Protection Motivation Theory and consumers’ food safety behaviour in response to COVID-19

Soon, Jan Mei orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0488-1434 (2022) Protection Motivation Theory and consumers’ food safety behaviour in response to COVID-19. Food Control . ISSN 0956-7135

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The threat of COVID-19 has altered consumers shopping behaviour and increased consumers’ willingness to purchase food using online food delivery services. Consumers were more likely to practice strict hand hygiene measures and were concerned with food safety. Such behaviours were likely driven by the fear and threat of contracting COVID-19. This study aims to use Protective Motivation Theory (PMT) to investigate how COVID-19 affects food shopping and food safety behaviour. An online, cross-sectional study was conducted in Indonesia and Malaysia to determine the protective motivation to engage in three food shopping and hygiene practices such as i) Safe food shopping behaviour; ii) Hand hygiene and avoiding cross contamination; and iii) Use of online food delivery services. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics, Spearman rho’s correlation and binary logistic regression. A total of 1,180 responses were received of which 1,129 were valid. Gender was identified as a significant predictor across all food safety behaviours during COVID-19. Response efficacy and self-efficacy were significant predictors for food shopping behaviour while perceived severity significantly predicted hand hygiene practices after shopping. Age, frequency of food preparation and shopping, perceived severity, perceived vulnerability, response efficacy and self18 efficacy were significant predictors for use of online food delivery services. Our findings suggest that women were more likely to engage in protective measures during food shopping, carry out hand hygiene practices after shopping and use online food delivery services during COVID-19. Participants with higher response and self-efficacy scores were more likely to shop from markets or shops with high hygiene standards while participants who perceived COVID-19 as a serious threat were more likely to clean and sanitise their hands after shopping. Participants also believed that the use of online food delivery services helps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection. However, foods should be purchased from trusted restaurants or takeaways. This is the first study to use Protection Motivation Theory to explore consumers’ food shopping, hand hygiene and online food delivery practices during COVID-19.

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