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Assessing compliance with food safety legislation in small businesses

Charlotte Yapp (King's Centre for Risk Management, King's College London, London, UK)
Robyn Fairman (King's Centre for Risk Management, King's College London, London, UK)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 1 March 2005



This article aims to describe a research methodology used to examine compliance with food safety legislation within small businesses and the effect of local authority interventions on compliance. Different methodological approaches used within the research design are evaluated.


Empirical research using multiple case studies investigated compliance within small food businesses. Multiple sources of evidence were analysed using qualitative and quantitative techniques.


The validity of research design was affected in various ways. Using a quantitative approach was limited by the availability of a suitable indicator to measure compliance and by the difficulty in establishing causality. Qualitative approaches showed that businesses constructed their conception of compliance differently from the more formal compliance concept of regulatory agencies. This alternative construction of compliance impacts on the effectiveness of different methodologies.

Research limitations/implications

These findings demonstrate the limitations of quantitative approaches in exploring the compliance process. Differences in understanding the nature of compliance impact on validity: researchers cannot rely on businesses accurately “reporting” their compliance.


This article examines empirical research on the compliance process in small food businesses. It shows how the validity of a research design can be affected using evidence from this research.



Yapp, C. and Fairman, R. (2005), "Assessing compliance with food safety legislation in small businesses", British Food Journal, Vol. 107 No. 3, pp. 150-161.



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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited