Human Food Safety

Recently, everything from Listeria to E. coli to Campylobacter has given American consumers good reason to worry about the safety of their food. The industry has responded and is making every effort to improve the safety of food by utilizing science-based testing and sampling practices, detection technologies, food safety training and education, and multiple interventions. However, other scientific fields could take food safety to a new level. Frank Yiannas, author and vice-president of food safety for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., says he believes the “soft sciences” outlined in his newest book, “Food Safety = Behavior: 30 Proven Techniques to Enhance Employee Compliance,” hold the answer to changing the face of food safety for the better.

Mr. Yiannas’ first book, “Food Safety Culture: Creating a Behavior-Based Food Safety Management System,” was published in 2009 and described food safety as a frame of mind that everyone in an organization buys into rather than a list of rules outlined in a training manual. The new book explores ways organizations may use psychology and social/behavioral sciences to their advantage as they work to improve employee compliance with food safety protocols.

Human behavior and food safety

Mr. Yiannas says he pondered the realization that no matter how much training food safety employees receive, sometimes they still don’t do the things an employer wants them to do.

“I knew that there was something missing,” he says.

The idea to connect food safety to the behavioral sciences occurred to him before he worked in the food safety field.

“The real crystallization occurred years ago when I was leading occupational safety and health at the Disney Co.,” Mr. Yiannas says. “We could design the safest facilities, we could give people the safest work tools and personal protective equipment, we could train and educate them about safety, yet there were still some employees that would get hurt. They just weren’t following procedures.”

Mr. Yiannas says the occupational safety and health field had already begun to explore the role that the human element, attitudes, decisions and choices play regarding occupational injury. It was combining its hard sciences, such as facility design, with the behavioral sciences.

“I just thought those same principles would apply in food safety, and over the years I’ve experienced that they certainly have,” he says.

Without much research in the behavioral sciences that directly relates to food safety, Mr. Yiannas began to review general behavioral science studies and find those that could have food safety applications.

Read the rest of the article at Food Business News.