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Executive Summary

2014 World Ranking: Food Safety Performance

by Jean-Charles Le Vallée and Sylvain Charlebois

Food safety data segmentation and limitations hamper the world’s ability to select, build up, monitor, and evaluate food safety performance. Currently, there is no metric that captures the entire food safety system, and performance data are not collected strategically on a global scale. Therefore, benchmarking is essential not only to help monitor ongoing food safety performance but also to inform continued food safety system design, adoption, and implementation toward more efficient and effective food safety preparedness, responsiveness, and accountability.

The main purpose of this benchmarking assessment is to identify and evaluate common elements among global food safety systems. Previous attempts to rank such broad international food safety performance include two world ranking studies conducted in 2008 and 2010.1 This report builds upon those earlier benchmarking assessments.

The report is a comparative study that measures and ranks Canada’s food safety performance against the food safety performance of 16 peer Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The report is structured around the three food safety risk governance domains and 10 food safety performance indicators:

  • Food safety risk assessment, recognized as a science-based process that assesses exposure and characterizes food safety risks. Indicators explore chemical risks, microbial risks, and national reporting on food consumption.
  • Food safety risk management, which is both a policy-based and a commercially based process to prevent, control, and mitigate risks while ensuring health protection and fair trade practices. Selected indicators include national food safety capacity, food recalls, food traceability, and radionuclides standards.
  • Food safety risk communication or the exchange of information and opinions around food safety risks (actual or perceived). Indicators include allergenic risks and public trust.

Table 1
Summary: 2014 World Ranking of Food Safety Performance

Country Mean score Tier
Canada 2.6 1
Ireland 2.6 1
France 2.4 1
United Kingdom 2.33 1
Norway 2.33 1
United States 2.3 1
Japan 2.22 2
Netherlands 2.2 2
Finland 2.2 2
Denmark 2.2 2
Austria 2.2 2
Switzerland 2.11 3
Sweden 2.1 3
Australia 2.1 3
Germany 2.1 3
Italy 2 3
Belgium 2 3

Source: The Conference Board of Canada.

The overall world ranking of food safety performance is illustrated in Table 1.2 Based on the 10 food safety performance metric benchmarks assessed in this study, Canada, Ireland, and France earned top overall grades in food safety performance. The U.K., Norway, and the U.S. make up the remaining top-tier countries.

In essence, the report points to areas where countries can improve their performance. Most notably, as global food safety systems mature over time, benchmarking reports will increasingly reward consistency in high performance and transparency.

Access to food safety data has also improved substantially over time. Given how important food safety accountability will become for industry, future surveys may include data from industry to assess involvement in food safety systems.

Indeed, future world food safety ranking methodologies would be strengthened by additional primary data and objective indicators to improve their effectiveness and reduce potential controversy surrounding such rankings. Any subsequent global ranking study should thus consider the development of survey instruments to gather adequate and comparable national evidence on food safety. Moreover, funding future food safety data collection is recommended, as is hosting a food safety summit for nations to find consensus on common robust food safety performance measurements, drawing on metrics from this study, among others.

1    Charlebois and Yost, Food Safety Performance World Ranking: How Canada Is Doing; Charlebois and MacKay, World Ranking: 2010 Food Safety Performance.

2    Mean scores were calculated by dividing the sum of the scores by the number of scores per nation. Values of 3 were attributed to progressive responsive and superior outcome scores; 2 to moderate responsive and average outcome scores; and 1 to regressive responsive or poor outcome scores. See Table 14 for specific scores per food safety performance metric. Tier 1 countries include the top six countries ranked by mean values of 2.3 and above. Tier 2 countries cover the subsequent five countries with mean values between 2.2 and 2.29, while Tier 3 countries cover the bottom six nations with mean values from 2.0 to 2.19.

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Jean-Charles Le Vallée Jean-Charles Le Vallée
Senior Research Associate
Centre for Food in Canada
Sylvain Charlebois Sylvain Charlebois
Professor of Food Distribution and Policy, and
Associate Dean at the College of Business and Economics
University of Guelph

Read the Full Report

Food Safety Performance report coverThis report provides an overall world ranking of food safety performance for 17 OECD countries, illustrated by 10 indicators organized across three food safety risk governance domains: assessment, management, and communication.

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