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Mbhatsani Hlekani Vanessa.
University of Venda, South Africa

Hlekani Vanessa Mbhatsani is a Lecturer of Nutrition at the University of Venda and a registered Nutritionist with the Health Professional Council of South Africa. She has received both her undergraduate BSc and MSc in Public Nutrition at the University of Venda. As a Post-graduate student she was given an opportunity to perform Research and Teaching Assistant functions. This provoked the teaching and research interest that led her to applying for the lecturing position after completion of her MSc. To enhance her teaching responsibilities, she persuaded a Post graduate Diploma in Higher Education at Rhodes University. She is currently studying towards her PhD with Stellenbosch University. Her research areas of interest include micronutrients, role of indigenous foods in health and nutrition, child nutrition and food security. She is a co-author of chapter six in a book titled “Community Nutrition for South Africa; A Right Based Approach”. She has presented her work both in national and international conferences and only published a few articles in peer reviewed journals


Background: Globally the prevalence of overweight and obesity is increasing at an alarming rate. The convenience that many highly processed foods offer may also encourage unhealthy eating patterns, such as skipping meals and over consuming calories. There is therefore reason to believe that high consumption of ready-to-consume food products in general, is a cause of NCDs. Objectives: To investigate consumers’ perceptions and purchase behaviour towards processed foods among university students. Methodology: The study design was convergent parallel mixed methods where in qualitative and quantitative methods were used to collect data. Purposive sampling was used to select the sampling frame and 150 students were conveniently selected. An interview guide and interviewee administered questionnaire were used to collect data from individual students. A tape recorder, researcher’s notes and a peer notes were used to record qualitative data. Qualitative data was analyzed using thematic analysis wherein the process of triangulation was followed and Quantitative analysis was done using a software. Results: Most consumers 45% understood processed foods as foods which have additives that keep them fresh and prolong their shelf life. About half of consumers 56.7% perceive processed foods as having negative health effects. Qualitative data show that consumers believed that these foods when consumed regularly may lead to overweight”. All consumers 100% in this study purchase bread, canned beans and fish, potato chips (80%), vetkoek(doughnut without cream) (69%) and breakfast cereals (45%) regularly. However, cheese, polony, viena and ready to eat meals were purchased once a week. The reasons for buying processed foods were mainly convenience (43.3%), consumers gave other reasons such as affordability, and good taste, and this was mentioned by 5% of consumers respectively. Conclusion: In conclusion all consumers had knowledge about processed foods based on the researcher’s discretion. Although these were university students they had negative perception towards processed foods. Key words: consumers, processed foods, behaviour, purchase and students

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