Food Safety Knowledge and Hygiene Practices Among Orange Fleshed Sweetpotato (Ofsp) Puree Handlers: Microbial Contamination in Puree Processing Company in Kenya and Impact of Training
Orange Fleshed Sweetpotato (OFSP) puree is an important functional food ingredient currently being utilized in bakery applications by one of the largest retail outlet in Kenya. There is, however, limited information on the state of food safety along OFSP puree value chain in Kenya. The current study was designed and conducted in three phases and aimed at determining the level of food safety knowledge and hygiene practices of OFSP puree handlers; determining the sources of microbial contamination in OFSP puree processing plant; and evaluating the impact of food safety training on knowledge and hygiene practices of OFSP puree handlers and microbial contamination levels in OFSP puree processing plant in Kenya. In the first objective, food safety knowledge and practices was assessed separately among 14 food handlers at the OFSP puree processing plant and another 21 food handlers at the bakery using a self-administered structured questionnaire. In the second objective, the level of microbial contamination of equipment, personnel, installations and OFSP samples at different stages of processing was determined in 62 samples. In the third objective, the impact of food safety training on food handlers’ knowledge and practices as well as on the level microbial contamination in OFSP puree processing plant was evaluated based on results from objective 1 and 2. Results showed low but significant (p<0.05) level of knowledge on food safety among food handlers at the puree processing plant and at the bakery with scores of 72% and 75%, respectively. OFSP puree handlers at the bakery demonstrated significantly (p<0.05) better practices (84%) compared to food handlers at the puree processing plant with a score of 73%. Training had a significant impact on knowledge (p=0.020) and practices (p=0.006) with majority of the OFSP puree handlers (63%) having received a training on food safety. A significant moderate positive correlation existed between knowledge and practices (r=0.358, p=0.035). As per adjusted linear regression analysis, food hygiene practices significantly (p=0.045) increased by 0.32% with one unit increase in knowledge. Unacceptably high microbial counts (>105 cfu) were detected on food equipment surfaces, installations, personnel hands and in packaged sweetpotato puree. The counts in OFSP cooked roots significantly (p<0.05) reduced after steaming but the counts significantly (p<0.05) increased in the puree due to post-processing contamination. Total counts, yeast and molds, Enterobacteriaceae, total coliforms, E. coli and S. aureus counts in OFSP puree were 8.0, 4.0, 6.6, 5.8, 4.8 and 5.9 log10 cfu/g, respectively. The level of food safety knowledge and practices of food handlers at the OFSP puree processing plant significantly (p<0.05) improved after training. Similarly, microbial counts on equipment surfaces, installations, personnel and in OFSP puree significantly (p<0.05) declined to acceptable levels for food processing after food safety training. In conclusion, food handlers at the puree processing plant displayed low level food safety knowledge and poor hygiene practices that contributed to high microbial contamination in OFSP puree. The current study also reveals food safety training as an effective tool for improving knowledge and hygiene practices of food handlers and microbial quality foods. The study recommends hygiene inspection of the puree processing plant and training in food safety be carried out frequently to improve the quality and safety of OFSP puree for use as a ready-to-eat food or as a food ingredient.
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