Researchers find independently owned ethnic restaurants have more food safety violations

Feb 16, 2010

Diners who are skeptical of the food safety practices in ethnic restaurants have new research to back up some of their assumptions.

In a study of independently owned restaurants in 14 Kansas counties, Kansas State University researchers found a significantly higher number of food safety violations in ethnic restaurants than in nonethnic restaurants. The next step for their research is to understand the reasons for these differences and to work alongside restaurant operators to remedy the problems.

Leading the study were Junehee Kwon, associate professor, and Kevin Roberts, assistant professor, both of the department of hospitality management and dietetics. They found that independently owned ethnic restaurants had significantly more violations for several food safety categories, including time and temperature control, and proper use of utensils. The independent ethnic restaurants in the study also had more inspections than their nonethnic counterparts. Kwon said many of those repeat visits were driven by customer complaints.

The research will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Food Protection Trends. Co-authors are Carol Shanklin, dean of the K-State Graduate School, and Pei Liu and Wen S.F. Yen, doctoral students in human ecology.

Because independent operations don't have the support of a corporate office that sets policies and organizes food safety training programs, the researchers would like to see their studies help independently-owned ethnic restaurants improve their food handling and, eventually, food safety records.

Underscoring the importance of this study, Kwon said U.S. census data indicate that restaurants are one of the most common businesses for immigrants to start.

"There are some challenges to ethnic restaurants," Kwon said. "We can't tell what they are yet. We don't know what operators know and think about opening a restaurant in the United States and following the regulations. It's likely they have different perceptions of the risk of inadequate food safety, as well as the language barrier."

Roberts and colleagues are pursuing funding to study the barriers that keep employees from understanding and practicing food safety techniques. His co-principal investigators are Kwon and Kevin Sauer, assistant professor in the department of hospitality management and dietetics.

"What we want to do with the new project, should it be funded, is to look at whether it is a cultural thing and learn what we can do in food training programs," Roberts said. "Now, programs only deal with knowledge, but it doesn't persuade people to change their behaviors."

Kwon said she looks forward to working with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Dallas and hopes to collaborate with Hispanic Chambers of Commerce in Kansas locations to reach more restaurant owners and employees. She said collaborating with owners on research can be difficult because of skepticism that some immigrants have about government involvement in their businesses.

To understand different food safety perceptions among foreign nationalities, Roberts and a graduate student are pursuing research that will ask international students at K-State about their countries' cultural norms and food safety attitudes.

Explore further: Philosopher uses game theory to understand how words, actions acquire meaning

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Restaurant inspections -- public perceptions vs. reality

Apr 29, 2008

Foodborne diseases cause an estimated 76 million illnesses in the U.S. each year with about half associated with restaurant meals. More than 70 billion meals per year are purchased in restaurants in the U.S., accounting for ...

NYC considers new move to fight fat

Oct 30, 2006

The New York City Board of Health is considering a move that will take some of the joy out of eating comfort food like tacos, pizza and French fries.

You're likely to order more calories at a 'healthy' restaurant

Aug 29, 2007

An important new study from the Journal of Consumer Research explains the “American obesity paradox”: the parallel rise in obesity rates and the popularity of healthier food. In a series of four studies, the researchers reveal ...

Recommended for you

Extra time in math class has its minuses, scholar says

20 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Eric Taylor, a PhD student at Stanford University's Center for Education Policy Analysis, found that students who spent more of the school day in math class had higher math scores, but the gains ...

Help wanted: Principals who love change

Jul 17, 2014

Training principals for new roles is key to U.S. Department of Education school reforms, according to a new report by SMU researchers. But insufficient training and support for principals to meet the new expectations is leading ...

User comments : 0