Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Food Science and Technology

Major Professor

F. Ann Draughon

Committee Members

Agricola Odoi, Arnold M. Saxton, Doris H. D'Souza


Educational research suggests that middle school is an ideal time to teach food safety since adolescents are in the process of setting life-long behaviors and are, therefore, more likely to synthesize new food safety knowledge into positive behaviors.

The objectives of this study were to: 1) Describe the baseline food safety knowledge and attitudes/ behaviors of 7th grade students in East Tennessee 2) determine the relationship with geographic location, socioeconomic status, race, and gender; and 3) compare the current data (Study 2) to a previous study (Study 1) that pre-tested 7th grade students prior to an education intervention.

A 40-item survey was administered to 232 students in 12 schools chosen using a weighted, stratified random sample. A hierarchical model was used to obtain least squares means at the school and student levels. To compare Studies 1 and 2, independent sample t-tests and chi-square analysis were applied to determine significant differences in food safety knowledge or attitudes/behaviors between the populations.

Study 2 results showed that 63% knew the importance of hand-washing, but only 50% reported ‘always’ washing their hands before eating or preparing food; 50% reported ‘always’ following temperature directions, but 85% did not know how to determine if a hamburger was cooked properly. No statistical difference was found in food safety knowledge for all variables except race, where Asian/Pacific students scored lower (p=0.0005). Males (p=0.0133) and Asian/Pacific students (p=0.0033) reported riskier food handling behaviors. No significant differences (p<0.05) were found between Study 1 and 2 in food safety knowledge or attitudes/behaviors.

Hand-washing and use of proper temperatures, as well as differences in behavior within gender and some ethnic groups should be focal points in adolescent food safety education. These results suggest that some differences in knowledge and behaviors are less pronounced in adolescents than those found in similar studies with adults. The results of the comparison between adolescent studies suggest that the food safety curriculum targeted to adolescents of Study 1 would likely be effective at raising student knowledge and improving students’ food handling behaviors in a larger population of 7th grade students.

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