Completed project: Sustainably raising consumer awareness

Proper handling of raw meat prevents the transmission of resistant pathogens. Researchers show how it can be taught.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria from animal sources can be transmitted to people in various everyday situations. Handling raw poultry and caring for household pets are particularly relevant according to a survey of numerous experts carried out by researchers as part of the NRP 72 project. Based on this risk assessment, they have developed and tested various intervention strategies to raise consumer awareness of safe behaviour.

Emotions dominate when caring for household pets

The team under Vivianne Visschers from the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) first ascertained how consumers evaluate the relevant transmission risks in comprehensive interviews. They examined the findings and expanded on them with an online survey of a representative sample of German-speaking consumers. This enabled them to identify existing knowledge gaps and determine the psychological factors behind the consumers' behaviour.

They found that very different psychological factors were dominant when handling food and in contact with household pets. For example, correct preparation of raw meat depended largely on whether a person was persuaded that their own behaviour would actually make a difference. On the other hand, contact with household pets is often influenced by more complex factors depending on the status of the animal in the household and is often associated with strong emotions.

Interventions for correct handling of raw meat tested

​Based on the findings obtained, the researchers developed various intervention strategies, such as fact sheets and instructional videos to raise awareness of risks among consumers and motivate them to adopt safer behaviour. The instructional videos proved to be the most promising measure in a series of experiments. The researchers then tested their use in relation to handling raw poultry in a longer online study over four months involving several hundred participants. They were divided into three groups: in one group, the researchers first ascertained the individual behaviour and motivation of each person and then put together a targeted intervention. In the second group, all participants received the same intervention, and in the third group, there was no intervention.

Higher motivation through tailored interventions

​The behaviour of the participating consumers improved in general and regardless of the type of intervention over the four-month duration of the study. The researchers assume that participation in the study itself already had a significant effect on the participants and raised their awareness. However, further analysis revealed differences in the personal motivation of the participants. Those who received a tailored intervention were more strongly persuaded of the effectiveness of their own behaviour at the end of the study and were prepared to also implement other measures.

The project findings support professionals in developing interventions to promote safe handling of foods and contact with household pets. They illustrate the decisive psychological factors that need to be taken into account. The materials developed and tested in the project also already provide a basis for sustainably promoting safe handling of food.

​August 2022