Many students are not following recommended food safety and hygiene behaviors and are increasing their risk of food poisoning, according to a survey.

More than half are washing raw chicken at least occasionally and a third do not always wash their hands after handling raw meat, poultry, or fish. More than half also do not always wash their hands after handling frozen chicken products.

An online survey was conducted in February 2022 with 2,921 undergraduate university students from across England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. Initial findings have been published by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) with full results available at a later date.

The survey had a range of themes including knowledge, attitudes, and behavior relating to food safety, food security, diet, and other food-related topics. It identified the experiences and challenges of students living in halls of residence and shared accommodation.

About two-thirds of students said their refrigerators contained food past the use-by date. The same amount reported leftovers kept for more than two days, and 37 percent said there were uncovered (cooked or raw) meats.

Some students stored food that should be kept in a refrigerator or freezer, at room temperature in their bedrooms, or in a non-kitchen area.

Students find it difficult to maintain cleanliness in shared kitchens, with many not following recommended food safety and hygiene behaviors, said researchers.

Past work
A previous study found young people had a limited understanding of foodborne microbes and underestimated the risks and consequences of illness.

Researchers from the project SafeConsume interviewed 156 people aged 11 to 18 in England, France, Hungary, and Portugal about their food hygiene education, attitudes toward foodborne illness, and food safety behaviors. Findings were published in the journal Education Sciences.

Students had good knowledge of personal hygiene such as handwashing but did not always follow hygiene rules because of forgetfulness and a lack of facilities. They were not clear about the risks, causes, or consequences of foodborne illness and perceived the home environment as the safest.

The family had a big influence on the skills, knowledge, and behavior of students and was a major factor in whether they followed hygiene practices.

The findings of the study helped with the development of educational resources for students and teachers on food hygiene and safety.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)