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SafeConsumE: Safer food through changed consumer behavior: Effective tools and products, communication strategies, education and a food safety policy reducing health burden from foodborne illnesses

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - SafeConsumE (SafeConsumE: Safer food through changed consumer behavior: Effective tools and products, communication strategies, education and a food safety policy reducing health burden from foodborne illnesses)

Reporting period: 2021-11-01 to 2022-10-31

Foodborne illness caused by microorganisms represents a significant health and economic burden. World Health Organisation has estimated that about 23 million people suffer from foodborne illness in Europe each year and nearly 40% of food-borne outbreaks occur in the domestic setting.
The overall goal of SafeConsume was to reduce the health burden from foodborne illness in Europe by suggesting and developing strategies that will help consumers mitigating risk:
•Tools, technologies and products that stimulate safe practices
•Communication strategies that effectively stimulate adoption and market uptake of safer practices and tools/technologies
•Education programmes increasing skills and knowledge and aiding teenagers to handle food safely
•Dynamic, sustainable and inclusive policy models that stimulate and support national and EU level initiatives
Work performed:
Consumer insights were collected through observation and interviews of households, school students, and teachers as well as a household survey covering 10 European countries and >12 000 people. Laboratory experiments simulating consumer behaviours, mapping pathogen spread in kitchens and testing myths were performed. A quantitative microbial risk assessment methodology focused on acute infectious gastroenteritis (AIG) were developed and the contribution of different risk factors on AIG calculated. How different consumer practices contribute to foodborne disease in different regions of Europe were also estimated. An Opportunity Map (OM) identifying the most important ways to help consumers mitigate risk was developed. Based on the OM, functional specification, and concept evaluation, six product prototypes were developed and evaluated for efficacy and convenience. Market launch strategies for refrigeration appliances were tested in a survey covering five countries. A book of ideas presenting design concepts developed in the project has been published and two kitchen tools are expected to be launched commercially in 2023. Based on the country curricula, interviews with teachers and students, and the OM, main learning points for the educational programs were defined. Educational resources including teacher training modules to teach teenagers about food hygiene and safety were developed for six countries and evaluated. Food safety myths were collected and an engaging food safety myth reduction game developed. The game was tested and found effective for changing food safety beliefs and behaviour. Current communication practices and networks of food safety authorities, non-governmental organisations and other actors involved in risk assessment, risk management and risk communication in the European food safety system were mapped through online surveys and in-depth interviews. The food safety advice from authorities to consumers were collected and systemised to enable evaluation of the current advice. Best practices for policy models and risk communication were suggested, including how to balance food safety and other sustainability issues. A wide variety of channels and formats for communication of results was implemented.

Main results:
• A series of educational materials to help young people improve and change their behaviour from the moment of purchasing foods until the moment they eat adapted (language, culture, context) for six countries and available at the e-bug website.
• A food safety app improving food safety beliefs and behaviour available for Android/Apple phones and computers
• High impact key food safety messages for consumers available on the project website and presented at two conferences.
• New kitchen appliances and tools for improved food safety and sustainability, where two are expected to be launched in 2023
• A book of ideas with design concepts for improved food safety available at the project website
• Scientific knowledge about European citizens food handing related to risk and their motivation, capacity and opportunity to mitigate risk, disseminated through 50 scientific publications, Risk behaviour map, an interactive visualisation tool and at numerous conferences
• Transdisciplinary methodology for studying consumer hygiene and translating research into innovation published in a report and in scientific papers
• Tools for risk communicators were developed: A self evaluation tool and toolbox with scientifically proven materials published in three reports
• Policy recommendations on how to balance food safety and other sustainability issues published in a scientific paper
• Results were spread through the website, newsletters, collaborators websites (e.g FoodSafety4EU project), webinars, events for children, teenagers and university students, social media, in scientific conferences, scientific papers, in meetings with stakeholders and via media actors and influencers.
• Food safety advice based on scientific results were disseminated by more than 400 media actors across the world
• A summary with links to all resources can be found at
The following progress beyond the state-of-the-art was obtained:
1. Trans-disciplinary working models were developed and used and will form a platform for future research, innovation and communication.
2. The fieldwork and the household survey provide a unique and comprehensive pan-European overview of what people do, know, and believe with regard to food safety and the occurrence of pathogens in kitchens. This information provides crucial consumer insight for market actors, the scientific society and authorities working with food safety.
3. The results from the model kitchen laboratory studies and risk analyses showed how consumer practices across Europe contribute to higher risk. These findings can be used to develop more effective food safety messages, educational materials and tools for keeping food safe.
4. New methodologies for quantifying risk were developed and will form a platform for future risk assessments.
5. An important barrier for improving food safety is lack of the tools, e.g to keep track of time and temperature. The intervention opportunities and design concepts published is a good starting point for market actors within and outside the project. Six prototype tools and products for domestic use were developed and two products will be launched in 2023.
8. Enhancing young peoples’ knowledge, skills and motivation for safe food choices and food preparation practices is a key for future food safety. Educational materials for students and teaching materials with documented effect on food preparation and storage practices and knowledge have been developed for six countries and launched through the well-established e-Bug programme.
9. Gamification is a new opportunity for reaching consumers. A computer/smart phone game with documented effect on food preparation and storage practices was developed and launched for phones and computer.
10. New food safety messages were suggested and evaluated by the consortium. Hopefully, this will inspire food safety authorities to update their food safety messages to consumers thus reducing foodborne illness.
9. Strategies for improved collaboration between stakeholders (NGOs, GOs and others) and to reach a balance between food safety and other sustainability issues were identified. Tools for risk communicators were developed (self-evaluation tool and toolbox) and will contribute to better risk communication in the future.
Key messages from Safeconsume