Food Safety Behavior of Low-Income Parents and Guardians of Infants in the U.S.

  • Kwon, Junehee (Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Texas Woman′s University)
  • Published : 2002.07.01


The U.S. government have concerned about food safety over the last two decades. The concept of the continuum, “from farm to table” was created to explore ways to prevent foodborne illnesses in all stages of food systems. On the continuum, consumers were recognized as the last line of defense to prevent foodborne illnesses, and much efforts were made to educate them safe food handling. This research was conducted to investigate infant formula handling and hand-washing behaviors of low-income families, especially parents and guardians of infants. The subject was selected from participants of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children(WIC), a federal program for low-income families in the U.S. Stratified 200 local WIC offices were randomly selected based on the number of WIC participants in each state, and 20 randomly selected WIC participants from each selected office were asked to complete questionnaires. SPSS for Windows was used for statistical analyses including frequency, cross- tabulation, and chi-square analyses. A total of 87 WIC offices returned completed question-naires (N = 1,598), and 492 were parents/guardians of infants. Most respondents were white (51.3%), high school graduates (41.5%) , and participated in WIC>1 yew. Most respondents (80.9%) teamed about food safety from WIC, and only limited number of respondents (10.2%) used the Internet for food safety information. Most respondents stored prepared formula safely (94.6%) and discarded formula left in the bottle after feeding (84.5%) , but fewer used brushes to wash formula bottles (71.3%) and boiled water(15.2%) Chi-square analyses showed respondents in different race/ethnicity had different food handling behaviors. Respondents showed generally good hand-washing behaviors as 94.2% always washing hands after using restroom, 93.2% after touching meat items, and 87.l% before preparing foods. Fewer respondents, however, washed hands after changing baby diapers (77.0%) and touching pets (67.2%). Researchers concluded that WIC education on food safety was effective, as limited food safety education covered during WIC education were followed well (e.g., storing prepared formula and discarding leftover). However, results also indicated that there were many behaviors needed to be reinforced especially to overcome family tradition and culture on food handling behaviors. The WIC may serve as good food safety resources and education agents utilizing mandatory education sessions because the vast amount of food safety information on the Internet was not readily accessible for this low-Income Population.


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