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Walk the Talk: The Role of Human Behaviour in Safe Food

By Allie Gallant

Culture can be described as a shared system of beliefs, values, and behaviors that members of a society use to define and cope with their surroundings and each other, passed down through intergenerational learning.

Lately, there has been much talk of developing a “food safety culture” within food processing and foodservice environments.  One of the key points to take away from any discussion about food safety cultures is this: the successful translation of food safety jargon into actionable safe food behaviors embedded in the day-to-day operation of personnel.

Behavior has been studied in situations where there is less perceived control – for instance the behavior of consumers has been studied and published for over 20 years.  It has been readily accepted that perceptions and opinions about food safety sometimes trump the facts and result in consumers engaging in unhealthy or unsafe behaviors.  However, within the actual food processing environment behavior has been studied less, perhaps due to an illusion of control.  With stringent training and procedural specifications, every individual employee should be behaving in a uniform, correct manner…right?  Yet, we still see food safety issues related to incorrect or unsafe behavior.  Despite having the correct knowledge, there is still a lack of control – where does this originate?

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