Hazard perception and possibility of simplifying food safety management systems in small businesses in Piedmont region, Italy
Small food businesses, because of their limited resources, are hard pressed to comply with the requirements of a conventional food safety management system (FSMS). To overcome it, the European legislation provides some flexibility in the application of FSMS. With this study, we evaluated the change in the perception and awareness of hazards in food production and in the attitudes of food business operators (FBOs) after a regional regulation was introduced to allow flexibility and a campaign of training activities on the FSMS simplification opportunities. Training activities targeting various stakeholders have been carried out in Piedmont region since 2014. A total of 283 FBOs from the dairy and the meat supply chains were recruited for a two-round survey. Overall, the majority of the FBOs believed that application of an FSMS helps to overcome official controls, to produce healthy foods, to better manage the production process, and for staff training; its usefulness for enhancing customer trust was judged of limited value. FBO knowledge on the possibility of simplifying the FSMS activities increased significantly between surveys, suggesting the success of the information campaigns. Over time, simplification increased in the meat but not in the dairy supply chain, where it involved nearly 70% of FBOs. The cost of FSMS (mainly due to microbiological analysis) and the time it takes were the main reasons for FBO resistance to its application. Simplification of FSMS procedures were welcomed by the vast majority (>90%) of FBOs. The perception of hazards was low and generic, suggesting the need for targeted training activities.
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