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  1. Soon JM
    Food Res Int, 2018 06;108:455-464.
    PMID: 29735079 DOI: 10.1016/j.foodres.2018.03.068
    Food allergen labelling is mandatory and regulated whilst precautionary allergen labelling (PAL) remains voluntary in most countries. It is the aim of this study to identify the food allergens declared in food products sold in a developing country and to what extent food allergens and PAL are emphasised in the products. A total of 505 food and beverages (snacks, baked goods, confectionary, baby food, condiments & jams, beverages, powder & paste, instant food, chilled & frozen food and canned food) were evaluated in Malaysia. Soybean represents the largest group of food allergen declared in labels, followed by wheat and milk products. Thirteen variations of contains statement were found with "Contains [allergen(s)]" being the most common (55.02%). There were 22 different types of "may contain" statements with 'May contain traces of [allergen(s)]' being the most common advice labelling used (55.41%). Different font type or emphasis such as brackets (51.57%) and bold font (33.86%) were used to inform consumers about presence of allergens. The national regulations on food allergen labelling are then critically contrasted with other Asian countries and the EU Regulation No. 1169/2011, which represents one of the most stringent food regulations in the world. Improving current allergen labelling limitations and practices would be of great benefit to consumers to prevent risk of food hypersensitivity.
  2. Soon JM
    Food Res Int, 2018 09;111:674-681.
    PMID: 30007732 DOI: 10.1016/j.foodres.2018.06.001
    The aim of this study was to assess food allergen knowledge, attitude and self-reported practices among consumers in Malaysia. An online survey was conducted and data were analysed using descriptive statistics and exploratory factor analysis. A model linking food allergen knowledge and attitude and their direct effects on practices were confirmed using structural equation modelling (SEM). Consumers demonstrated moderate food allergen knowledge in this study but scored highly in their attitude towards food allergens. Although participants scored moderately in food allergen knowledge, this does not necessarily translate into practices. There is a possibility that an increase in food allergen knowledge can increase optimistic bias or a sense of over-confidence to manage allergen risks. Consumers' attitude towards food allergens has a positive and significant influence on practices. A positive attitude represents personal beliefs and reflects the level of motivation and care required to manage food allergens effectively. There was insignificant relationship between food allergen knowledge and attitude. This demonstrates a need to tailor targeted risk communication and learning strategies to influence consumers' practices.
  3. Soon JM
    J Food Prot, 2020 Mar 01;83(3):452-459.
    PMID: 32065648 DOI: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-19-415
    ABSTRACT: Social media offers numerous advantages for personal users and organizations to communicate, socialize, and market their products. When used correctly, social media is an effective tool to communicate and to share food safety news and good practices. However, there have been reports of fake food safety news shared via social media, fueling panic and resulting in a loss of revenue. Thus, this study aimed to investigate the consumers' awareness, trust, and usage of social media in communicating food safety news in Malaysia. A questionnaire divided into five sections-(i) demographics, (ii) reaction to food safety news, (iii) consumers' awareness, (iv) social media truth and level of trust, and (v) social media uses and content creation-was created and shared online. A total of 341 questionnaires were returned of which 339 surveys were valid. This study revealed that less than one-third of the study group (27.1%) knew which of the food safety news were fake. Most respondents (67.8%) were less likely to purchase the affected foods if the foods were featured in social media as problematic, although no differences were made between true and fake news and how that would influence respondents' willingness to purchase affected foods. Overall, 62% of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed about the usage of social media and its ability to prevent food poisoning cases, while more than 50% of the respondents were in total agreement that social media allow consumers to act more responsibly by sharing food safety news. Respondents tended to trust information shared by scientists (67.5%) and family members and friends (33%). Respondents would most often share the news after verifying its authenticity (46%). If respondents experienced a personal food safety issue (e.g., discovered a fly in their meal), they seldom or never took photos to post online (56.1%). It is possible that the respondents preferred to inform the food handlers and/or shop owners about the affected products rather than post the photos online. It is suggested that targeted food safety information and media literacy be provided to improve consumers' awareness and to positively influence self-verification of the food safety information before sharing. This study provides crucial insights for a range of stakeholders, particularly public authorities, food bloggers, and the public, in using social media effectively to build consumers' awareness and trust in food safety information.

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  4. Selvaraju K, Vikram P, Soon JM, Krishnan KT, Mohammed A
    J Food Sci Technol, 2019 May;56(5):2508-2521.
    PMID: 31168133 DOI: 10.1007/s13197-019-03728-3
    Stingless bees are native to tropical region and produce honey which are high in moisture content. Compared to honey from honeybees, there are limited studies on honey derived from stingless bees. Hence, the aim of this study was to evaluate the chemical composition and antioxidant activities of stingless bee honey. Fifteen types of honey were collected from six states in West Coast of Malaysia and pollen analyses were carried out. Four types of unifloral honey samples produced by stingless bees were selected to determine their physicochemical and antioxidant activities including total phenolic, total flavonoid and ascorbic acid contents. Melissopalynological study of 15 honey samples collected from different states showed presence of both unifloral and multifloral origins. Honey samples collected from Apis mellifera (honeybee) combs had lower number of total pollen compared to samples collected from Heterotrigona itama and Geniotrigona thoracica (stingless bees). Jambul Merak honey contains the highest phenolic and flavonoid contents with greatest color intensity and has the highest antioxidant potential. This study highlights the chemical composition and biological activity of honey from stingless bees which may increase its commercial value or to be utilised as potential functional food ingredient.
  5. Soon JM, Wahab IRA, Hamdan RH, Jamaludin MH
    PLoS One, 2020;15(7):e0235870.
    PMID: 32639978 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0235870
    Factors contributing to foodborne illnesses in Malaysia were identified as insanitary food handling procedures and lack of hygiene in food preparation area. Food safety at home is a critical point as consumers represent the final step in food preparation and prevention of foodborne diseases. This study aims to investigate the food safety knowledge, attitude and self-reported practices among consumers in Malaysia. An online survey was conducted, and data were analysed using descriptive statistics and exploratory factor analysis. A model linking food safety knowledge and attitude and their direct effects on practices were confirmed using structural equation modelling (SEM). The proposed model fulfilled the goodness of fit indices and is deemed acceptable. Respondents demonstrate good level of food safety knowledge and positive attitudes and self-reported practices. Food safety knowledge has a negative and insignificant relationship with food safety practices (β1 = -0.284, p>0.05) while attitude significantly affects food safety practices (β1 = 0.534, p<0.05). The findings clearly indicate that food safety knowledge does not directly affect food safety practices This is also the first study to provide new empirical findings on thermometer usage among consumers in Malaysia. This study establishes an important point of reference where consumers use visual appearances to determine if food is thoroughly cooked and practice washing raw chicken prior to cooking. Food safety practices at home play a critical role in protecting consumers in reducing risks of foodborne illnesses.
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