Half of the Romanian consumers are not aware of hazards such as mycotoxins and some pathogens, according to a study.

Researchers found there are gaps in the knowledge of Romanians with the majority not able to separate non-hazards such as additives from hazards and not recognizing some pathogens.

Almost half of the respondents perceived Listeria as being dangerous, while only 17 percent saw Yersinia, 21 percent for Campylobacter, and 28 percent for Clostridium as pathogenic bacteria.

Salmonella, E. coli, and Staphylococcus were the most commonly known pathogens. Consumer perception of E. coli as dangerous was higher for the 35 to 75 years old category compared to those below 35 years of age.

Identifying hazards
A 2019 Eurobarometer survey found that only 51 percent of Romanians were aware of food poisoning bacteria.

Those with a high level of education and who lived in urban areas were more knowledgeable than consumers under 35 years old with a low/middle level of education from the rural area.

Pesticides, additives, and heavy metals were considered by most Romanians to be a hazard to health. Slightly more than half said genetically modified organisms and pathogenic microorganisms were a health hazard while just under half thought mycotoxins were a hazard.

The aim of the work, published in the journal Food Control, was to establish the knowledge of Romanian consumers on food hazards, awareness on certified labeled food, and to identify the sources of information they trust.

The survey was conducted between December 2018 and April 2019 and involved 985 questionnaires as part of the SafeConsume Horizon 2020 project.

Consumers mainly trusted science books, family advice, and recipe books for reliable food safety information.

Communicating about food safety should involve Romanian authorities and all participants in the supply chain and be part of such strategies developed by agencies and companies.

“A better understanding of food hazards and getting the ability to take risk-based decisions may contribute to reducing the burden of foodborne diseases.”

Romanian consumer behavior
Another study, published in the same journal as part of the same EU project, looked at food safety knowledge, food shopping attitude, and kitchen hygiene practices.

Food safety knowledge was correlated with food shopping attitudes with the latter reflected on kitchen hygiene practices. Consumer knowledge of pathogens influenced kitchen hygiene.

Findings suggest that higher levels of food safety knowledge could lead to an improved attitude towards food shopping priorities and help consumers adopt adequate food safety practices during purchasing in shops and while in their kitchens.

Romanians showed moderate awareness of self-reported kitchen hygiene practices.

“Understanding how Romanian consumers are coping with food hazards at home will enable the development of more targeted interventions of educational campaigns. These campaigns should emphasize on potential sources of contamination, practices that could prevent cross-contamination, and their projections to improve consumers’ food safety practices at home.”

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