The impact of skills and education interventions on food safety outcomes; a project for Lloyd’s Register Foundation

In a new report commissioned and published by Lloyd’s Register Foundation, RS Standards has undertaken a review of ‘The impact of skills and education interventions on food safety outcomes’.  

Raising awareness and skills in the safe handling of food is considered of critical importance in reducing the incidence of foodborne illnesses. Each year, contaminated food causes over 600 million cases of preventable illness and 420,000 deaths worldwide. 

The report, published in September 2021, has a global perspective on food safety training programmes, whilst focusing on low and middle-income countries (LMICs) where the impacts of foodborne illnesses are disproportionately felt. 

Our research identified a number of food safety programmes provided through leading organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank, IUFoST (International Union of Food Science and Technology) and the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). These programmes are often linked with a food science research and development infrastructure. 

Food safety risks vary systematically with the level of economic development in a country; countries transitioning from a least developed status to one exporting into global markets have the greatest mismatch between the need for training versus capacity to provide it. To have a lasting impact on the food safety performance in domestic food safety systems in LMICs, broader development factors such as lack of infrastructure, poverty and levels of literacy will need to be properly taken into account to ensure food safety programmes are inclusive and not just serving the needs of higher-end markets.

Whether food safety programmes have a demonstrable impact on reducing foodborne illness and fatalities was challenging to prove, as our research found no evidence in peer-reviewed literature directly linking food safety training to overall reductions in food safety incidents at the broadest level. This also reflects more generally the lack of established food safety monitoring and evaluation (M&E) frameworks globally.

Michaela Archer, Lead Consultant commented that ‘Our findings showed a clear need for a comprehensive framework for evaluating the effectiveness of food safety skills and education programmes that is easily understood, endorsed and accepted by a range of stakeholders. This need is both known to the food safety and education sectors but not easy to achieve: instead, metrics tend to be developed that are appropriate to the needs of specific initiatives or locations.’

The report sets out a number of recommendations that could lead to the development of an agreed universal framework by collaboration between organizations and businesses across the food sector.

A copy of the report is available from the LRF webpage

For more information on our work in this area please contact Michaela Archer – e: michaela.archer@rsstandards.com

Michaela Archer

Senior Consultant