Practical classes more effective than theory classes in teaching food safety risks to children

Italian researchers have found that active participation of children in practical food safety classes leads to a greater understanding of microorganisms and their impact on people and the environment. 

This study was conducted in 12 Italian public schools with 492 children aged 9 to 11. Children were randomly assigned to one of two groups:

Group one: A practical food safety class where the group participated in three experiments, growing microorganisms from the air, hands and saliva. There was also a theoretical component on how to decrease the risk of foodborne illness.

Group two: A theoretical class on food safety.

The impact of this intervention was measured using drawings and interviews. Children were asked to draw their idea of the relationship between microorganisms and humans before and after the intervention. The drawings showed substantial changes in their main features after the lessons were conducted. After the intervention, the practical group more frequently represented the microorganisms in a specific context, e.g. the human body. A total of 30.8% of the practical group were able to define a link in their drawings between the action of a microorganism and its effects on people and the environment, compared to 17.1% of children in the theoretical group.

A sample of the children (114) participated in semi-structured interviews before and after the intervention. The interviews further highlighted how children from the practical group were better able to identify where microorganisms were likely to be found e.g. air, human body, and spoiled food. Also the spread of microorganisms as well as methods of preventing contamination were more likely to be mentioned post intervention by the children in the practical group.

Approximately half of all reported foodborne related illnesses occur in children with the majority occurring in those under the age of fifteen. Behaviours such as hand washing and good personal hygiene should be introduced at a young age. Food safety interventions in schools could lead to increased knowledge among the children as well as increased engagement in suitable protective behaviours. They are also likely to communicate these messages to family at home, improving adult knowledge and behaviour and decreasing the occurrence of foodborne illness.  As this research has shown a practical approach within schools leads to a broader understanding of microorganisms- their typical environments and preventative measures. 

 

 

Posted: 30/01/2014 10:30:39 by Laura Keaver


 

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