Researchers have developed a new smartphone app that could replace the traditional clipboards to help food inspectors inconspicuously collect data related to food safety observations in restaurants and supermarkets without any fuss.
Food safety practices used by food handlers are often monitored for research, inspection and regulatory purposes. However, if surveillance is not concealed, it can result in unintended behavioral changes. These changes -- known as the Hawthorne Effect -- can render such observations meaningless.
"Direct concealed observations have been used to minimize the Hawthorne Effect during observational data collection in various settings, but some limitations can include the need to memorize observations or take notes out of sight of those being observed," said Ms Cutter, professor at the Pennsylvania State University in US.
The app helps create of checklists to record aspects such as hand hygiene, the adequacy of hand-washing facilities, the temperature in coolers holding ready-to-eat foods and the presence of potentially hazardous foods.
It allows observers to easily add photos, audio, videos and open-ended notes to their reports. "The app can be used as a non-threatening tool to make direct, concealed behavioral observations and no one will ever realize you are doing it," Cutter added.
The study was published in the journal Food Protection Trends