International Journal of Food Science

International Journal of Food Science / 2021 / Article

Research Article | Open Access

Volume 2021 |Article ID 9971748 | https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/9971748

Mohammed AL-Mohaithef, "Awareness of Foodborne Pathogens among Students: A Cross-Sectional Study in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia", International Journal of Food Science, vol. 2021, Article ID 9971748, 6 pages, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/9971748

Awareness of Foodborne Pathogens among Students: A Cross-Sectional Study in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Academic Editor: James Owusu-Kwarteng
Received09 Mar 2021
Revised06 May 2021
Accepted11 May 2021
Published22 May 2021

Abstract

Food poisoning associated with microbial pathogens causes millions of foodborne disease cases in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Awareness about foodborne pathogens may play a positive role in the reduction of foodborne illnesses. The present cross-sectional study investigates awareness about five major microbial pathogens (Salmonella, Campylobacter, Staphylococcus, Listeria, and Escherichia coli) among university students () from four major cities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Multiple logistic regression models were used to predict the determinants of inadequate knowledge. Of the 399 study participants, only 34.5% of students knew the above-mentioned foodborne pathogens. Awareness varied by pathogen, and the variations appeared to be related to age, sex, education, and field of study. In comparison to students in health sciences, students in computer sciences were found to be less knowledgeable about foodborne pathogens (OR: 2.85; 95% CI: 1.36-5.99). Our findings suggest that awareness about microbial pathogens is low among students and is associated with their field of study. Effective education programs about foodborne hazards could help improve students’ awareness of microbial pathogens.

1. Introduction

Microbial contamination of food is a major public health concern due to the emergence of foodborne pathogens [1, 2]. More than 250 sources of foodborne diseases have been identified globally [3]. Numerous studies indicate that foodborne outbreaks are becoming more frequent globally and have urged public health interventions [47]. Each year, microbial pathogens cause millions of foodborne disease cases, resulting in many hospitalizations and deaths in Saudi Arabia [8]. The highest proportion of outbreaks was in adults (68.1%), and Salmonella species (81%) was the most common causative agent, followed by Staphylococcus aureus (19%) [9]. In the United States, 31 major pathogens caused 9.4 million foodborne illnesses [10]. Most (58%) illnesses were caused by norovirus, followed by nontyphoidal Salmonella spp. (11%), Clostridium perfringens (10%), and Campylobacter spp. (9%). Between 1964 and 2010, listeriosis cases occurred in 28 (90%) provinces in China, and the overall case-fatality rate was 26% [11]. Due to the increase in foodborne infectious diseases, several food quality regulations have been implemented in various countries [1116]. Foodborne pathogens reduce human health productivity and pose a substantial economic cost to the health system [17, 18]. However, there is a knowledge gap on awareness of microbial pathogens in food, as reported by a recent systematic review and meta-analysis [19]. Food safety efforts generally focus on laboratory examination and physical investigation of the end product, while interventions to improve knowledge on the causes of foodborne illness have received limited attention.

A study in the United States reported low awareness of four major microbial pathogens (Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, and E. coli) among consumers and reported associations with demographics and food safety behaviors [20]. In Jordan, only 65.1% of the study participants knew about foodborne disease. Only 23.1% knew that the presence of Shigella in food can cause illness, and 50.1% have heard of salmonellosis [21]. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, only 49% of consumers have information about Salmonella as a foodborne pathogen. In comparison, only 16% mentioned Campylobacter as a foodborne pathogen [22]. Foodborne illnesses are prevalent in Saudi Arabia, but the number of infection and associated deaths has not been accurately reported. Previous studies have suggested that awareness of foodborne pathogens is related to a better knowledge of safe food handling and preparation principles [23]. A recent study highlighted that consumers with more awareness of foodborne pathogens were more likely to adopt food safety practices [24]. Therefore, evaluating foodborne pathogen knowledge among young individuals is important, as interventions can be implemented to help them develop proper attitudes and skills to understand contemporary food issues to improve public health. The study was aimed at assessing students’ knowledge about five major foodborne pathogens and to predict their knowledge with their sociodemographic profile in Saudi Arabia.

2. Materials and Methods

2.1. Study Design and Participants

A cross-sectional study was designed among registered students at Saudi Electronic University in four significant cities (Abha, Dammam, Jeddah, and Riyadh) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Five hundred random students were contacted to participate in the study; however, only 399 students participated in the survey (79.8% response rate).

