Consumer hygiene fears keeps Scottish food industry on its toes

Monday, 04 September, 2006


A major outbreak of E.coli 0157 poisoning in which 500 people were affected and 20 people died, seems to have led to improvements in the management of food risks in the retail and catering industries in Scotland, according to ESRC funded research at the London School of Economics.

A report from the Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation (CARR) says that an education campaign following the 1996 outbreak raised the profile of food safety and hygiene and brought home the importance of environmental health officers (EHOs) and the human costs of poor practices.

The CARR study, which has been reported in Environmental Health Scotland, says that many managers in hotels, restaurants and food shops in the UK pay just as much attention to consumer fears and opinions as they do to rules and regulations, when it comes to evaluating food hygiene and safety risks.

"Most managers in the sample sense a general public awareness of food safety and food hygiene risks," CARR co-researcher, Clive Jones said.

"They said safety concerns were more important to the consumer than value for money, labelling and other considerations such as GM or additive content, even though actual risks might not be very high."

"The results reveal some potentially interesting data about the effects of greater investment in education and training in food safety and food hygiene training," said Professor Bridget Hutter, who led the research.

"The suggestion that consumers as well as those in the food industry were influenced by the events of 1996 is also worth further exploration."

The aim of the LSE research was to explore the influences of external organisations and pressures on business risk management practices and to throw some further light onto the debate about so-called "smart' regulation within and beyond the state.

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