“I Walk around Like My Hands are Covered in Mud”:  Food Safety and Hand Hygiene Behaviors of Canadians during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Robyn Haas, Fatih Sekercioglu, Richard Meldrum, Ian Young Biblographic citation: Food Protection Trends, vol. 41, no. 5, pp. 454-463, Sep 2021 Volume 41, Issue 5: Pages 454–463

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has affected consumers’ food handling behaviors. We conducted a qualitative research study to investigate how and why Canadians engaged in different food handling and hand hygiene behaviors at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Online, text-based focus groups were conducted following a semistructured question guide in May and June 2020. A thematic analysis was conducted using the Theoretical Domains Framework as a coding guide. A total of 42 consumers participated across seven focus groups. The most notable changes in behaviors were seen in participants’ hand washing, sanitation, and grocery shopping practices. Participants tended to perceive grocery store employees, shoppers, and foodservice staff as having inadequate sanitation precautions and therefore as a source of COVID-19 transmission risk. They heavily relied on public health, medical, and government officials as sources of information. Feelings of stress and anxiety appeared to be linked to certain sanitation behaviors. Many participants displayed a general apathy toward routine food safety practices, such as safe food storage at home. This research supports the need for clear and concise messaging for safe food handling during the COVID-19 pandemic and in future times of crisis.

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