Journal of Food Security
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Journal of Food Security. 2021, 9(4), 160-166
DOI: 10.12691/jfs-9-4-3
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Food Safety and Diversity in the COVID-19 Era: Experiences of Public Health and Settlement Officials with New Immigrants

Saman Rauf1, , Fatih Sekercioglu2 and Mustafa Koc3

1Environmental Applied Science and Management, Yeates School of Graduate Studies, Ryerson University, ON, Canada, M5B 2K3

2School of Occupational and Public Health, Ryerson University, ON, Canada, M5B 2K3

3Department of Sociology, Ryerson University, ON, Canada, M5B 2K3

Pub. Date: November 01, 2021

Cite this paper:
Saman Rauf, Fatih Sekercioglu and Mustafa Koc. Food Safety and Diversity in the COVID-19 Era: Experiences of Public Health and Settlement Officials with New Immigrants. Journal of Food Security. 2021; 9(4):160-166. doi: 10.12691/jfs-9-4-3


Canada has a diverse socio-cultural population, 21.5% of which is comprised of immigrants born outside of the country, a figure now reaching 49.5% in big cities, such as Toronto. This diversity is also reflected in the food culture. While traditional foods carry immense importance for retaining immigrants’ socio-cultural and ethnic identities, the safe handling of cultural foods has been a concern for public health authorities in recent decades. Food handling training programs provided by public health and settlement agencies play a crucial role in educating new immigrants about critical aspects of food safety in households and commercial establishments. Little knowledge is available about main issues related to food safety and how COVID-19 has influenced the related outreach programs of different service agencies. Our study, the first of its kind, identifies knowledge gaps regarding public health risks among recent immigrants regarding food safety practices in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Factors that lead to a decline in access to food safety knowledge among immigrants are identified. Responses of 14 public health and settlement workers working with different immigrant communities were collected through a qualitative online survey. Data were thematically analyzed using NVivo software. Results show that while food safety training and outreach programs are quite beneficial and build on new immigrants’ background knowledge about the critical aspects of food safety, food safety outreach programs offered by different service agencies have been significantly a result of COVID-19. COVID and related health restrictions also worsened the financial challenges faced by new immigrants due to the closure of many foodservice businesses. Results also reveal that food safety infractions among newcomers are mainly due to language barriers and financial constraints. To meet the desired food safety learning targets, there is a need for developing culturally appropriate food safety training for different immigrant groups.

new immigrants environmental health food safety concerns food safety knowledge cultural food practices COVID-19 food safety training

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