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AN ASSESSMENT OF THE KNOWLEDGE AND PRACTICE OF FOOD HYGIENE AMONG FOOD VENDORS

ABSTRACT:

The aim of this paper is to evaluate the aspects of knowledge, attitude, an practices about food hygiene and safety issues among food handlers who are working in food courts. A cross-sectional study was conducted at four randomly food courts in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia during June and July 2017. It involves 108 respondents that match the inclusion criteria among food handlers. The guided self-administered questionnaire; were divided into three sections which are knowledge, practices, and attitudes. After the complete questionnaires were collected, data were entered and analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) software version 23.0. Positive correlations were seen between mean knowledge score and mean attitudes score (p-value=0.0240, r=0.217), between attitude score and practices score (p < 0.001, r=0.559) and between knowledge score and practices score (p value=0.049, r=0.190). The strongest correlation being between mean attitudes score and mean practices score. Respondents with low knowledge score also had the higher practices score. This paper serves as an eye-opener for policy makersas they can review and improve the knowledge, attitude and practices in food safety among food handlers in food courts and they can also help raise food safety awareness campaign and organize more targeted training in related fields of concern.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background of the Study

It is the responsibility of everyone involved in food serving operations to take care of the food’s safety and hygiene.1 Food safety and hygiene can be defined as the various conditions and practices that preserve the food qualityin the prevention of contamination and foodborne diseases.2 Foodborne diseases are one of the important public health concerns in Malaysia.3 Annually, about 30% of the people in industrialised countries suffering from foodborne illness.4 Malaysia itself was once shocked by the outbreak of typhoid fever in Kuala Lumpur in August 2015, which was attributed to the unhygienic state of restaurants and food stalls beside a poor standard of personal hygiene observed by the personnel.5 Food safety is a basis for food serving because of the high numbers of foods served daily and owing to their likeliness to contamination should high standards of hygiene principles are not observed.6 Especially in urban areas, the public finds food courts, restaurants, and food stalls are more convenient rather than cooking at home as most of them are busy working. The food handler plays a key role in ensuring strict adherence to food safety principles throughout the whole process in the food chain, particularly the food production and storage stage. 8-9 Thus, what is important for the food handlers is to wash their hands well, have good personal hygiene, clean work attire, adhere with the food-hygiene practices at work and carry out regular training to ensure that the food they handle and prepare is safe.10 Ironically, a study done in Malaysia in 2016 showed that food handlers have never been trained to handle food safely, and most of them demonstrated a lack of knowledge on pathogens  linked with various disease-causing agents.11 Therefore, our study aims to assess the knowledge, attitude and practices of food handlers in food courts, and our specific target area is in Petaling Jaya.

1.2 Materials and Methods

A cross-sectional study was conducted using cluster sampling among the food handlers workingin Petaling Jaya food courts. The respondents were selected based on our inclusion criteria such as the person who handles the food based on the aspect of preparation, storage, cooking and serving of food; able to communicate/ converse in English and Malay and can read and write. All that match the inclusion criteria were taken as respondents for each respective food courts. The food courts percentage were Jalan Othman (47%); Taman Dato Harun (14%); Seksyen 8 (14%); Seksyen 14 (25%). Hence the response rate was 100%.

The respondents were given a set of questionnaires to be filled in. A quantitative questionnaire was constructed using questions from previous studies, 6,16,17 as a platform to assess the awareness among food court handlers in Petaling Jaya towards food hygiene and safety. Some modification was done after conducting a pilot test. There were four sections for each questionnaire set: 1) demographic data 2) Knowledge section (10 questions) 3) Attitude (14 questions) 4) practice section (20 questions).

Verbal and written consents were taken from each respondent who agrees to participate in the study. Furthermore, the total of stalls of each food court was represented by percentage using the strata sampling method.

This research applied descriptive studies to analyse the raw data collected by using SPSS version 23.0 by using student T-test and one-way ANOVA. Demographics variable was determined as it one of the factors that could influence the study results. The mean score of knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) of the guided self-administered questionnaire was used as the assessment of the food handlers. Categorical data were analysed using Chi-square test and presented using tables, frequencies, and histogram/pie chart/bar chart. The data from student T-test and one-way ANOVA was presented using mean and standard deviation.A simple linear correlation test was used to see the direction and strength of correlations between mean knowledge score and mean attitudes score, mean attitudes score and mean practices score and lastly between mean knowledge score and mean practices score.The calculation for the sample size required was carried out using a Raosoft sample size calculator – the confidence level is at 95% and the margin of error 5%.

