Food handlers' knowledge of food waste and waste and waste prevention practices in supermarket kitchens in Soweto, South Africa

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Xaba, Philisiwe Happy
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Vaal University of Technology
Background: Food waste in the foodservice units, which include supermarket kitchens, occur due to factors related to the menu such as the lack of careful menu planning, improper procurement of the menu items, lack of menu execution and improper practices during the distribution of meals. Also, improper refrigeration and storage facilities at optimal temperatures to maintain product’s shelf life contribute to food waste in foodservice units. Food waste management is a significant challenge globally and locally. Purpose of the study: To determine the knowledge on food waste and waste prevention practices of food handlers in supermarket kitchens in Soweto. Methods: A quantitative, descriptive research design was chosen to determine the knowledge and food waste prevention practices of food handlers. The population was 11 branches of supermarkets represented by one of the five largest franchise stores in South Africa with approximately 20 to 35 food handlers employed by each supermarket (± 220 total) as indicated by management. Only three supermarkets gave permission for the study. From the population, the survey system calculator was used to calculate the sample size (n=107). Purposive sampling was used to select the supermarkets and participants were conveniently sampled. A questionnaire based on reviewed literature was developed by the researcher to determine food handlers’ knowledge on food waste. An existing observation checklist was also amended for this study. Before the observations began, the researcher was alert about the reactivity problems. Data were collected during different times of the month, and the observations were conducted at different times of the day in each supermarket to measure the behaviour that was demonstrated by food handlers in the morning and in the afternoon. Collective instances of food waste practices were observed. For this study, descriptive statistics were used (SPSS version 27) to analyse the food waste knowledge of food handlers in supermarket kitchens. Presentation of the results was in the form of graphs, tables and charts. A frequency table was used. Results: The demographic profile of the participants indicated that many participants were women (60.7%) and 39.3% were men. The results suggest that to a larger extent, the food handlers have limited or insufficient knowledge on the customer’s profiles. The general food waste knowledge results was good. However only 47.7% of the respondents agreed that food waste can led to environmental damage. The majority of the responds (61.7%) strongly agreed that careful menu planning contributes towards preventing food waste. Food handles knowledge on food storage was good. Food preparation results reflected a good level of knowledge regarding the appropriate methods of food preparation to minimise food waste. Food handlers’ knowledge results revealed that participants had a moderate (45.4%) level of knowledge of green practices. There was a high level of knowledge on waste separation (82.3%). None of the supermarkets participated in any of the compositing activities to manage food waste. The observation results revealed poor waste prevention practices as influenced by the lack of menu planning. Lastly, menu planning results indicated that staff members recognise the importance of careful menu planning (61.7 percent strongly agreed) contributing towards preventing food waste. Factors and actions that were observed on food handler’s practices were mostly correct (56.7%) and 43.3 percent of the practices were lacking during food production in the kitchen. The results of the current waste prevention practices of food handlers in supermarkets revealed the necessity to develop food handlers’ guidelines. Conclusion and recommendations: It is evident that the supermarket food handlers may not be aware of the importance of a menu as a communication tool, which has a major influence on all the aspects of the foodservice unit including food waste prevention and management. Food handlers’ level of knowledge findings on food waste did not align with practices that were observed during meals production in supermarket kitchens. The level of food handlers’ knowledge and waste prevention practices has been determined and the guidelines on food waste prevention practices for this target group has been developed as the basis for further studies.
M. Tech. (Department of Tourism and Integrated Communication, Faculty of Human Sciences), Vaal University of Technology.
Food waste knowledge, Food waste practices, Food handlers, Supermarkets kitchens