SMEs and Food Safety in Europeposter HSSE
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) represent an important proportion of food companies and are responsible for a relevant share of food consumed in Europe and in the rest of the world. Food safety is fundamental to the very survival of any food company, whether it is at the production, processing or retailing end of the business. Every operator in the food chain (food industry workers, supervisors and management) has a legal and moral responsibility to produce safe food. Several studies point out that many of the small food businesses still lack adequate food safety management programmes and do not meet the National or European Union requirements.


SWOT analysis from the national surveys done in participating countries

  • The economic and political impact of food borne illness increases official  interest in setting priorities for food safety research and new policies and programs
  • Make optimal use of preferential finance and incentives for SMEs industry segment.


  • A number of constraints and barriers may impede the implementation of safety control programs in SMEs (financial constraints, human resource constraints, lack of expertise and technical support, inadequate infrastructures, inadequate communication)
  • The collaboration between industry and university is not strong in this type of companies
  • Lack of specific information and guidance for certain industry sectors affecting SMEs more than larger companies
  • The general structure of official entities and certain food safety criteria differ from country to country. Different preferences, attitudes and cultural concerns about food
  • Costs of modern management systems proportionately higher in smaller companies (economy of scale).


  • Current market trends for high quality, fresh, convenient foods might favour more SMEs due to proximity to markets
  • SMEs are often local suppliers for brands – especially in minimally processed foods
  • SMEs might be expected to have better knowledge of local consumers and therefore respond better to their preferences - consumers’ increased interest and awareness in food quality and food safety issues as an important stimulus for industry
  • The growing importance of distribution and the imposition of high level standards of quality and safety
  • SMEs are best prepared to satisfy niche markets – even defined by food safety considerations e.g. special dietary needs (gluten etc), immuno compromised populations.


  • The size of most food firms often makes losses due to safety failures more acutely felt
  • Legal and commercial impositions concerning food safety can make operations non-tenable.
  • Lack of structured and/or easily accessible information for this type of companies impedes anticipation of new threats and the incorporation of safety into innovation programmes.

Certain industry sectors need specific information and guidance. Some of this information may already exist but due to inadequate communication does not often reach the final target.
The creation of communication infrastructures operating as appropriate and effective channels of communication between the different actors of the food cluster (agriculture, industry, university, trade associations, consumers,…) is very important.
A pro-active co-operation between the different types of actors, at European level, is needed.

The study report is available in the library section.