Washington: A new smartphone app is out now, which would simply the food safety data collection method and replace the old conventional method of food safety observation done at the supermarkets and restaurant by food inspectors. The activities followed by food managers are often inspected by food inspecting authorities for regulatory reasons.
According to Catherine Cutter, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, US says, “This inspection has to be undercover and if it’s not, it might result in an unintentional behavioral change of the food managers. These behavioral changes, known as ‘Hawthorne Effect’ if happen, will certainly produce worthless inspection results.”
Catherine adds further that direct undercover observations are quite effective in reducing the Hawthorne effect while observational data collection up to some extent, but there are few limitations to it like memorizing observations collected or taking the observational data far off from those who are being observed.
The newly available smartphone and tablet app will probably be used for data collecting and direct hidden observations and also break the above limitations.
This app is special because it’s a result of combined efforts of the smartphone app developers and the food safety researchers. It has been laced with all the essential features required for documenting direct under cover inspection of the food managers; like checklist creation to note down hand cleanliness, availability of hand hygiene material, proper temperature control in the coolers and presence of potentially unhealthy food ingredients (which could be accidental or intentional).
With the help of this app, the observers will be able to add photos, videos, audio clips and open-ended notes to their reports.
To check the response of people while using the smartphone as discreet data collection tool, a short survey was conducted by Robson Machado, a doctoral aspirant of the food science department at Pennsylvania State University.
In this survey the public was allowed to view images of individuals using smartphones and clipboards in the retail store. 95% of the participants who looked at the researchers using clipboards suggested that some observation or inspection is going on. While those participants who looked at the researchers using smartphones could hardly make out that any sort of inspection or observation is going on.
Mr. Machado concluded that smartphones are so common and people around are so much indulge in messaging and social media activities that nobody can make out what exactly is being done with the smartphone. Therefore the observer can easily inspect what he wants and appear as if he is just fiddling with his smartphone.
This smartphone app and this study could be of great interest and use for the food researchers and food regulatory professional who handle inspecting the behavior of food managers.
The study was published in the journal Food Protection Trends.