This report presents a study designed to investigate, document, analyse and interpret domestic kitchen practices. The study was intended to generate insights about ‘what goes on and why’ in UK kitchens, to inform the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) thinking about how to reduce the burden of foodborne disease. A key focus of earlier FSA research has been on reported behaviours – the Kitchen Life study took a different approach, to examine what people do, what they say about what they do and the role of the kitchen itself and its assorted things, technologies and resources (chopping boards, microwaves and cupboards, for example).

A qualitative and ethnographic approach was taken to investigate domestic kitchen practices in 20 UK households. The practices of those aged 60+ years and pregnant women are of particular interest to the FSA as these groups are vulnerable to foodborne illness; these household-types were therefore included in the study. The study findings are organised around four themes which broadly relate to where, exactly, kitchen life takes place, how, with whom and why.

Potential pathways to foodborne illness have been highlighted through this study, revealing the way that non-food actions and things interact with food-related activities. This suggests that it is important to consider practices with their meaning and context intact. The findings offer new ways to consider how vulnerability and risk are defined. We suggest that older people (aged 60+ but particularly those aged 80+) have more ‘working against them’ in the home (mobility problems and ageing kitchen appliances for example) which might increase their risk of foodborne illness. Considering a household’s assets (not just economic assets) and coping capacities (e.g. asking for advice about reheating food) may complement an approach which examines why and how households fail to adhere to recommended practice.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of Hertfordshire
Commissioning bodyFood Standards Agency (FSA)
Number of pages74
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2013


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