2.2. Data Collection

After obtaining informed consent, students were asked to complete the survey. The questionnaire of each respondent was coded to ensure anonymity. Data were collected through interviews by trained enumerators using a validated questionnaire. The questionnaires were completed directly by the respondents. Each questionnaire took approximately 10 to 20 minutes to complete.

2.3. Data Analysis

Statistical analysis of the data was performed using STATA software (version 13.0). Descriptive statistics were used to generate summary statistics. Pearson’s chi-squared test was used to investigate the association between sociodemographic differences in foodborne pathogen knowledge among students. Logistic regression models were constructed to predict the association between students’ knowledge and their sociodemographic profile. Statistical significance was identified at the 95% confidence level ().

2.4. Ethical Considerations

The study protocol was reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board of Saudi Electronic University. Study participants were asked to participate voluntarily and allowed to withdraw from the study if they so desired. Survey results were anonymized and analyzed for interpretation.

3. Results

The sociodemographic characteristics of the study participants are presented in Table 1. Of the 399 study participants, approximately 29.5% resided in the city of Abha, followed by Riyadh (29.0%), Dammam (24.3%), and Jeddah (17.0%). More than half (55.14%) of the respondents were female. Approximately 25.0% of the students were younger than 20 years, with the majority falling in the 20–30-year range. A majority of the respondents (78.70%) studied at the bachelor’s level of a university program, and more than half (58.7%) of the respondents were enrolled in the health sciences program.


Variables%

Age
Less than 2010626.57
20-259523.81
26-3010426.07
Above 309423.56

Sex
Male17944.86
Female22055.14

Educational level
Preparatory year7218.05
Bachelor31478.70
Master133.26

Field of study (specialization)
Health sciences25258.7
Computer sciences4410.3
Languages and theoretical studies5212.1
Administration and business5613.1
Others255.8

Place of residence (city)
Abha11829.57
Dammam9724.31
Jeddah6817.04
Riyadh11629.07

Table 2 represents the association between students’ knowledge of foodborne pathogens and their sociodemographic characteristics. The overall knowledge of foodborne pathogens among students was found to be poor. Only 34.5% of students recognized all five major foodborne pathogens listed in this study. Of the 399 students, only 88 (22%), 43 (10.7%), and 60 (15%) were aware of E. coli, Campylobacter, Staphylococcus, and Listeria, respectively. Approximately 60% of students were aware of Salmonella as a foodborne pathogen. Knowledge of Salmonella was found to be associated with sex (), education (), field of study (), and place of residency ().


FactorsKnowledge of foodborne pathogens+ (34.58)Students recognized at least one of the following foodborne pathogens
E. coli
(22.05)
Campylobacter
(10.77)
Staphylococcus
(15.03)
Listeria
(09.77)
Salmonella
(60.15)

Age
 Above 3027 (19.57)20 (22.73)12 (27.91)11 (18.33)05 (12.82)63 (26.25)
 30-2633 (23.91)32 (36.36)13 (30.23)23 (38.33)10 (25.64)64 (26.27)
 25-2036 (26.09)15 (17.05)05 (11.63)10 (16.67)10 (25.64)57 (23.75)
 Less than 2042 (30.43)21 (23.86)13 (30.23)16 (26.67)14 (35.90)56 (23.33)
Pearson chi (value)0.3270.0690.2660.0930.3080.230

Sex
 Male70 (50.72)44 (50.0)19 (44.19)34 (56.27)15 (38.46)97 (40.42)
 Female68 (49.28)44 (50.0)24 (55.81)26 (43.33)24 (61.54)143 (59.58)
Pearson chi (value)0.0870.2720.9250.0460.3970.020

Educational level
 Master03 (2.17)07 (8.51)03 (06.98)03 (05.00)03 (07.69)09 (03.75)
 Bachelor91 (65.94)73 (8.51)32 (74.42)54 (90.00)28 (71.79)209 (87.08)
 Preparatory year44 (31.88)08 (8.51)08 (18.60)03 (05.00)08 (20.51)22 (09.17)
Pearson chi (value)≤0.0010.0020.3390.0150.221≤0.001

Field of study
 Health sciences52 (37.68)69 (8.51)30 (69.77)51 (85.00)27 (69.23)168 (70.00)
 Computer sciences17 (12.32)04 (8.51)00 (00.00)04 (06.67)03 (07.69)22 (9.17)
 Administration and business24 (17.39)09 (8.51)07 (16.28)05 (8.33)05 (12.82)24 (10.10)
 Languages and theoretical studies28 (20.29)03 (8.51)04 (09.20)00 (0.00)04 (10.26)22 (9.17)
 Others17 (12.32)03 (8.51)02 (04.65)00 (0.00)00 (0.00)04 (1.67)
Pearson chi (value)≤0.001≤0.0010.146≤0.0010.439≤0.001

