S. Crovato, G. Mascarello, A. Pinto, L. Ravarotto

Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie (ITALY)
In the last years the use of serious games has become relevant for education and learning, by allowing learners to acquire new skills and competences in an engaging, interactive environment. It is argued that the multi-sensory environment offered by virtual gaming worlds promote the development of multiple learning styles. These games can contribute to improve higher order cognitive ability such as critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making and collaborative social skills. Some empirical evidence shows that games can be effective tools for enhancing learning and understanding of complex subject matter. Many games have been developed specifically to teach health-related content and to positively modify health-related behaviours. In particular, they have been realized in hygiene field, public safety, healthy eating, AIDS education, obesity prevention, and diabetes treatment, but less in the field of food safety. In Italy the increasing sale and consumption of raw milk are posing many health problems. Since 2004, raw milk consumption was found to be responsible of several out breaks of verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC). Furthermore serious cases of Haemolytic-uraemic syndrome (HUS) were reported in particular among children, one of these had a fatal outcome in 2010. Ad hoc regulations were promoted by the Italian authorities to inform consumers on correct practices for raw milk consumption. However, in 2012, the Italian Ministry of Health underlines the need of implementing communication initiatives to improve consumers’ awareness, since the practice to drink raw milk without boiling it first still raised a severe health problem.
A project involving 807 Italian students (16 -17 years old) was designed by the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, with the aim to inform young consumers on this issue. Starting from the analysis of adolescents’ food habits, behaviours and knowledge towards milk and especially raw milk, an online videogame was realized to communicate microbiological risks to the students. In the game, called "A mysterious poisoning", students help a detective to find out the cause of a food poisoning outbreak. Analysing all steps of the milk supply chain players learn the main crucial moments when milk can be contaminated and discover good practices to manage milk safely. In this way they can test their knowledge and, at the same time, they receive new information on selected topics. The efficacy of the tool was evaluated through two structured questionnaires administered to the students before and after the interaction with the game. Data collected before playing showed the need to enhance risk communication intervention aimed at guarantee consumer protection. After playing the game, students’ knowledge about the risks associated with the consumption of raw milk increased as well as the perception of their exposure to food risks. However data revealed a low level of awareness about practices regarding safe milk storage and correct handling at home. Moreover, the evaluation of critical aspects of the online videogame provided useful information for the implementation of education strategies oriented to disseminate food risk knowledge to students effectively.