A Case Study of Food Safety Culture Within a Retailer Corporate Culture
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The retail business has been negatively affected due to the increasing customer concerns about food safety and the recent events related to microbiological and chemical contamination of food products, such as the melamine in infant formula and the multiple cases of produce pathogen contamination. It has been shown that a scientific-based food safety system, such as, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), help reduce the likelihood of food safety incidents. Nevertheless, companies with these kinds of systems have too experienced public food safety issues. Food safety professionals have created instruments to measure food safety based on lagging indicators, such as pathogen presence or food safety incident reduction. Though, they have not created metrics based on leading indicators to measure the behavior driven by the culture of employees who handle the food. The employees who handle food are influenced by cultural values and behave in a company based on the company's cultural influence; hence, food safety should also be measured in cultural terms as a leading indicator. In order to measure food safety culture of a retail company and understand differences among groups, the researcher used case study methodology to select a USA based retailer. The researcher described the culture of the retailer, as well as the leadership styles. Based on these descriptions, the food safety culture of the company and the employee constructs were defined and piloted for construct validity and construct reliability. Once validated, a food safety culture survey instrument was implemented in the operations area of this retailer. The results showed that the employees agreed or strongly agreed that food safety was part of the corporate culture. One of the factors influencing the food safety culture was service to the customer. The results showed that there were differences in food safety culture across the different groups, but with negligible or small effect size. One of the main contributions of this study was the development of a metric to measure food safety culture in the retail industry. It also suggests that besides food safety audit scores and incident reduction, food safety needs to be measured in terms of the corporate culture of the retailer. In an effort to improve food safety around the world, organizations should consider that culture plays an important role.