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Food safety awareness is at an all time high, new and emerging threats to the food supply are being recognized, and consumers are eating more and more meals prepared outside of the home. Accordingly, retail and foodservice establishments, as well as food producers at all levels of the food production chain, have a growing responsibility to ensure that proper food safety and sanitation practices are followed, thereby, safeguarding the health of their guests and customers.
Achieving food safety success in this changing environment requires going beyond traditional training, testing, and inspectional approaches to managing risks. It requires a better understanding of organizational culture and the human dimensions of food safety. To improve the food safety performance of a retail or foodservice establishment, an organization with thousands of employees, or a local community, you must change the way people do things. You must change their behavior. In fact, simply put, food safety equals behavior. When viewed from these lenses, one of the most common contributing causes of food borne disease is unsafe behavior (such as improper hand washing, cross-contamination, or undercooking food). Thus, to improve food safety, we need to better integrate food science with behavioral science and use a systems-based approach to managing food safety risk.
The importance of organizational culture, human behavior, and systems thinking is well documented in the occupational safety and health fields. However, significant contributions to the scientific literature on these topics are noticeably absent in the field of food safety.