Food safety and convenience meals: consumers' actual and perceived behaviours – a mixed methods study

Fiona Lavelle, Claire McKernan, Blain Murphy, Moira Dean*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Foodborne disease remains a significant public health threat and cause for concern. Despite numerous studies indicating that the domestic kitchen is a high-risk area for foodborne illness, consumers believe it is low-risk. The type of food being prepared in the kitchen has drastically changed, with an increased use of convenience products, perceived low-risk products. Little is known about consumers' behaviours with convenience meals. Therefore, it is essential to understand actual and perceived food safety behaviours in their use. 

Methodology: A mixed-methods approach using in-home observations and semi-structured interviews was undertaken with participants from the UK and the Republic of Ireland (N = 50). Observational data was summarized using descriptive statistics and an inductive thematic analysis was conducted to interpret the qualitative data. 

Findings: In this study general food safety behaviours, such as handwashing, use-by date checking, as well as identifying obvious safety hazard were suboptimal. However, participants' convenience meal safety behaviours were as optimal as possible with the provided instructions. The qualitative data supported the participants' struggle with the provided on-packet instructions. They also displayed participants' uncertain perceptions around different products, for example if oven-products could be reheated multiple times, and varying levels of concern around meat and dairy products. Consumers urged for more detailed and clearer instructions with these products. Recommendations for producers are provided to enhance consumer experience with the use of the products as well as contributing towards ensuring consumer safety. 

Originality/value: Mixed-methods approach investigating consumers' real and perceived food safety behaviours.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Food Journal
Early online date24 Jan 2023
Publication statusEarly online date - 24 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank all of the participants for taking the time to share their views for this study. This material is based upon work supported by safefood, The Food Safety Promotion Board, under Grant No. 06/2019.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Behaviour
  • Consumers
  • Convenience foods
  • Food safety
  • Producer recommendations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)


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