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A global winner

Ryerson grad brings food safety research to an international stage at the Undergraduate Awards in Ireland
By: Madeleine McGreevy
November 23, 2018

Emily Morrison (Occupational and Public Health '18) with Jim Barry, chairperson on the Board of Directors of the Undergraduate Awards, at the Global Undergraduate Summit in Dublin, Ireland.

Emily Morrison (Occupational and Public Health ‘18) was selected as a Global Winner by the Undergraduate Awards, external link, opens in new window for her paper: The missing ingredient: Food safety messages on popular recipe blogs.

Morrison is the first Ryerson student to receive this honour from the largest international academic awards program in the world. Her paper was chosen as the top submission in the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Healthcare category. In total, the Undergraduate Awards received 4,844 submissions from students in 333 universities around the world.  

“It’s a bit surreal,” Morrison says. “It’s exciting when you get a phone call from someone saying ‘we’re going to fly you out to Ireland for this awards ceremony.’”

With the award, Morrison won an all-expense paid trip to Dublin in November to attend the Global Undergraduate Summit  – a three-day networking and brainstorming event – where she presented her research to a global audience.

What did Morrison’s research entail? As part of a research project course offered by the School of Occupational and Public Health, she worked with assistant professor Ian Young to explore whether food safety messages on popular recipe blogs align with government recommendations for safe food handling.

“I’d been reading some studies about celebrity television chefs and how they influence food handling behaviours among their viewers,” she says. “They are poor role models. It’s been found that they don’t use thermometers, they don’t wash their hands – and it influences their viewers to think that these things don’t matter.”

“I was interested in looking at food blogs, because I had never seen a paper looking at that, and I know that basically everyone reads them.”

“This was the first time that anyone had looked at food safety messaging in online recipe blogs,” adds Young. “There were a few other studies that looked at recipe books, but no one had exclusively focused on recipe blogs before.”

Morrison found that food safety safety messages are lacking on recipe blogs. “Only 16.9% of recipes included a recommendation to check the final endpoint cooking temperature [of meat],” she says. “Most of them just said to go by time or check the colour, but that’s not sufficient.”

“About one third of the recipes that did include a cooking temperature gave the wrong temperature,” she adds. “I also saw some blogs that went out of their way to say you should not cook it to this US government recommended temperature because ‘your meat won’t taste good if you do that.’”

What can be done? “I think for public health educators, it would be great to reach out to some of these bloggers...just being aware of who in your community has a voice and is a potential social media influencer and giving them some education in safe food handling,” Morrison suggests.

Morrison was encouraged to submit her paper to the Undergraduate Awards by Young, who served as her research supervisor and co-author. “Ian’s been a great mentor,” she says. “He’s pointed me towards so many opportunities.”

So far, Morrison has presented her research at the International Association for Food Protection Conference in Salt Lake City, the the Ontario Food Protection Association Meeting and the CIPHI Ontario Seminar Series for public health inspectors. The paper has also been accepted for publication in the January issue of Food Protection Trends, external link, opens in new window.

“I’m happy to see all of the outreach that she’s done with [her research],” Young says. “I’m really proud and thrilled that she won and I’m glad I caught the email and told her to apply – because you never know what could happen.”