Abstracts are the most commonly read part of a journal article, and play an important role as summaries of the articles, and search and screening tools. However, research on abstracts in human biomedicine has shown that abstracts often do not report key methodological features and results. Little research has been done to examine reporting of such features in abstracts from papers detailing pre-harvest food safety trials. Thus, the objective of this study was to assess the quality of reporting of key factors in abstracts detailing trials of pre-harvest food safety interventions. A systematic search algorithm was used to identify all in vivo trials of pre-harvest interventions against foodborne pathogens in PubMed and CAB Direct published from 1999 to October 2009. References were screened for relevance, and 150 were randomly chosen for inclusion in the study. A checklist based on the CONSORT abstract extension and the REFLECT Statement was used to assess the reporting of methodological features and results. All screening and assessment was performed by two independent reviewers with disagreements resolved by consensus. The systematic search returned 3554 unique citations; 356 were found to be relevant and 150 were randomly selected for inclusion. The abstracts were from 51 different journals, and 13 out of 150 were structured. Of the 124 abstracts that reported whether the trial design was deliberate disease challenge or natural exposure, 113 were deliberate challenge and 11 natural exposure. 103 abstracts detailed studies involving poultry, 20 cattle and 15 swine. Most abstracts reported the production stage of the animals (135/150), a hypothesis or objective (123/150), and results for all treatment groups (136/150). However, few abstracts reported on how animals were grouped in housing (25/150), the location of the study (5/150), the primary outcome (2/126), level of treatment allocation (15/150), sample size (63/150) or whether study units were lost to follow up (4/150). Forty-eight (48/150) abstracts reported the name, mode of administration, dose and duration of the intervention(s), while 102 (102/150) reported at least one of these elements. Nine (9/150) abstracts specified that allocation of study units to treatments was randomized, and none of the abstracts reported whether blinding was used (0/150). These results reveal gaps in reporting of methodological features and results. Thus, improving reporting quality in abstracts should be a crucial goal to be pursued by authors, reviewers and journal editors.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.