To protect public health and safety from foodborne outbreaks and to improve Australian food hygiene standards, Food Safety Supervisor certification was introduced in 2000 and progressively adopted by four Australian States and Territories. This is the first study in Australia that evaluates the effectiveness of the Food safety Supervisor program since its implementation.
The study was conducted in Queanbeyan (New South Wales) where the program was implemented in 2012 and in Canberra (Australia Capital Territory) where the program has just been recently introduced. With cooperation from the relevant health departments, 35 small to medium-sized food service businesses were recruited from 42 samples through convenience and opportunistic sampling. Using mixed quantitative and qualitative methods, general hygiene and hygiene practices were observed in the kitchen, followed by administration of a knowledge questionnaire and semi-structured interview involving different actors in food service businesses. Methods of analysis included T-Test for mean score differences, logistic regression to examine odds of getting a perfect score, and thematic analysis to explore factors and relationships that affect translation of food safety knowledge to proper food handling. Barriers hindering safe food handlings were also investigated.
T-test suggested that there was no significant difference in mean knowledge score between those who attended a training course and those who did not (p=0.37, d.f=48). Logistic regression also agreed that attending the Food Safety Supervisor training had no significant effect on obtaining a perfect score, though those with knowledge from vocational education training and being an owner of the shop do. Qualitative results revealed that problems of the program such as insufficient supervisory content, language barrier and accessibility of face-to-face training might undermine the transfer of knowledge from training. Factors such as inadequate knowledge, attitudes and motivation, cultural barriers, time, money and management support could also hinder proper food handling.
The food safety system involves a collective effort and a single program is not sufficient to maintain high food safety standards. Although the program alone does not result in significant improvement in knowledge and practices, it can however be part of multiple interventions. Together the food safety programs would ensure improvement and maintenance of safe food handling in the food service industry.