A mixed-method exploration into the experiences of members of the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN)

Savelli, Carmen and Mateus, Ceu and Simpson, Jane (2021) A mixed-method exploration into the experiences of members of the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN). PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Every year, people around the world become sick following the consumption of food containing dangerous bacteria, viruses, chemicals and other harmful contaminants. In an increasingly globalised world, unsafe food in one country can quickly travel beyond national borders, resulting in illness and death abroad. For this reason, the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) was established and has been conceptualised as a global community of practice that aims to limit the negative public health impact when contaminated food reaches the international market. This is mainly done by promoting the rapid exchange of information between contact points worldwide, enabling the swift implementation of control measures to protect the public and ensure the safety of the food supply. However, until now, INFOSAN has never been fully characterised or examined as a functional community of practice and its value, as understood from the perspective of its members, has never been determined in a systematic or rigorous way. To address this gap, this thesis presents a variety of data collected during three distinct study phases using quantitative and qualitative methods, to explore, understand, describe and interpret the experiences of INFOSAN members. Specifically, in phase one, website analytics were applied to examine members’ access to, and use of, the INFOSAN Community Website. In phase two, an online survey was administered to the global membership to obtain broad, systematic insights into the characteristics and performance of INFOSAN as a community of practice, and the opinions of members. In phase three, semi-structured interviews were conducted with a small subset of INFOSAN members, using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to explore their personal, lived experiences more deeply. To contextualise this research, a realist synthesis has been conducted to investigate the utilisation of tools such as INFOSAN to facilitate cross-border communication during international food safety events. The resulting programme theory provides a novel understanding of these communication tools, how they are being used, by whom and in what contexts. The programme theory will be helpful to policymakers and those coordinating the operation of tools currently in use, who may adapt their components according to different contextual factors to promote, support and improve their use. Overall, the research conducted provides insights into the characteristics and performance of INFOSAN and the opinions of members and their perceptions of the use of INFOSAN as a global communication tool for the prevention of foodborne illness. In addition, it provides a novel understanding of the role of INFOSAN in improving food safety and mitigating the burden of foodborne illness globally. Further, the results have been applied to develop a value creation framework, which suggests that focusing on outreach to sustain personal interest, training to improve technical capacity, and advocacy to obtain political buy-in are ways in which the INFOSAN Secretariat could enable participation and create value at the individual, organizational, and national level, respectively. Such engagement could translate into more effective international communication during urgent food safety events and fewer cases of foodborne illness worldwide. Looking beyond INFOSAN, the results have implications for how other international communities of practice are coordinated in the realm of food safety and public health more broadly.

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Thesis (PhD)
?? food safetymixed methodsinterpretative phenomenological analysisinternational communicationpublic health ??
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13 Dec 2021 18:00
Last Modified:
16 Feb 2024 00:21