Evaluation of food safety knowledge and practices among consumers of foods of animal origin in the Mafikeng Local Municipality, North West Province
Khathutshelo, Munyai Emmanuel
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Knowledge and attitudes on food safety differ from one location to another and it is always important to assess these in order to have an idea on the community's level of knowledge and attitude and their needs in terms of training and awareness in order to close the gaps. The aim of this study was to survey and determine knowledge, attitudes and practices on food safety among consumers with regard to food of animal origin such as meat, meat products, milk and dairy products in Mafikeng Local Municipality, North West Province, South Africa. Unsafe food is the most source of ill-health among 2 billion people worldwide and the cause of one third of deaths each year (National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, 2007b ). In Africa alone, it has been estimated that, each year, 800 000 children die from food-borne related illnesses such as diarrhoea and dehydration (UN, 2004b). Immune compromised people and children are more susceptible as they fall sick and eventually die even from mild food-borne infections. Therefore, the study on the evaluation of knowledge on food safety and practices among consumers will assist and provide insights on implementation of food safety measures by consumers in the Mafikeng Local Municipality, North West Province. The designed questionnaire was subjected to a preliminary validation to measure its clarity, the suitability of wording, and the average time needed for its completion and distributed to taxi ranks, administrative offices, buyers and sellers of street-vended food, people in shopping centres, schools such as Letsatsing Science Secondary School, Matlou High School, Mmabatho High School, colleges, the North West University, primary, secondary health facilities and hospitals. A total of 698 questionnaires were issued to respondents and targeted issues of demographics, knowledge on food safety, attitudes and practices of consumers. The results in this study revealed that in general, majority (65.02% ± 16.64) of respondents answered correctly all questions relating to knowledge on food safety. In addition, a significant relationship (P<0.05) was found between gender, race and education on food safety knowledge by respondents. With regard to attitude and practices, 83.3% of questions were answered correctly by respondents. A significant correlation (P<0.05) was found between gender, race, education of respondents and food safety practices as well as attitude. The correlation obtained between race, knowledge and attitude might be explained by the fact there was no equal number based on race. African respondents were in the majority (80%) while Indians, Coloured and Whites represented the remaining portion of respondents. Although level of education was associated with food knowledge and attitude, 39% of respondents neither had food safety knowledge nor passed the correct attitude towards food safety. Women showed a better understanding, knowledge and practised better in terms of food safety compared to men. This study also revealed that there is a need for consumers to be informed about knowledge on food safety hence, the need for food manufacturing companies, State agencies and consumers to be involved. Creating awareness in terms of safe food handling practices to promote it to consumers should be cherished in order to accept several food safety measures. Educational efforts among senior managers, regardless of gender, should include the most current, research-based scientific facts related to food safety, the link between inappropriate practices and threats to health and preferred delivery methods. With regard to the results obtained, inhabitants of the Mafikeng Municipality are knowledgeable about food safety but there is a need for all stakeholders such as the department of health, education, communication and social and rural development to join efforts in order to improve the consumers' knowledge.