Diet Diversity of University Students with Food Allergies and Food Allergen Knowledge and Practices of Catering Staff

Laheri, Zainab (2019) Diet Diversity of University Students with Food Allergies and Food Allergen Knowledge and Practices of Catering Staff. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

[thumbnail of Thesis Document]
PDF (Thesis Document) - Submitted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike.



The incidence of food allergies is becoming extremely prevalent amongst young adults. This period of adolescence is often characterised as a challenging developmental stage. It is one whereby individuals will undergo a period of transition from parental supervision to self-management of their allergy. Firstly, students are more likely to be risk-takers in the realm of food and hence, poor food selection behaviour is a common practice amongst these individuals. Secondly, whilst avoidance of the offending food is the cornerstone of management for those with food allergies, this can often lead to an excessive consumption of foods rich in fat, salt and sugar. Finally, with the responsibility of the food allergy now on the adolescent, these students will also be reliant upon catering staff to provide them with safe, allergen free food. Additionally, individuals in late adolescence are also reliant on catering staff to prevent and aid the incidence of any food allergic reactions. However, many institutions are not currently equipped to support the needs of students with food allergies.
Thus, the purpose of this research was to understand which factors can influence food choice behaviour, assess the nutritional status of individuals in late adolescence with food allergies, as a means of establishing key nutrients that are lacking and to explore the knowledge and practices of catering staff at a university, to identify any potential gaps.
For the initial phase of the study, student participants were asked to rate on a scale of 1-5 how influential a total of 5 factors (cost, taste, convenience, health and labelling) were, in terms of their food selection behaviour. Statistical analyses in the form of descriptive statistics along with Chi-Squared (2) analysis (to determine gender differences) was used on the demographic results from this study. Additionally, the Mann Whitney U test was used to determine which of the 5 factors were the most influential, along with any gender differences. The second study utilised a widely established food frequency questionnaire to measure student participant’s dietary intake. The software FETA was used to analyse the food frequency questionnaire data. For the final study, participant’s knowledge and perceived practices of catering staff were assessed through means of a questionnaire. Both independent t-tests and one-way ANOVA were used to examine any significant differences on data generated from this questionnaire. Additionally, to quantitatively assess the current food allergen practices of catering staff, food contact surfaces were swabbed for protein residue.
The results indicated that taste and cost were amongst the most influential determinants of food selection for adolescents. Significant differences (p > 0.05) were found between genders for both of these factors. Females were more likely than males to be influenced by cost, whilst for males taste was a greater determinant of food choice. Labelling was found to be the least influential factor, with regards to food choice. Moreover, the overall dietary diversity of adolescents (19-24) was found to be particularly poor, with individuals consuming high amounts of saturated fat, salt and sugar, and lacking in dietary fibre and key vitamins and minerals. Furthermore, catering staff possessed good knowledge and perceived practices of food allergens. No significant differences (p > 0.05) were found in knowledge and perceived practices between gender, age and education level. Interestingly, it was found that although all catering staff had received level 2 food safety training, their current food allergen practices could be further improved.

Repository Staff Only: item control page