Hazards in food accounts for about 23 million cases of illness and 5000 deaths in Europe every year.
Nearly 40 percent of foodborne outbreaks are domestic/kitchen outbreaks. Food safety violations at the consumer stage are common, particularly due to poor hygiene and insufficient heating and cooling.
The project focuses on the top five foodborne hazards in Europe, accounting for about 70% of the health burdens related to foodborne illness which include Campylobacter, Salmonella, Toxoplasma, norovirus and Listeria.
SafeConsume is built on the hypothesis that in the retail-to-consumption part of the food chain, consumer behaviour is both the core problem and the solution. To be effective, behaviour change strategies need to address all stages of the “user journey” from food purchase to food consumption. As existing strategies for risk mitigation through changing consumer behaviour seem to fall short, it is the intention of the project to adopt a broader approach, whereby all stages of the user journey are addressed using social science and laboratory based approaches.
The research which underpins this project is divided into 8 work packages as follows:
WP1 involves collection of data on safe and unsafe consumer food hygiene behaviour and barriers to development of safe behaviour in European countries
The WP1 team has carried out an analysis of how food is handled in everyday life in five European countries: France, Norway, Portugal, Romania and the UK. The aim was to find out whether and to what extent food is handled in safe and unsafe ways, from retail to fork, in 75 European households. The study addressed consumers’ food practices involving handling of food across four stages – food procurement, transportation, storage and cooking. All these stages involve socially shared activities carried out in the everyday life of European consumers. The data was used to construct a Risk Behaviour Map which has been used to inform work in WP2 and WP3. A Risk Behaviour Map was constructed where observed practices in households registered for each step of the user journey were compared with expert opinion on how the practice could increase or decrease the risk of being ill.
WP2 involves collection of data on how consumer behavior affects reduction, survival or growth of the 5 identified foodborne pathogens
The main objective is to determine the impact of consumer behaviour on microbial reductions/growth/survival for each step in food handling based on the Risk Behaviour Map, generated in WP1 which covers all steps which involve consumer food handling from retail to consumption. The project involves both literature review and experimental work to compile a comprehensive dossier of scientific data to enable development of new strategies to help consumers mitigate foodborne infection risks. Experimental work has also been carried out as necessary to address knowledge gaps.
WP3 involves determining the impact of changing consumer behaviour on the infection risk reduction for the main steps from retail to consumption for the five most significant foodborne hazards
WP3 has developed methods for quantitative microbial risk assessment that allow estimation of the infection risk reduction produced by different food hygiene interventions. The infection risk reduction estimates were obtained by combining data from the 10-country SafeConsume Household Survey (WP1), growth curve estimates, behavioural data, data on how this behaviour affect foodborne hazards and other relevant data sources.
WP4 is about designing new tools, products and technologies for mitigation of foodborne infection risks
Based on the Risk Behaviour Map (WP1), an Opportunity Map has been produced which summarises opportunities for intervention in domestic food handling, grouped in 21 areas. Using data from WP2 and WP3 functional Specifications and Design Concepts required to address these opportunities have also been considered. 11 concepts have been selected for which technical prototypes are now being developed.
WP5 Development and testing of new communication strategies
The first part of the project involved a study in Norway, Germany and UK (1000 people) to study consumer understanding of food hygiene risks and whether mythical (non scientific beliefs) can explain unsafe practices.
Using insights from this project, WP5 group is developing a specific risk communication intervention, a food safety game. A procedure for testing the effect of this intervention on beliefs and intended behaviour has been developed. Testing will be carried out in Norway and UK. WP5 is also planning a risk-based communication strategy which will be tested in 5 European countries to evaluate new food safety tools or procedures developed within SafeConsume.
WP6 Development and testing of new educational tools
During 2017/8 a study was carried out in England, France, Hungary and Portugal to identify needs for educational tools on food hygiene and safety, aligned to behavioural theory.
WP6 has developed eight educational resources to teach teenagers (11-14 years) and young people (15-18 years) about food hygiene and food safety. Four teacher training modules have also been developed to support educators, aimed at boosting knowledge and confidence in teaching about aspects of food hygiene, nutrition food labels etc.
Resources are being translated and implemented in six European countries. An evaluation is being carried out in 4 countries to measure impact of education on adolescent’s food hygiene behaviour.
WP6 has produced an online recipe-book containing recipes from Denmark, England, France, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, and Spain. Each recipe contains food hygiene instructions to remind people to carry out the cooking activities the right way, and at the right times, helping to promote safer food hygiene actions.
WP7 Development of policy models and infection risk communication models for use by food safety authorities, non-governmental organisations and other actors involved in risk assessment, risk management, and risk communication in the European food safety system.
As a basis for this work WP7 conducted two online surveys. The first survey aimed to map the functions, responsibilities, resources, cooperation networks and communication practices of food safety authorities across Europe. The second focused on the role of non-authority actors in food safety risk communication, investigating co-operation practices between NGOs and official organizations.
The data has been used to create a compendium of country reports. This is being used as the basis for development of improved, communication policy models which consider consumer behaviour. These models will integrate the experiences of all WPs and provide a toolbox for helping the authorities work.
WP8 Dissemination and implementation of project results
The aim of WP8 is to tools and products, learning resource, information strategies, education and food safety policies etc)