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Food safety culture

​​Page last updated January 2023

Food safety culture in a food business is how everyone (owners, managers, employees) thinks and acts in their daily job to make sure the food they make or serve is safe. It's about having pride in producing safe food every time, recognising that a good quality product must be safe to eat. Food safety is your top priority.

A strong food safety culture comes from people understanding the importance of making safe food and committing to doing whatever it takes, every time. It starts at the top but needs everyone's support across the business.

To learn more, watch our introduction to food safety culture video for food businesses​​ or food handlers.

Read more information on characteristics of a strong culture in our poster (PDF 85 kb).

Why it's important

A good food safety culture can protect:

  • consumers from foodborne illness

  • your brand's reputation

  • your business from financial loss.

Top facts

There are around 4.1 million cases of foodborne illness in Australia each year. Unsafe food causes about 30,800 hospitalisations and 76 deaths. Read more in this article on the Centres for Diease Control and Prevention website.

About 80 food products are recalled each year. Most recalls are due to contamination by disease-causing microorganisms, or allergens that were not declared on the label.

We can link unsafe food to poor hygiene practices or mistakes by people handling food. This can happen even when people have received training and the businesses are inspected and audited.

Food businesses need to focus on their people as well as processes. Food handlers’ knowledge of good practices and what they do in their everyday work will determine whether food is safe.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Food safety is everyone's responsibility: Avoid illness and other costs of mistakes; a trustworthy product & brand; Safe behaviour makes safe food 

First steps

We have some simple tools and resources to help businesses and regulators work together to improve food safety culture. It breaks down to a 3-step process:

Step 1: Know where your business stands

We've put together a short questionnaire to help you do a quick 'health check' of your business's food safety culture. You'll an idea of how your decision makers and team members rank the business's overall approach to food safety - from the general philosophy in the workplace, to training and monitoring arrangements, to the relationship with food regulators.

Read more about how to do a health check of your food safety culture.

Step 2: Do something to make a difference

Achieving a strong food safety culture takes:

  • effective leadership and commitment
  • contributions and support from everyone in your business.

Read more about how to shape and strengthen your food safety culture.

Step 3: Follow through for a long-lasting impact

Track and improve your food safety culture.

We are working with food regulatory agencies to trial some food safety culture resources with selected food businesses. These resources include ‘culture maturity matrix’ documents to help regulators and businesses to identify strengths and weaknesses and track progress.

Our draft Step 3 resource aims to help businesses measure their food safety culture in more detail. It is for information only. Please note it is not a validated tool for auditing or regulatory purposes.

Food safety culture in action

Dairy Food Safety Victoria (DFSV) has recently incorporated assessment of food safety culture into their operational framework. Dairy RegTech combines data analytics and culture assessment to deliver a different way to monitor food safety compliance. It’s helped them gain a greater focus on people and behaviour to encourage improvement. Read more about their experience on the Dairy Food Safety Victoria website.

Read other examples on the Food safety culture in action page.


These resources are designed to help food businesses shape and improve their food safety culture.

  • Step 1: Know - Food safety questionnaire (PDF 218 kb)
    This short questionnaire will help you do a quick 'health check' of your business’s food safety culture
  • Step 2: Do - Checklists for change (PDF 239 kb)
    These checklists take you through the key steps in developing a good food safety culture in your food business
  • Step 3: Follow through (draft only) (PDF 965 kb) | (word 95 kb)​
    This is a draft document including a 'culture maturity matrix' to help you self-assess your business's food safety culture, identify strengths and weaknesses and track progress overtime
  • What does a strong food safety culture look like? poster (PDF 85 kb)
  • Food Safety Culture Connections - our newsletter on food safety culture
  • What is food safety culture? presentation* (PDF 676 kb)

*If you would like this resource as a PowerPoint, please contact us at

Visit our Food Safety Hub to read more about food recalls, food safety advice, the food safety standards and the Culture Connections newsletter.​


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