON.
Phyllis Liang, Joel Abraham.
California State University Fullerton, Fullerton, CA.
Fruit and vegetable consumption has numerous health benefits and United States health policy generally recommends increased consumption. However, fruits and vegetables can be contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides, and microbes, which can lead to food-borne illnesses. Although proper food handling practices can mitigate these concerns, many consumers do not know about or regularly practice safe food handling. Unsafe food handling practices appear to be particularly common in some sub-populations, including college graduates. Many students begin to cook for the first time in college; therefore, it is an ideal time to improve their food handling practices and knowledge. In this study, we sought to document produce handling knowledge and practices in undergraduate students at California State University Fullerton (CSUF). We administered a web-based survey to student volunteers on their produce handling knowledge and practices. Although CSUF students report they regularly wash produce in general, most neglect to wash fruits that are peeled before consumption, such as cantaloupe and bananas, but that still pose health threats. Students were most aware of chemical-based and microorganismal contaminants, but rarely acknowledged the possibility of heavy metal contamination. Reported produce handling practices did not differ between organic and conventional produce. We will extend this study to other sub-populations and use the information gathered from the surveys to develop interventions to improve student knowledge and practice of produce handling procedures.