Assessment of food safety knowledge, self-reported practices, and microbiological hand hygiene levels of produce handlers in Qatar
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Food handling across the custody chain from production to consumption is one of the most important stages in which microbes can enter food from infected food handlers or due to cross-contamination. The wholesale produce market (WSPM), located in Doha, Qatar, is a good example of a custody chain in which a large amount of produce from different origins are purchased daily by restaurants, retailers, and individuals. However, no information is available on the food handling practices applied at the WSPM. Hence, this study was conducted to assess the self-reported hygiene practices and food safety knowledge of produce handlers at the WSPM as a baseline for food safety outreach. One hundred twenty produce handlers participated in this study to complete a structured questionnaire assessing food safety knowledge and hygiene practices. In addition, survey respondents' hands were swabbed to determine microbiological hand hygiene levels. Survey results revealed that none of the produce handlers had food safety knowledge or received training on safe produce handling practices. The median age group was 31 to 40 years, and over 57% had less than high school education. The level of self-reported knowledge on “food safety practices” displayed by produce handlers was not influenced by demographically based differences (e.g., age and years of experience), except education level. Note that 77% of produce handlers claimed to wash their hands four times per day; however, this good self-reported practice was not reflected in the microbial assessment of produce handlers' hands that had total aerobic and coliform counts ≥2 log CFU/cm2. Bacillus circulans (40%), Staphylococcus sciuri (25%), and Klebsiella pneumoniae (17%) were the most common bacteria isolated from produce handlers' hands. These findings may help public health agencies in Qatar establish guidelines for compulsory on-site training for produce handlers to improve knowledge on safe produce handling.
- Biological & Environmental Sciences [296 items ]