A study shows that believing some food safety myths can increase the risk of disease.
The researchers looked at how misleading unscientific beliefs and the consequences of a lack of scientific knowledge of food safety affect health.
Many people in the UK, Germany and Norway believe in food safety myths, but opinions vary by country. The study, published in food control.
After collecting over 150 food safety myths across Europe from SafeConsume project partners, 47 were included in a survey.
Vegetarians don’t get food poisoning?
Researchers conducted a web survey with more than 3,000 consumers from the UK, Germany and Norway to investigate what myths people believed were true, and whether this affected the occurrence and spread of gastroenteritis. People were asked if they disagreed or agreed with the statements.
The results show that many people believe in food safety myths and this is positively associated with the occurrence and spread of gastroenteritis.
The largest associations were observed in relation to beliefs about eggs such as storing them at room temperature and eating raw eggs to treat hangovers. That wooden cutting board, chili, wasabi, and pickles kill bacteria; that vegetarians do not get food poisoning; And that eating dirt and diarrhea is useful because it cleans the stomach.
The gastroenteritis incidence data came from another SafeConsume survey in 2019. The analysis was conducted on data from accepting belief statements about food safety and the prevalence and incidence of reported episodes of gastroenteritis.
In Germany, many people think that if you heat healthy foods too much, they lose their health; Once the food has been cooked, all bacteria have been killed and it is safe to eat and the chicken must be washed before consumption.
More people in the UK believe that the old traditional way of making food was better than modern methods and that all food should be kept at 2°C (33.8°F). Norwegians were more likely to believe that if food smelled and tasted good, it was safe to eat. Other myths included eating shellfish only if there was an “r” in the name of the month and the five-second rule for food that was on the floor.
influence of some legends
The researchers identified eight categories of beliefs ranging from views about heating, what food is safer, what kills bacteria, hygiene and superstitious beliefs. People form their beliefs first and then look for evidence to support them.
A high percentage of consumers thought organic products were safer than conventionally grown foods.
Three beliefs are associated with Campylobacter and chickens: bacteria do not live on wooden cutting boards, salt kills everything dangerous and chicken should be washed before preparing it, and this is closely related to the spread of gastroenteritis.
Despite numerous campaigns warning of the dangers of washing chicken, many consumers continue to do so before cooking and this was confirmed by the study as more than half of respondents agreed that chicken should be washed before preparation.
On average, 15 percent of participants agreed that the best breakfast is a raw egg. Consuming raw egg products is a risk factor for salmonellosis.
One-fifth of respondents believe that eggs stored in the refrigerator are less safe than eggs kept at room temperature. Storing eggs in the refrigerator prevents the growth of bacteria, but they can become contaminated at the time of laying.
Future studies need to investigate why beliefs in food safety myths are associated with cases and prevalence of gastroenteritis. Other businesses should consider ways to change behavior, including correcting false beliefs.
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