Maturing Food Safety Culture with Nudging in Food Manufacturing Environments in the UK

Wallace, Carol Anne orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-1402-2134, Jespersen, Lone and Wu, Sophie Tongyu (2023) Maturing Food Safety Culture with Nudging in Food Manufacturing Environments in the UK. In: IAFP's European Symposium on Food Safety, 3-5 May 2023, Aberdeen, Scotland.

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Introduction: A recent surge in including food safety culture in various public guidelines and private standards, such as GFSI benchmarking standards 2020, Codex HACCP Principles and Guidelines, EU legislation, and FDA Food Safety Blueprint 2020, has prompted global interest and challenged industry to drive evidence-based cultural change. The nudge theory is effective in influencing people’s behaviours and shaping culture, embraced worldwide in various initiatives – but no empirical study on its adoption in food safety culture context.

Purpose: This research study aims to improve food safety culture via nudging in a weekly change cycle using a validated machine learning tool.

Methods: Each person was nudged every day through answering one question on food safety in nine UK food manufacturing companies (13 sites) from June 2021 to September 2022, resulting in over 180,000 answers. Machine learning generated a weekly action report for each company, from which the companies picked one incremental action to execute every week. Culture maturity was calculated as the running average of all responses; ANOVA and logistic regression were conducted to determine how culture of food safety changed through nudging and to identify key drivers of change.

Results: Using the GFSI food safety culture position paper, companies have varying strengths on the five dimensions. Heatmap analysis indicates that “Adaptability” is the least mature dimension and “People” the second least mature. “Values and Mission” is the most mature in the participating companies, although how and why food safety was prioritised during business-critical decision-making was not always shared with team members. In the course of 16 months, nudging leads to improvement in food safety culture in several of the companies.

Significance: This study contributes to the currently scarce empirical evidence on how culture of food safety is improved. It is also the first study to use nudging to improve food safety culture.

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