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Tackling foodborne illness with food safety training

Report: ‘The impact of skills and education interventions on food safety outcomes’.

More than 600 million cases of preventable foodborne illness occur every year, resulting in 420,000 deaths including 125,000 children under five years old. This report ‘The impact of skills and education interventions on food safety outcomes’ looks at the role food safety training can play in tackling this issue.

Authored by Dr Alex Caveen, Michaela Archer and Mike Platt of RS Standards, the report identifies:

  • current food safety training programmes globally run by private and institutional food safety training providers and international organisations
  • whether these programmes have a demonstrable impact on reducing foodborne illnesses and fatalities; and
  • the use of food safety training programmes in different cultures and social settings.

The report highlights a lack of monitoring and evaluation to evidence the effectiveness of food safety training programmes, with evidence from peer-reviewed literature linking food safety training to reductions in food safety incidents non-existent.

Recommendations are made to draw on existing knowledge and define, agree and endorse practical guidance for monitoring and evaluating food safety training in different social contexts. This is particularly important in low to middle income countries (LMICs) where there is often a critical lack of resource and capability for collecting food safety data. To have a lasting impact on the food safety performance in LMICs, broader development factors such as lack of infrastructure, poverty and levels of literacy need to be factored to ensure the programmes are inclusive and not just serving the needs of higher-end markets.

The report forms part of a programme of work at the Foundation following the release of its Foresight Review of Food Safety in 2019. The review interviewed 100 food experts from global brands, universities and leading NGOs around the world who concluded that improving food safety training and education is a key requirement to reduce preventable illness and deaths from contaminated food worldwide each year. 

Consumers globally are worried about the food they eat, as revealed in the Foundation’s World Risk Poll – a global survey of 150,000 people across 142 countries. At a global level, the Poll found that 60% of the world’s population are worried about the food they eat and 17% of poll respondents – equivalent to one billion people worldwide – had experienced serious harm, or knew someone who experienced serious harm, caused by food eaten.

The Foundation has since embarked on a capacity-building initiative in LMICs in partnership with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The initiative involves developing food safety curricula and building a trained food safety workforce that can meet the needs of countries in East Africa and the Caribbean.

More information on our food safety education programmes and initiatives.

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