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Public and private food safety regulatory approaches: exploring the role of global food safety initiative auditors in achieving public health objectives, focusing on the Canadian experience

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posted on 2021-06-15, 15:19 authored by Elizabeth Ann Driscoll
Governments are faced with a variety of challenging issues that have proven difficult to manage, one of which is providing safe food to its citizens. Recognizing this, and in response to several high-profile food safety crises in the late 1990s, food retailers created the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), a private food safety regulatory approach. Certification to a GFSI-benchmarked private standard is often required through customer-supplier contracts, and as a result, food producers in the global agri-food supply chain may be subject to both the public and a private food safety regulatory approach. This dissertation uses Webb’s (2005) sustainable governance framework, which maintains that public, private, and civil sectors’ institutions, processes, rule instruments and actors have regulatory capabilities in support of public policy objectives, to explore whether or not the GFSI auditor, an actor in the GFSI-system, supports the public heath objectives of the state. Three primary research questions were developed to pursue this inquiry. First, on a functional level, can the GFSI auditor can be considered a public health practitioner analogous to the government’s food safety inspector? Second, do GFSI auditors view themselves as public health practitioners? Third, do other actors in the GFSI-system consider GFSI auditors to be public health practitioners? Using a mixed methods investigative approach, this dissertation presents the following conclusion: though the GFSI auditor can be characterized as a public health practitioner who supports the state’s public health objectives, neither the auditors themselves nor other actors, e.g. representatives of Certification Bodies, Certification Programme Owners, etc., in the GFSIsystem who participated in this research characterize the GFSI auditor as a public health practitioner. The final chapter of this dissertation discusses the public health and policy study significance of this investigation, provides policy recommendations to both the public and private institutions and actors involved governing food safety in Canada intended to strengthen the overall public health system by recognizing the role that GFSI auditors have in promoting public health objectives, and opportunities for further research.



Ryerson University




Doctor of Philosophy


Policy Studies

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type


Thesis Advisor

Kernaghan Webb Richard Meldrum