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Food safety culture: a systems approach

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posted on 07.01.2022, 11:54 authored by Rounaq S. Nayak
Since the evolution of the concept of ‘food safety’, the focus has been on eliminating harmful microorganisms from food. Despite this long-standing approach, there have been a number of food poisoning outbreaks and at times, deaths, in the UK. Reactive measures such as outbreak investigation reports have identified a wide range of factors contributing to these outbreaks – a number of these factors such as relaxed attitudes towards food safety and lack of communication between managers and employees are human factors related which occur at various points within the systemic levels of the UK food system.
To address this issue and understand the complexity of the food system in the UK this research applied a systems approach to food safety. This was carried out in a number of steps: (1) conducting a literature review; (2) performing a socio-technical systems analysis of two of the UK’s largest food poisoning outbreaks using the Accimap approach of systems-based accident analysis in order to highlight the complexity of the UK food system and the complex set of interactions between various causal factors located across the sociotechnical systemic levels; (3) and carrying out an assessment of the current challenges, barriers and future opportunities of food safety culture within the UK food system by analysing 30 stakeholders’ (Environmental Health Officers; Food and Beverage Managers; and Academics) perspectives towards the construct of food safety culture.
The data was analysed and used to develop a toolkit that helped assess the food safety culture of food businesses. Specifically, this part of the research focussed on the use of a systems approach to identify negative behavioural factors, precursors (antecedents) to these behaviours and their possible consequences; and the use of antecedent manipulation techniques to help stakeholders manipulate the precursors to negative behaviours. Finally, a STAMP analysis was carried out to analyse the influence of the global food system with the UK food system – this highlighted the interaction between various systemic factors across the global food system and how they influenced production and distribution of food that was safe for consumption in the UK. This study also suggests the benefits of adopting a systems of systems (SoS) approach in order to improve the understanding of the global food system.
Following the development of the toolkit which consisted of a tool for micro, small and medium-scale food businesses (SMEs) and a tool for large-scale food businesses, the tool developed for SMEs was evaluated by one of the stakeholders – Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) from the Charnwood Borough Council. The findings revealed that EHOs felt the toolkit’s goal and assessment method (in addition to the existing Food Hygiene Rating Scheme) were beneficial in achieving food safety in the long term. The tool also proved it to be credible, applicable and transferable to all such food businesses. As a result of this research, food safety managers from the Leicestershire Food Liaison Group have shown interest in further developing the toolkit and potentially implementing it across Leicestershire – the Charnwood Borough Council has shown firm interest in collaborating with the researcher to develop the toolkit further while the other councils across the county are currently discussing this further with their respective teams.

Funding

Loughborough University, Graduate School.

History

School

  • Design and Creative Arts

Department

  • Design

Publisher

Loughborough University

Rights holder

© Rounaq Nayak

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date

2018

Notes

A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

Language

en