The challenge of regulating growing populations with increasingly diverse cultures, languages and economic constraints is a common challenge across local government. Barriers exist between sections of the community and council’s efforts to regulate effectively and consistently. To succeed within these communities, local government approaches to regulation need to be relevant and strategic.
Brisbane City Council’s ‘Eat Safe Brisbane Food Education Project’ is one strong example of how the right regulatory approach can successfully deliver a major program across a diverse community with significant language, cultural and financial constraints. Sean Hodgson, Manager of Compliance and Regulatory Services, says the project has had major successes not only in improving food safety, but breaking down the barriers between communities and the Council and has encouraged a new groundswell of collegiate and outcome-focused compliance in the City.
Brisbane’s 8,000 food businesses are managed, with respect to food safety, through the Eat Safe Brisbane program, in which businesses are awarded a ‘star rating’ based on food safety practices and performance. While only 20% of these food businesses are owned by persons identified as being from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities, approximately 80% of Council’s prosecutions under Queensland’s Food Act (2006) are against CALD operators
This paradox presented the council with a significant challenge. Though court proceedings were a necessary and appropriate response to the offences occurring, the dramatic increase in the number of food business in Brisbane, an increase of almost 50% in the last 10 years, meant that new ways of improving food safety at the ‘front end’, through engagement and education, was becoming a major imperative. So, in 2016, the Eat Safe Brisbane Education Project was implemented to deliver targeted food safety education to CALD food businesses in specific multicultural precincts and via a number of channels. To enable this, efforts were targeted at the most frequent non-compliances identified by Environmental Health Officers and in the most commonly identified geographic clusters of concern across Brisbane’s 1.1M population.
Less than 18 months later, following extensive stakeholder consultation, a series of 10 targeted fact sheets, translated into five languages, were developed with simple and easy to understand information on key food safety matters along with promotional videos and other material. Over 200 face-to-face sessions and workshops were delivered which has assisted 83% of businesses participating in the full program to not only avoid enforcement action for poor food safety, but actually improve their star rating in the Eat Safe Brisbane program.
Sean Hodgson will present the challenges and successes associated with implementing the Eat Safe program at the Local Government Regulation & Compliance national forum on 23rd & 24th July 2018 in Sydney. Don’t miss a valuable opportunity to hear from senior regulatory managers from councils across Australia as they address common challenges and demonstrate effective regulatory approaches.