Place of residence (city)
 Riyadh41 (29.71)21 (8.51)10 (23.26)09 (15.00)09 (23.08)69 (28.75)
 Abha52 (37.68)21 (8.51)11 (25.58)21 (35.00)07 (17.95)58 (24.17)
 Dammam21 (15.22)33 (8.51)17 (39.53)21 (35.00)16 (41.03)73 (30.42)
 Jeddah24 (17.39)13 (8.51)05 (11.63)09 (15.00)07 (17.95)40 (16.67)
Pearson chi (value)0.0080.0130.1000.0290.0580.002

+Students able to recognize all major foodborne pathogens listed in this study. Statistically significant ().

The multiple logistic regression model results suggest that age, sex, and field of study are significant determinants in explaining the pathogen knowledge variables in the study (Table 3). Female students were found to be more knowledgeable (OR: 0.46; 95% CI: 0.21-0.99). In comparison to students in the health sciences, students in the fields of computer sciences (OR: 2.85; 95% CI: 1.36-5.99), administration and business (OR: 1.98; 95% CI: 0.93-4.24), and languages and theoretical studies (OR: 3.62; 95% CI: 1.68 -7.78) were found to be less knowledgeable about foodborne pathogens.


FactorsUnadjusted
OR [95% CI]
Adjusted
OR [95% CI]
value

Age
Above 301.001.00
30-261.15 [0.62-2.11]2.23 [1.13-4.41]0.020
25-201.51 [0.82-2.78]1.18 [0.60-2.31]0.629
Less than 201.62 [0.90-2.94]3.04 [1.47-6.30]0.003

Sex
Male1.001.00
Female0.69 [0.46-1.05]0.46 [0.21-0.99]0.048

Educational level
Master1.001.00
Bachelor1.36 [0.36-5.05]1.96 [0.41-9.31]0.394
Preparatory year5.23 [1.32-20.70]1.17 [0.27-5.06]0.831

Field of study
Health sciences1.001.00
Computer sciences2.70 [1.33-5.46]2.85 [1.36-5.99]0.005
Administration and business3.11 [1.65-5.84]1.98 [0.93-4.24]0.076
Languages and theoretical studies4.08 [2.18-7.63]3.62 [1.68 -7.78]0.001
Others9.91 [3.72-26.43]5.89 [1.90-18.25]0.002

Place of residence (city)
Riyadh1.001.00
Abha1.44 [0.85-2.43]0.90 [0.36-2.23]0.824
Dammam0.50 [0.27-0.93]0.62 [0.29-1.33]0.223
Jeddah0.99 [0.53-1.86]0.85 [0.40-1.79]0.679

Note: Independent variables for the multiple logistic regression model analysis included age, sex, education, field of study, and place of residence. +Students not able to recognize any one of the foodborne pathogens listed in this study. Statistically significant ().

4. Discussion

This study revealed that the majority (65%) of student respondents were not aware of foodborne pathogens. Only 34.5% of students recognized all the major foodborne pathogens listed in this study: only 88 (22%), 43 (10.7%), 60 (15%), and 39 (9.8%) were aware of E. coli, Campylobacter, Staphylococcus, and Listeria, respectively. Salmonella was a well-known pathogen among our study participants, and similar findings were reported in other studies [25]. Our study shows that there is a need for health education programs for students, especially those emphasizing foodborne pathogens. A similar study conducted in Taif, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, revealed the lack of knowledge among people on foodborne pathogens. In that study, only half of the participants knew about salmonellosis, the most commonly known cause of food poisoning, 27% had information about hepatitis, and 22% had knowledge of E. coli [22]. Similarly, a study from Jordan showed that 76.9% (three-fourths) of the respondents had not heard of Shigellosis and did not know that it could be transmitted to humans through food [21]. A review study from Saudi Arabia highlights the magnitude and determinants of food poisoning internationally and in the Kingdom [8]. Another review pointed out that older adults’ awareness of Listeria varies between 33 and 58%, with a median understanding of only 40% [19].

Compared to previous studies, our study findings indicate the following important points about pathogen awareness among students in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. First, more students said they had heard of Salmonella (60.15%) than the other foodborne pathogens. Second, students’ with a health science background were significantly more informed about Salmonella (70%) than students with other backgrounds. Third, male students (40.42%) were less informed about foodborne pathogens than female students. Our study findings suggest that awareness of different pathogens (Salmonella, Campylobacter, Staphylococcus, Listeria, and Escherichia coli) among students is related to their field of study. As reported, health science students are more aware than their peers in other programs of study. This may also suggest that health science students have better access to microbial food safety information. Female students are more knowledgeable about pathogens than their male counterparts. This may be because of their food handling behavior and access to food safety information.

Furthermore, students are a known high-risk population for foodborne illness due to their high-risk eating behavior [21, 2628]; imparting to them the knowledge of pathogen-specific unsafe food sources and prevention practices may help in changing their behaviors. As suggested by numerous studies, our findings also highlight that promoting understanding of microbial pathogens in food to students is necessary. It could be an essential intervention in reducing the burden of foodborne disease in Saudi Arabia.

5. Limitations

Our study cannot rule out other confounding variables in predicting students’ awareness levels. One of the study’s limitations is that it measured self-reported knowledge on foodborne pathogens, and respondents could over/underreport their understanding of pathogens. Moreover, the study is focused on students in university settings and cannot be generalized.

6. Conclusions

Considering the results, it is concluded that the study participants in Saudi Arabia were poorly informed about major foodborne pathogens (Salmonella, Campylobacter, Staphylococcus, Listeria, and Escherichia coli). Among the five pathogens, students were more informed about Salmonella and showed a lower level of awareness of other pathogens in food. There is a need to conduct food safety education programs for university students to improve their level of awareness about foodborne pathogens.

Abbreviations

E. coli:Escherichia coli.

Data Availability

The data sets used and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Ethical Approval

This study was approved by the Institutional Research Ethics Committee, Saudi Electronic University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Written consent was obtained from all the study participants before participation.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares that there are no competing interests.

Authors’ Contributions

MAM made substantial contributions to the conception and design and oversaw data collection and curation and the writing of the manuscript. MAM performed the statistical analysis and approved the submitted version of the manuscript.

Acknowledgments

The author would like to express his gratitude to the Deanship of Scientific Research, Saudi Electronic University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

