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Safe food management and smartphone technology : an investigation into the impact of information modalities on consumer knowledge acquisition, retention and perception of capacity for behavioural change


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Bamgboje-Ayodele, AE ORCID: 0000-0002-5629-1236 2018 , 'Safe food management and smartphone technology : an investigation into the impact of information modalities on consumer knowledge acquisition, retention and perception of capacity for behavioural change', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This thesis investigates how the affordances of smartphone technology can be leveraged to enhance the provision of consumer food safety management information and facilitate knowledge retention amongst consumers to support safe food behaviours. This research integrates, within a mobile food safety application, insights from a heuristic framework, a consumer-based usability evaluation and best practice information on safe food management (SFM) from relevant government agencies in Australia. This research directly contributes to understanding of the influence of technology on consumers’ knowledge acquisition, knowledge retention and perceptions of their capacity for behavioural change.

The research methodology employed a mixed method approach that was underpinned by a subjective ontology and a pragmatist epistemology. The research strategy consisted of a case study, a survey, a usability study and a field experiment, which were embedded in a three phase research design and spanned a period of 16 months. The research design consisted of three phases:
In phase one, the preliminary stage explored the boundaries of domestic food safety by investigating the communication of a food firm that had recently experienced a recall situation, through a case study approach, using semi-structured interviews, field notes and document reviews. As mitigating food safety risks is a major source of concern for government authorities, the food industry and other stakeholders, diverse innovative mechanisms focused on monitoring and controlling production processes across supply chains, such as ISO22000 (Varzakas and Arvanitoyannis, 2008), HACCP control systems (Unnevehr and Jensen, 1999), HARPC control systems (Grover et al., 2016), and traceability systems (Regattieri et al., 2007), have been employed to address many of these risks. In this phase, it was revealed that these food safety mechanisms are largely focused on supply chain activities from ‘paddock-to-purchase’ (pre-purchase) as the legal obligations of supply chain partners on food safety tends to be completed once consumers purchase the products (Bamgboje-Ayodele et al., 2016). Thus, mitigating food safety risks during the process of consumption (post-purchase), which entails domestic food management and handling from the point of purchase (purchase) to the point of actual consumption (plate), is largely the responsibility of consumers.

With this focus on consumers, phase one also explored the food handling practices of consumers to identify knowledge gaps on safe food management through a survey of 217 participants living in Australia drawn from the database of an ISO certified consumer panel. Although, the widespread incidence of food poisoning outbreaks through domestic food mismanagement from ‘purchase-to-plate’ is not a new phenomenon; the diversity of consumer characteristics has made finding effective solutions very difficult to address. For example; the varying degree of food safety knowledge of consumers has facilitated many public food safety information campaigns and awareness programs (Verbeke et al., 2007). Despite these efforts, many consumers remain inadequately informed about food safety and continue to engage in unsafe food handling practices. In this phase, it was revealed that consumers particularly had poor knowledge on safe cooking, safe storage and kitchen hygiene. Having identified these knowledge gaps in this phase, there was a need to empower consumers to acquire and retain the knowledge.

With the recent advancement in ICT, one of the easiest and most useful means of informing consumers is through mobile technology due to its pervasiveness. More specifically, through the use of smartphones (Duan et al., 2014), as they provide users with the ability to engage with their phones like a traditional personal computer that is connected to the internet and other data networks with the advantage of portability and mobility (Luxton et al., 2011). This results in a highly personalised nature of smartphones as they embody a user-empowering characteristic (Tossell et al., 2012), thus providing users with an array of capabilities and experiences that are tailored to their interests. One way to demonstrate such level of personalization is the ability to allow users to download diverse mobile applications or ‘apps’ onto their smartphones (Jung, 2014) which affords consumers the opportunity to inform themselves about specific areas of interests such as safe food handling practices.

However, evidence suggests that existing food apps have three key limitations. First, they provide information in silos in relation to the various aspects of domestic SFM for Australian consumers, thus resulting in lack of continuity from one food handling stage to the other. Second, there is insufficient evidence that existing apps have drawn upon information modality studies (Mayer, 2009) which suggest that textual (Blanco et al., 2010), visual (Ha and Lennon, 2010), verbal (Kim and Lennon, 2008) or integrated information influence consumer behaviour pre-purchase. Third, there is insufficient evidence to validate that existing apps were developed based on frameworks guiding mobile health consumer apps, thus questioning whether best practice guidelines were adhered to. To address these three areas, there was a need to design and develop a safe food management smartphone app in this study in a way that targets the identified knowledge gap areas in phase one by;
• Acquiring insights from relevant government authorities about information that encompasses all the various aspects of domestic SFM for Australian consumers;
• Conducting heuristic and consumer-based usability evaluations on existing food apps with different information modalities to provide insights into how they influence consumer responses post-purchase;
• Incorporating a validated health literacy online heuristic (HLOH) framework in the design of the SFM smartphone app;
• And by evaluating the influence of the app integrating these insights and principles on consumers’ knowledge acquisition, knowledge retention and perceived behavioural change, as conducted in this research.

