Food safety inspections are a key health protection measure applied by governments to prevent foodborne illness, yet they remain the subject of sustained criticism. These criticisms include inconsistency and inadequacy of methods applied to inspection, and ineffectiveness in preventing foodborne illness. Investigating the validity of these criticisms represent important areas for further research. However, a defined construct around the meanings society attributes to food safety inspection must first be established. Through critical examination of available literature, this review identified meanings attributed to food safety inspection and explicates some of the key elements that compose food safety inspection as a social construct. A total of 18 meanings were found to be attributed to food safety inspection. Variation in meanings were found between consumers, food business associates and food safety inspectors. For some, inspection meant a source of assurance, for others a threat to fairness, while most view inspection as a product of resources and inspector training. The meanings were then examined in light of common criticisms directed at food safety inspection, to expound their influence in how food safety inspection is realized, shaped, and rationalized. This review highlights the influence of sociological factors in defining food safety inspection.
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