Implementation of Behavior-Based Training Can Improve Food Service Employees’ Handwashing Frequencies, Duration, and Effectiveness

Heyao Yu, Jay Neal, Mary Dawson, Juan M. Madera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Personal hygiene is a significant risk factor that contributes to foodborne illness. Appropriate handwashing behaviors can significantly reduce this risk; however, knowledge-based training alone may be insufficient to prompt preventive food safety practices. An improved, more effective food safety training approach that can directly influence employees’ behavior is strongly recommended. The main objective of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of behavior-based food safety training on improving food handlers’ handwashing practices and frequency. Four of the nine critical behaviors that help effectively prevent the spread of pathogens and control food safety hazards were identified as target behaviors, and handwashing frequencies and durations were also included as measures of handwashing performance. A four-phase within-group experimental study with a behavioral motivation intervention was conducted. Employees’ handwashing behaviors were videotaped and coded by researchers. Results indicated that knowledge-based training alone failed to improve employees’ handwashing performance, especially when employees had multiple work tasks simultaneously during the busy meal service time. In comparison, the behavior-based training approach was effective in improving employees’ handwashing performance and frequency. More specifically, proper rates of all the critical behaviors measured were significantly increased during the motivational phase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-77
Number of pages8
JournalCornell Hospitality Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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