1.3 Results and Discussion

This study aimed to assess the knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) in food hygiene and safety, among food handlers working in food courts in Petaling Jaya

1.4 Knowledge of food handlers on food hygiene and safety

Table 1 highlights the fact that the level of food handlers’ knowledge is poor with a mean percentage score of 58.3%.The food handlers score more than 50% for only four questions out of ten. This shows that their level of knowledge is poor since they cannot answer well for six questions with a score less than 50%. Participation in food safety training among food handlers is 84.3%, but on the average, they could only manage to get about half mark for the knowledge section. It shows that they do attend the training session but the lack of understanding of the knowledge that is taught. Training can improved food safety knowledge, beliefs and give positive impacts on food handling practices.7 Hence, training is vital to ensure that food handlers have all the required amount of awareness and education to meet the food hygiene requirements, although this does not necessarily lead to a positive change in the management and handling of food.8,17

Food handlers in Petaling Jaya Selatan show good knowledge in categories the way they defrost meat (87%), washing the vegetables and fruits using tap water (84.3%), the time they should clean kitchen counter (75%) and the time to wash their hand (68.5%). However, the food handlers show poor knowledge in categories of food storage temperature (17.6%), storage of food (21.3%) and preparation of food (25.9%). This study demonstrates that although food handlers are maybe aware of the need for personal hygiene, they do not comprehend crucial aspect linked to temperature values as it is needed to control the growth of microbes in food. In another hand, a study done by Firdaus et al., among food handlers in Putrajaya shows a high mean percentage score of 84.1% with excellent knowledge in the categories of food storage temperature, storage of foods, self-hygiene, and high-risk foods.

1.5 Practices of food handlers on food hygiene and safety

The level of food handlers’ practices is good with a percentage score of 50% of the respondents always practices hygienic and safety from 14 out of 20 questions (Table 3).There are three aspects are being evaluated which are hand washing, contamination prevention, and glove use. Hand washing aspects have the highest score as they always practice right-hand washing procedure (78.7%), always wash hands after returning from the toilet (87%), always wash hand after doing unhygienic practice (84.3%), always wash hand after break session (82.4%) and always wash hand after handling waste (89.8%).Glove use aspects shows the lowest score with only 42.60% of food handlers always putting on gloves when touching ready to eat foods, 55.6% of food handlers always washing hands before putting on gloves, 50.9% always washing hands after taking off the gloves and 52.8% of food handlers always changing their gloves when dealing with raw and ready to eat foods.In our society, usually, the consumer has a negative perception towards foreigner food handlers to have low self-hygiene compared to the local food handlers. A different result in the previous studies of food handlers in Putrajaya is nationality, and education level is two main factors that are significantly influencing food handlers’ practices.12 Few studiesshowed that poor hygiene practices among food handlers are explained by food handlers’ lack of knowledge.

1.6 Correlation between knowledge, attitudes       and practices

Table 4 shows an association between knowledge, attitudes and practices among food handlers engaged in food courts. There are statistically significant association between knowledge and attitudes (X1=5.103, p=0.024), attitudes and practices (X1=33.751, p<0.001), and also knowledge vs practices (X1=3.910, p=0.049). There are statistically significant positive correlation between knowledge score and attitudes score (p value=0.0240, r=0.217), between attitudes score and practices score (p<0.001, r=0.559) and also knowledge score and practices score (p value=0.049, r=0.190) (Table 5). The strongest positive correlation is between attitudes scores and practices score. Knowledge is the key element to influence the outcome of attitudes and practices among the food handlers. This association shows food handlers with good knowledge will have good attitudes and good practices. This result is similar to the previous result done in Vietnam.19 However, with good attitudes can give more impact to their practices in food safety. Therefore, giving good training among the food handlers can improve their attitudes hence their practices in food safety.

Conclusion

This study revealed that food handlers with poor knowledge score able to achieve high practices score. Thus, it reflects that working experience do influence the vital practice of food hygiene and safety. We need to enhance the knowledge of food safety and hygiene to achieve an excellent practice. We would like to recommend conducting a simple test at the end of food handlers training to assess their level of understanding.  It would be a great undertaking  if future research is able to get various government agencies and other related organisations to collaborate, so that more and more respondents can be surveyed (multi-centre study) and therefore increasing the possibility of rendering this food safety study more effective.

Acknowledgments

This research was funded by Universiti Teknologi MARA under FRGS grant: 600-IRMI/MyRA 5/3/GIP (015/2017). 

References

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