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Amy Olson, Nutrition


Foodborne illness is a serious issue and accounts to numerous hospitalizations and deaths each year. College students are cooking for themselves for the first time and may lack proper food safety knowledge and practices. Purpose: to assess the food safety knowledge and practices of college students and to determine the sanitary conditions of kitchen surfaces in college apartments. Methods: Approval from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University’s Institution Review Board was obtained. Food safety knowledge and practices were assessed with a survey and kitchen inspections. College students (n=287) completed a food safety knowledge survey (FSKS) containing 16 questions administered through a survey link attached to an email. Informed consent was the first page of survey and participants were required to be at least 18 years and older. Kitchen inspections were conducted in apartments of male and female students (n=20). Consent was obtained at the door of participants. An interview of five questions were asked to assess food safety behavior. Answers were recorded. Refrigerator and freezer temperatures were measured with the AVANTEK infrared thermometer. Five kitchen surfaces (kitchen counter, dish sponge, cutting board, refrigerator handle, and sink drain) were swabbed with 3M™ Quick Swabs from each apartment to assess sanitary conditions. Contents from 3M™ Quick Swabs were poured onto 3M™ Petrifilm™ Aerobic Count Plates and incubated for 24 hours at 36°F. SPSS version 24 was used for statistical data analysis to compare results with independent t-test, frequency, one-way ANOVA, and chi-square. Results: Participants scored an average FSKS score of 11.7 points (73%). Female participants scored significantly higher compared to male participants (p<0.01). There is a weak correlation between number of nutrition credits and the FSKS scores (r=0.160). Seniors scored significantly higher on the FSKS compared to first year students (p=0.046). Previous and current food service experience did not appear to correlate with FSKS scores. Freezer temperatures were significantly lower among male student apartments compared to female student apartments (p=0.001). A weak relationship was observed between gender and the sanitary conditions of kitchen surfaces (x2=0.045). The kitchens of the male students had lower bacterial counts compared to the kitchens of female students. The sink drain was the least sanitary kitchen surface with 75% of sink drains having contamination levels above 250 cfu. Thirty percent of participants admitted to never cleaning their sinks. Of the participants who never cleaned their sinks, 50% had sinks with bacterial contamination considered too numerous to count (TNTC). The most sanitary kitchen surface was the cutting board, with 85% of cutting boards having contamination levels between 25-250 cfu. Only ten percent of participants for the kitchen inspections owned thermometers, all of which were males. Conclusions: Kitchen inspection revealed that adequate knowledge was not reflected in behaviors. For example, students cannot apply their knowledge of the proper internal cooking temperature for ground beef without owning a thermometer. As an intervention, a food safety handout was made to distribute to students living in apartments next year. Additionally, residential assistants could take the opportunity to educate college students on proper food safety and cleaning to encourage safe food handling practices