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Risky Eating Behaviors of Young Adults—Implications for Food Safety Education

      Abstract

      Young adults engage in risky eating behaviors like eating raw/undercooked foods of animal origin that put them at increased risk for foodborne disease. This cross-sectional survey assessed the self-reported risky eating behaviors of young adults enrolled in higher education as a part of a large-scale survey administered over 10 months. Participants (N=4,343) completed a risky eating questionnaire by indicating which of the foods listed they consumed (the list included a random sequence of foods that are considered safe or risky to eat). Each risky food consumed earned one point, with the risky eating score calculated by summing points earned (range 0 to 27). Higher scores indicated more risky eating behaviors. Food safety knowledge and self-efficacy and stage of change for safe food handling were also assessed. Mean risky eating score (5.1±3.6) indicated that young adults consumed risky foods. Male respondents and whites consumed more risky foods compared with female respondents and nonwhites, respectively. As stage of change (movement to higher stages) and self-efficacy increased, risky eating score decreased; those who believed food poisoning was a personal threat tended to eat fewer risky foods. Regression models indicated that the strongest predictor of risky eating was self-efficacy score followed by stage of change. These variables, together with sex and race, explained about 10% of the variance in risky eating score. Although food safety knowledge correlated weakly with risky eating score, it did not significantly predict it. Efforts to improve current food-handling behaviors and self-efficacy through education are important to reduce prevalence of risky eating behaviors within this population.
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      Biography

      C. Byrd-Bredbenner is a professor of nutrition/extension specialist, J. M. Abbot is a postdoctoral associate, V. Wheatley is a research assistant, D. Schaffner is a professor of food science/extension specialist, and L. Blalock is an assistant professor of youth development/extension specialist, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.

      Biography

      C. Bruhn is a consumer food marketing specialist, University of California, Davis.