References

  1. E. Dumen, G. Ekici, S. Ergin, and G. M. Bayrakal, “Presence of foodborne pathogens in seafood and risk ranking for pathogens,” Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, vol. 17, no. 9, pp. 541–546, 2020. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  2. O. A. Odeyemi, “Public health implications of microbial food safety and foodborne diseases in developing countries,” Food & Nutrition Research, vol. 60, no. 1, p. 29819, 2016. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  3. E. Scallan, R. M. Hoekstra, B. E. Mahon, T. F. Jones, and P. M. Griffin, “An assessment of the human health impact of seven leading foodborne pathogens in the United States using disability adjusted life years,” Epidemiology and Infection, vol. 143, no. 13, pp. 2795–2804, 2015. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  4. A. H. Havelaar, M. D. Kirk, P. R. Torgerson et al., “World Health Organization global estimates and regional comparisons of the burden of foodborne disease in 2010,” PLoS Medicine, vol. 12, no. 12, article e1001923, 2015. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  5. S. Hoffmann, B. Devleesschauwer, W. Aspinall et al., “Attribution of global foodborne disease to specific foods: findings from a World Health Organization structured expert elicitation,” PLoS One, vol. 12, no. 9, article e0183641, 2017. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  6. M. F. Lynch, R. V. Tauxe, and C. W. Hedberg, “The growing burden of foodborne outbreaks due to contaminated fresh produce: risks and opportunities,” Epidemiology and Infection, vol. 137, no. 3, pp. 307–315, 2009. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  7. F. Yeni, S. Yavaş, H. Alpas, and Y. Soyer, “Most common foodborne pathogens and mycotoxins on fresh produce: a review of recent outbreaks,” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, vol. 56, no. 9, pp. 1532–1544, 2016. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  8. Y. Y. Al-Mazrou, “Food poisoning in Saudi Arabia. Potential for prevention?” Saudi Medical Journal, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 11–14, 2004. View at: Google Scholar
  9. A. S. Al-Goblan and S. Jahan, “Surveillance for foodborne illness outbreaks in Qassim, Saudi Arabia, 2006,” Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, vol. 7, no. 12, pp. 1559–1562, 2010. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  10. E. Scallan, R. M. Hoekstra, F. J. Angulo et al., “Foodborne illness acquired in the United States—major pathogens,” Emerging Infectious Diseases, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 7–15, 2011. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  11. Y. Feng, S. Wu, J. K. Varma, J. D. Klena, F. J. Angulo, and L. Ran, “Systematic review of human listeriosis in China, 1964-2010,” Tropical Medicine & International Health, vol. 18, no. 10, pp. 1248–1256, 2013. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  12. D. Al-Kandari and D. J. Jukes, “A situation analysis of the food control systems in Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries,” Food Control, vol. 20, no. 12, pp. 1112–1118, 2009. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  13. SFDA GRASF, https://grasf.sfda.gov.sa/.
  14. FAO, Food Safety and Quality: Country Page, http://www.fao.org/food/food-safetyquality/gm-foods-platform/browse-information-by/country/country-page/en/?cty=TUN.
  15. N. A. Ibrahim and A. M. H. Abdel-Haleem, “Food regulations and enforcement in Egypt,” Reference Module in Food Science, pp. 1–6, 2016. View at: Google Scholar
  16. A. Cortas, “The food safety law in Lebanon: what is next?” Advanced Technology in Clinical Microbiology, 2017, http://www.imedpub.com/articles/the-food-safety-law-in-lebanon-what-is-next.pdf. View at: Google Scholar
  17. S. Hoffmann, M. B. Batz, and J. G. Morris, “Annual cost of illness and quality-adjusted life year losses in the United States due to 14 foodborne pathogens†,” Journal of Food Protection, vol. 75, no. 7, pp. 1292–1302, 2012. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  18. T. McLinden, J. M. Sargeant, M. K. Thomas, A. Papadopoulos, and A. Fazil, “Component costs of foodborne illness: a scoping review,” BMC Public Health, vol. 14, no. 1, p. 509, 2014. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  19. A. Thaivalappil, I. Young, C. Paco, A. Jeyapalan, and A. Papadopoulos, “Food safety and the older consumer: a systematic review and meta-regression of their knowledge and practices at home,” Food Control, vol. 107, p. 106782, 2020. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  20. C. T. Lin, K. L. Jensen, and S. T. Yen, “Determinants of consumer awareness of foodborne pathogens,” in American Agricultural Economics Association Annual Meeting, pp. 1–32, Denver, Colorado, 2004, https://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/20301/1/sp04li01.pdf. View at: Google Scholar
  21. F. M. Hayajneh, M. A. Alnimer, H. H. Titi, and M. Abu-Zanat, “Public awareness about two foodborne pathogens and food poisoning among consumers in Jordan,” American-Eurasian Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, vol. 16, no. 12, pp. 1769–1775, 2016. View at: Google Scholar
  22. F. M. F. Hayajneh, “Awareness of food borne pathogens and food poisoning among consumers in Taif - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Sky Journal of Food Science, vol. 41, no. 1, pp. 010–014, 2015. View at: Google Scholar
  23. S. F. Altekruse, D. A. Street, S. B. Fein, and A. S. Levy, “Consumer knowledge of foodborne microbial hazards and food-handling practices,” Journal of Food Protection, vol. 59, no. 3, pp. 287–294, 1996. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  24. E. S. Her, B. A. Almanza, J. Ma et al., “Microbial awareness and risk perceptions are key to thermometer ownership and use,” Food Control, vol. 115, p. 107268, 2020. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  25. K. A. Henke, T. Alter, M. G. Doherr, and R. Merle, “Comparison of consumer knowledge about Campylobacter, Salmonella and Toxoplasma and their transmissibility via meat: results of a consumer study in Germany,” BMC Public Health, vol. 20, no. 1, p. 336, 2020. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  26. C. V. Asiegbu, S. L. Lebelo, and F. T. Tabit, “The food safety knowledge and microbial hazards awareness of consumers of ready-to-eat street-vended food,” Food Control, vol. 60, pp. 422–429, 2016. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  27. Y. Cheng, Y. Zhang, J. Ma, and S. Zhan, “Food safety knowledge, attitude and self-reported practice of secondary school students in Beijing, China: a cross-sectional study,” PLoS One, vol. 12, no. 11, article e0187208, 2017. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  28. E. J. Green and P. L. Knechtges, “Food safety knowledge and practices of young adults,” Journal of Environmental Health, vol. 77, no. 10, pp. 18–24, 2015. View at: Google Scholar

Copyright © 2021 Mohammed AL-Mohaithef. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Related articles

No related content is available yet for this article.
 PDF Download Citation Citation
 Download other formatsMore
 Order printed copiesOrder
Views836
Downloads504
Citations

Related articles

No related content is available yet for this article.

Article of the Year Award: Outstanding research contributions of 2021, as selected by our Chief Editors. Read the winning articles.