Phase two involved the conduct of a heuristic evaluation of three (text-based app, audiovisual app and integrated app) currently available SFM apps that address the target food handling practice, based on Monkman and Kushniruk’s (2013) HLOH framework. These three apps were selected using the following criteria: it must be focused on endconsumers not professional food handlers; it must contain the appropriate meat cooking temperature and cooking time; and it must be given a minimum of 4 out of 5 star rating. User experiences with the three apps were then investigated through a consumer level evaluation with nine participants, based on quantitative and qualitative information tasks conducted in a focus group session. In this phase, the outcome of both the heuristic and consumer evaluations reveal important lessons that were learnt from the existing apps and incorporated into the design and development of the SFM app.

Phase three involved the implementation of the SFM app and the evaluation of the impact of the app on eight participants. In this phase, baseline data was collected on the participants’ level of knowledge; they were involved in a 4-week field experiment using scenarios where they used the app and where they did not use the app. During this time, data was collected using open and closed questionnaires. Six-weeks after the experiment, the participants were questioned to investigate their perceived knowledge retention and behavioural changes.

The findings reveal that the app induced a higher level of extraneous cognitive load, thus placing a level of demand on the working memory and this resulted in requiring more time to achieve knowledge acquisition. However, it also reveals that the time a learner spends in using the safe food management app which contained visualizations with spoken and integrated text during the information and knowledge acquisition phase may be advantageous in facilitating knowledge retention for a longer period of time than traditional information delivery techniques. In addition, it reveals that skills and attributes of consumers influence how they respond to the safe food management app due to their perceived personal relevance, their individual differences moderating adult learning and their orientation towards cognition.

The key findings that emerged are as follows;
• Multiple modalities are effective in delivering safe food management information to influence knowledge retention when the information delivery tool is designed based on principles derived from an enhanced version of Monkman and Kushniruk’s (2013) HLOH framework.
• Multiple modalities are effective in delivering safe food management information to influence knowledge retention when the information delivery tool is designed based on principles derived from an enhanced version of Monkman and Kushniruk’s (2013) HLOH framework.
• The safe food management (SFM) app requires more time to be spent to achieve knowledge acquisition which resulted in retaining the knowledge for a longer period of time than the traditional information delivery techniques.
• Smartphone apps induce some level of cognitive load in adoption however; the affordance of its reuse for quick but infrequent revisitations facilitates knowledge retention.
• The use of a modified user centred design approach, using a heuristic framework with consumer evaluation outputs as a basis for app development, can support the development of a safe food management app.
• Food related behaviour is intimately linked to the individual’s attributes, habit, knowledge and context of use as the provision of safe food management information does not necessarily result into its use, corresponding knowledge or expected behaviour.

This research has made a number of contributions at substantive, methodological and theoretical levels. At a substantive level, this research provides insights into how the affordances of smartphones can be leveraged to enhance consumer SFM knowledge in an attempt to improve the food management behaviour of Australian consumers. At a methodological level, the research was designed in such a way that the subject area was first explored in phase one, to refine the research area. In addition, the research tested an existing usability framework in phase two and conducted practical field evaluation in phase three. Furthermore, the research employed a non-conventional software methodology by utilising a modified user centred design approach using a heuristic framework combined with consumer evaluation outputs, as a basis for app development. At a theoretical level, this research has provided insights into additional principles that should be combined with Monkman and Kushniruk (2013) HLOH framework when designing a SFM app; thus providing design insights for Information Systems researchers that aim to develop apps that provide information on SFM.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Bamgboje-Ayodele, AE
Keywords: smartphone applications, apps, information modalities, knowledge optimisation, knowledge management, consumer behaviour, food safety
DOI / ID Number: 10.25959/100.00028441
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2017 the author

Additional Information:

Portions of chapter 4 have been published as: Bamgboje-Ayodele, A., Ellis, L., Turner, P., 2015. Supporting 'good habits' through user-led design of food safety applications - findings from a survey of red meat consumers. Paper presented at the Australasian Conference on Information Systems, South Australia. Copyright: © 2015 Adeola Bamgboje-Ayodele, Leonie Ellis, Paul Turner. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 3.0 Australia License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and ACIS are credited. (

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