A Cultural Comparison of Consumers’ Knowledge, Perceptions, and Behaviors of Produce Handling



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The purpose of this research was to examine consumers’ handling of produce. Despite wide acceptance and implementation by industry, large multi-state outbreaks linked to fruits and vegetables continue to occur thereby, creating interest in consumer’s produce handling knowledge, perceptions and behaviors. A sample of food purchasers, and meal planners over 18 years old completed an online survey in 2010 to determine the extent of their knowledge, perceptions, and behaviors related to safe produce handling. Previous research has considered differences in culture/ethnicity and food safety. Based on five pre-established food safety constructs, five objectives were considered for this study: (1) Describe consumers’ knowledge, behaviors, and perceptions of produce handling, (2) Determine the relationship between knowledge and behaviors, (3) Determine the relationship between knowledge and perceptions, (4) Determine the relationship between behaviors and perceptions, and (5) Identify needs of produce handling and food safety curriculum comparing Caucasians, African-Americans and Hispanic ethnic Consumers. The research design for this study was of descriptive, correlation and needs assessment. A descriptive need assessment using Hershkowitz matrix analyses were used to identify level of needs for an educational program geared toward five constructs. The sample size was 400 respondents, 53.00% were female, and 47.00% male. Ethnicity represented in this study were 40.00% Caucasian (n = 160), 30.00% African American (n = 120) and 30.00% Hispanic (n = 120). Respondents race were: 47.00% White (n = 188), 32.50% Black (n = 130), 17.30% Hispanic (n = 69), 2.50% Other Race (n = 10), .50% Native American (n = 2), and .30% Asian (n = 1). This sample consisted primarily of 72.80% main meal planners of the household (n = 291), a total of 77.30% respondents had not been in a food service/food safety occupation (n = 309). The majority (24.50%) of the sample held a bachelors degree (n = 98). Most respondents (37.00%) believed the safest source for buying produce was only if they grew their produce (n = 148) and the second largest majority (29.5%) of respondents believed it did not matter. The majority of respondents were from the United States 86.80%. (n = 347). Respondents believed they learned most about food safety from their mothers and obtained most of their food safety information from federal government agencies. Results from needs assessment indicated cultural/ethnic differences for produce safety existed for curriculum program needs. Results of this research will be a valuable tool for developing curriculum targeted at consumers who are the final point of the supply chain. Results of this research can assist producers and governmental policy makers in gaining a deeper understanding of their stakeholders.