Food safety risk perception of elementary school students

Monday, December 7, 2015

Authors: Ágnes Balogh-Berecz, Gyula Kasza, Barbara Bódi

 

1. Summary

 

It is among the key objectives of the National Food Chain Safety Office to increase consumer awareness regarding food chain safety, one of the most important conditions of which is to obtain basic knowledge related to the purchase, handling, storage and consumption of foods. Mastering of this skill cannot be learned with the same efficiency by an adult already possessing ingrained habits.

 

In this article, results of a food chain safety survey, performed among elementary school students, are presented by the authors. A small element number (n=267) pilot

questionnaire survey was conducted by NEBIH, together with Corvinus University of Budapest, with the participation of seven Budapest elementary schools belonging to

a network of eco-schools, i.e., schools that treat sustainability targets as priorities in education. During the study, fourth-grade (10 to 11 years old) students were asked, which could take place after obtaining written consent from the parents. To ascertain what the real situation was, kids were given help in filling out the questionnaire, however, we tried not to influence their answers. One of the most positive experiences of the study was that both parents, as well as students showed a pronounced interest in the topic. It can be concluded from the numerical results that, although the children surveyed were well-informed about certain food safety issues, risk were assessed erroneously in many cases. The lack of knowledge was more prominent for the young boys. Naturally, results of the survey could be influenced greatly by the range of schools included. It is likely that if not only students of certain Budapest eco-schools had been surveyed, a signficantly larger variation in the knowledge level and awareness of the children could have been found. However, results still provide useful pointers about what the aspects are that would be worth taking into consideration the most during a later educational campaign for elementary school students.

 

2. Introduction

 

Many studies in the field of cognitive science confirm that it is much easier to acquire new knowledge in the early stages of life (childhood), and to shape our habits accordingly, than during adulthood [1], [2], [3]. For this reason, extensive transfer of knowledge in all areas of life has to be strived for during the rearing and education

of children, which can be achieved most efficiently by the continuous cooperation of parents and teachers [4].

 

Unfortunately, the role of the family in this area has been reduced in recent decades, the reasons for which include the realignment of family structure, changes in the way

leisure time is spent and also a transformation of our relationship with food [5]. Acquisition of knowledge related to food safety and its practical application are essential in everaday life, therefore, elementary school education on this topic has become even more significant [6].

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