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Food safety culture: the evolution of an emerging risk factor?

: A review Griffith, Livesey and Clayton, 2010

The article, Food safety culture: the evolution of an emerging risk factor? proposed the food safety culture should be included alongside the established traditional risk factors when evaluating the cause of food poisoning outbreak. Apart from traditional view in assessing the food risk factor eg. undercooking, cross contamination, poor food hygiene, the author believes that by adding the food safety culture in the assessment could provide more holistic view, considering the food safety culture has long being cited as the causative or risk factor in major food incidents. Recognized as contributory or indirect factor in the food incidents, the food safety culture can be considered as the emerging risk factor which could be highly significant contributing to the food poisoning. The first part of this article mainly discusses about the evolution of organizational culture. The concept of culture and organization from various discipline were underlined and various related definition come into discussion. The authors believe, the organizational culture which emphasize on different combination of tradition, shared philosophies, norms, communication and control systems are also applicable in food business. Explained by using Scheins model of organizational culture, the business can expect a positive result where the members of organization will probably follow the shared practice and norms of the organization, although these may different from their personal beliefs and attitude. In the second part of the article, the authors integrate the concept of organizational culture and safety culture. The safety culture where safety is understood and accepted as number one business priority, are somehow argued whether the culture should exist when only safety become the number priority or not. Somehow in the food business situation, given to the effect of poor food handling practices, the results of death from food poisoning cases show the importance of food safety culture implementation in the organization. The food safety culture as according to the author could influences individual actions and patterns of communication at all levels of the business and has developed from awareness of specific safety hazard to both staffs and public. It is also important to differentiate the safety culture and climate. Following the Scheins model of organizational culture, safety climate are subjected to changes and unstable where the perception of state of safety are only based on situation and environment. This may different with the understanding of food safety culture where the importance of food safety handling are become the number one priority which manifested in individuals action and communication. However, a thorough understanding for both safety culture and climate are needed by managers as it could provide them with holistic view of food

safety beliefs and practices which later could be useful in order to link the potential for food poisoning and possible adverse business consequences. Problem of misinterpretation may arise in order to implement the food safety culture. This is due to nature of business where workers are grouped in different level of management and operational line, where differing perceptions of desirable safety behaviors could emerge in every group. Some researcher found it normal that different cultures and subcultures can be formed around this different functional groups and level. In this situation, the authors suggested that the manager should play an important role in bridging the top management and operative department by creating a homogenous safety culture in the organization. Toward the end the end of the article, the authors stressed out the importance of food safety culture stating foodborne disease could be reduced by strengthening the food safety culture rather than focusing on bigger or better safety systems. This can be achieved by integrating the safety management systems with workforce values, beliefs and behaviors which may results in more positive norm in working environment. A behavioral norm which can become the unspoken rule can help the organization to achieve the goal in reducing the food risks when individuals thoughts, behaviors and beliefs are changed within the group. The dominant behavior that appear stable can be easily learned and becoming shared responsibility, thus resulting for more strong food safety culture which could resist to changes. To sum up, the authors suggested that the study on organizational food safety culture should be put into more intention. The consideration to acknowledge the food safety culture as emerging risk factor seems appropriate for the writer due to the fact that it had been recently recognized as contributory factors to foodborne illness. Although some argument also rose in the usefulness and validity of safety culture studies where certain academician sees this idea is merely a fuzzy academic concept without any clear benefits, the authors defend this concept, stating those concern are emerged due to lack of standard working definition of safety culture, and also lack of agreement of over what constitutes the key organizational factors that should be used to measure safety culture in applied settings. The author also emphasize the importance to enhance the research in particular area in order to generate more firm structure on the particular knowledge, thus help the academician to analyze the food safety culture in more objective and accurate way.

Reference

Griffith, C. J., Livesey, K. M., & Clayton, D. A. (2010). Food safety culture: the evolution of an

emerging risk factor? British Food Journal, 112(4), 426-438.