Food safety knowledge, attitudes and self-reported practices among Ontario high school students

Shannon E. Majowicz, Kenneth J. Diplock, Scott T. Leatherdale, Chad T. Bredin, Steven Rebellato, David Hammond, Andria Jones-Bitton, Joel A. Dubin


OBJECTIVES: To measure the food safety knowledge, attitudes and self-reported practices of high school students in Ontario.

METHODS: We administered a school-wide paper survey to the student body (n = 2,860) of four Ontario high schools. We developed the survey by selecting questions from existing, validated questionnaires, prioritizing questions that aligned with the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education’s educational messages and the food safety objectives from the 2013 Ontario High School Curriculum.

RESULTS: One in five students reported currently handling food in commercial or public-serving venues; of these, 45.1% had ever taken a course that taught them how to prepare food (e.g., food and nutrition classes, food handler certification). Food safety knowledge among respondents was low. For example, 17.3% knew that the best way to determine whether hamburgers were cooked enough to eat was to measure the temperature with a food thermometer. Despite low knowledge, most respondents (72.7%) reported being confident that they could cook safe, healthy meals for themselves and their families. Safe food handling practices were frequently self-reported. Most students (86.5%) agreed that being able to cook safe, healthy meals was an important life skill, although their interest in learning about safe food handling and concern about foodborne disease were less pronounced.

CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that food safety knowledge is low, yet confidence in preparing safe, healthy meals is high, among high school students. Because work and volunteer opportunities put students in contact with both the public and food, this group is important to target for increased education about safe food handling.


Food safety; food handling; students; education; adolescent; Ontario

Full Text: