Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Characteristics of Noncompliant Food Handling Establishments and Factors That Inhibit Compliance in a Regional Health Authority, Jamaica

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Characteristics of Noncompliant Food Handling Establishments and Factors That Inhibit Compliance in a Regional Health Authority, Jamaica

Article excerpt


The assurance of safe food along the "farm to fork" continuum is an increasing global demand. Food safety regulations are geared towards protecting consumers' health, increasing economic viability, preventing fraudulent practices, harmonizing well-being, and engendering fair trade in foods within and between nations (Garcia Martinez, Fearne, Caswell, & Henson, 2007; Ozekie, 2005; U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1997).

Food safety regulations will only be effective if operators fully understand their benefits, and they are actively reinforced by managerial control with staff playing an integral role (Jones, Parry, O'Brien, & Palmer, 2004). Hence in recognizing the responsibility of industry for the production of safe foods, Tompkin (2001) and Hutter and Amodu (2008) argued that self-regulating systems seem to influence industry in accepting their responsibilities. With state-administered standards, the perception of responsibility for risk management standards is shifted to the regulatory authorities (Fairman & Yapp, 2004) especially if the regulations are deemed to be vague (Genn, 1993). Consequently some operators equate compliance with adhering to instructions given by environmental health officers (EHOs) upon the completion of an inspection (Fairman & Yapp, 2004). Additionally, many operators are ignorant of food safety risks and prefer this prescriptive approach (Henson & Heasman, 1998; Yapp & Fairman, 2004).

Small businesses tend to be less compliant due to the associated costs in attaining and maintaining compliance (Hutter & Jones, 2006; Yapp & Fairman, 2006), which is worst in very competitive markets with small profit margins. Where compliance costs are shared with consumers, however, increased willingness to comply has been observed (Kagan & Scholz, 1984).

Yapp and Fairman (2004) found lack of money, time, experience, access to information, support (from regulators), interest, and knowledge to be primary barriers to compliance. Regarding "lack of access to information" they noted that small- and mediumsized establishments were overwhelmed by the abundance of information as they were unable to determine what was relevant to them. They noted substantial "knowledge" differences between medium-sized establishments and regulators as to what constituted compliance with the former limiting it to conformance with all the requirements made by the EHOs. They also found lack of motivation (99%), lack of trust in the EHOs and their requirements (81%), and lack of management systems (75%) as principal inhibiting factors among medium-sized establishments in the United Kingdom (Yapp & Fairman, 2006).

Numerous other factors adversely impact compliance such as the tendency for EHOs to focus more on urban areas (Hutter, 1988). Additionally, lack of or informal documentation of the registration/compliance procedures, inadequate surveillance activities on the identification of noncompliant establishments, limited assessment of food safety enforcement strategies, failure to inspect all food-handling establishments (FHEs) annually, and poor follow-up of noncompliant establishments have inhibited compliance even when the regulatory framework was deemed appropriate (Auditor General, 2002).

Training of food handlers followed by verification inspections proved effective in reducing infractions related to food handlers' behavior (Averett, Nazir, & Neuberger, 2011) while the introduction of new food safety standards resulted in significant improvements in safe food handling knowledge and practices (Food Standards Australia New Zealand, 2008). Training of restaurant managers was found to positively impact sanitation (Cates et al., 2009; Hedberg et al., 2006). Yapp and Fairman (2004) noted that educational interventions that increased specific food safety knowledge and formal enforcement were among the most effective in improving inspection scores and compliance levels. …

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