ITALY – A study on perceptions of food safety culture (FSC) and its implementation at mid-sized food operations in Italy has emphasized the need for continuous development and enhancement of FSC practices, highlighting the importance of a people-focused approach and the availability of guidelines and assessment tools.

The study aimed to evaluate the understanding and practices related to FSC following the introduction of European Commission Regulation (EU) 2021/382, which mandates food businesses to establish and maintain FSC.

The research shed light on the need for further development and improvement in this area.

The study focused on three Tuscan food operations specializing in cured meat, dairy products, and frozen fish products.

A survey was administered to employees to gauge their perceptions of FSC. Overall, the findings indicated a “good” level of FSC perception among the participants.

However, the study also identified specific areas where improvements were necessary, particularly in terms of training outcomes and teamwork in setting and achieving food safety objectives.

Interestingly, the study revealed that employees at one company exhibited varying levels of FSC perception depending on their length of service. Employees with more seniority tended to have lower FSC scores.

The researchers also highlighted the need for improvement in the outcomes of employee training and investment in training programs within the same company.

A people-focused approach to food safety

The researchers emphasized that the implementation of a food safety management system (FSMS) and FSC should prioritize a people-focused approach rather than a solely process-focused one.

Given the constantly evolving nature of food environments, a multidimensional, multidisciplinary, dynamic, and inclusive approach to food safety management is crucial to drive behavioral improvements among employees.

The study recommended adopting a systematic and global approach tailored to each company’s specific needs, indicators, and strategic priorities.

The study highlighted the significance of guidelines and assessment tools in facilitating the development of unique FSC methodologies within individual companies.

The researchers stressed the importance of such resources, especially during the initial stages of implementation.

The study questionnaires utilized indicators similar to those provided in the FSC assessment tool of European Commission Notice 2022/C 355/01.

This tool, published shortly after the study’s conclusion, consists of five sections covering leadership, communication, engagement and commitment, awareness, and resources. Each section includes six statements to be evaluated on a five-point scale.

The study revealed both positive perceptions and areas for improvement in terms of food safety culture within mid-sized Italian food operations.

By prioritizing employee training, effective communication, and a comprehensive understanding of food safety objectives, businesses can further strengthen their FSC and ensure the safety of their products.

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