Understanding the implementation of enhanced food safety controls in the Ontario food processing sector

Cavicchioli-Netto, Valeria
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University of Guelph

The challenge of ensuring food safety has become more important with an increased awareness of the level and nature of food-borne illness and associated economic and social costs. This has motivated governments and the food industry to implement food safety controls such as GMPs and HACCP to strengthen consumer confidence and manage risk. Firms assess the costs and benefits of implementing food safety controls in the context of the regulatory environment and marketplace demands. At the same time, although there may be economic incentives to enhance food safety controls, barriers may prevent firms from actually implementing such systems. This study investigates the process through which controls are implemented in the Ontario food processing sector and quantifies the motives for and barriers to adoption of food safety controls. The 'HACCP Advantage ' program developed by OMAFRA was used as the case study. Data collection involved a postal survey of food processing plants in Ontario of different firm sizes and in different sub-sectors. A total of 4,001 plants were mailed a questionnaire in October 2005, and 714 responses were returned, of which 363 were eligible. The results indicate that the main motivator for implementing HACCP is associated with 'commercial benefits' in terms of explaining the variability across the sample. Other factors such as 'enhanced business performance', 'good practice', and 'external pressure' were also considered important motivators to HACCP adoption. A predominant barrier to the implementation of HACCP was associated with 'business/market uncertainty'. Other barriers associated with 'organizational failure', 'financial limitations', and 'lack of knowledge' were considered important. The results suggest a number of policy recommendations and strategies through which the motives for adopting enhanced food safety controls may be strengthened and/or barriers reduced. Also, ways in which non-federally registered food processors, especially SMEs, may gain commercial and/or market advantages from adopting enhanced food safety controls are explored.

Food processing sector, Ontario, Food safety controls, Enhanced, HACCP