Ethnic Foods Safety

A Basic Primer on Mainstream Ethnic Foods and Their Safety

This research project entitled “Mainstream Ethnic Foods of Concern in the U.S. Marketplace and Their Impact on Food Safety,” was funded by USDA CSREES Award# 2008-51110-04332.

Principal Investigator: Aurora A Saulo, Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences University of Hawai`i at Manoa.

Project Collaborators: Hawaii Food Manufacturers Association, Hawaii Food Industry Association, Hawaii Restaurant Association, Hawaii Department of Health.

In 2008, there was very little published information in the scientific literature on the safety of ethnic foods in the U.S. and specifically, ethnic foods that are now found in American mainstream cuisine (we call these “mainstream ethnic foods”). Much of the publicly accessible information were developed by and were in the possession of food inspectors. Other information is available but access is restricted because they are private properties. Since the demand for new ethnic foods will continue and the American consumer will most likely purchase them in a restaurant or a retail food store, food establishments will continue to influence the wholesomeness and safety of these foods. There is a critical need for science-based information on the safety of ethnic foods. To address this need, the Project Collaborators started this project by defining the meaning of mainstream in order to demonstrate which ethnic foods had joined mainstream cuisine. Please use this link to gain access to the results of the study on the definition of mainstream.

Some publications developed during this preliminary study are:

Saulo, A.A., Moskowitz, H.R., and Rustia, A.S.  2013.  Going Mainstream—What does this really mean anyway?  Journal of Food Products Marketing 19 (3): 153-175..

Saulo, A.A. and Moskowitz, H.R.  2010.  Uncovering the Mind-sets of Consumers towards Food Safety Messages.  Food Quality and Preference 22:422-432.

The Project Collaborators then conducted an online survey of federal, state, local, and tribal food inspectors to identify publicly accessible information on ethnic foods of concern to the US Marketplace. Results of the survey were then used (1) to identify current mainstream ethnic foods; (2) to identify food safety concerns on these mainstream ethnic foods and recommended solutions, if any; and (3) to identify or propose the scientific basis of the recommended food safety solutions on selected mainstream ethnic foods of concern to the US marketplace through laboratory analyses. We developed website of Mainstream Ethnic Foods identified since 2008.

Website of Mainstream Ethnic Foods (2013 Edition)

Because interest on ethnic foods is increasing as the demographic population becomes increasingly diversified, the Project Collaborators expect this website to change with time. We are requesting readers to let us know what other ethnic foods they think have entered Mainstream cuisine, perhaps specific to their geographical area, with supporting data if possible. Please contact us at and we will include your suggestions in the website.

We also developed a manual on safe food handling of Mainstream Ethnic Foods to supplement the website.

Supplemental Manual (2013 Edition)

  • Mainstream Ethnic Foods of Concern in the US Marketplace and Their Impact on Food Safety (PDF Version)


The United States accepts more legal immigrants as legal permanent residents than does any other nation in the world, with the consequence that its demographic composition is constantly shifting. As demographics change, the notion of a traditional ‘White majority’ is evolving to minorities other than White, which in aggregate will exceed 50% of the population (majority-minority). With this evolving, increasing majority-minority population, people will be exposed to many new foods, food customs, and practices.

We investigated the behavioral economics of these foods, from the point of view of the customer. Just what is the dollar value of these Mainstream Ethnic Foods, foods that have now become part of the American cuisine? Our presentation introduces the application of a new science of the every-day experience, the science of Mind Genomics®, and its application to understand the dollar value of the food experience.

Saulo, A.A., Moskowitz, H.R., and Livshits, N. July 27, 2015. Consumer Relations of Food and Health Among Non-White Consumers. A presentation delivered at the International Association for Food Protection Conference. Portland, OR.

Saulo, A.A., Moskowitz, H.R., and Livshits, N. October 10, 2014. Will it sell in Peoria?  A seminar delivered at the Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa. Honolulu, HI.