The safety of the meat you buy may depend on when government inspectors passed judgement on your purchase.
A study by the Harvard School of Business has found that inspectors catch fewer violations later in their shifts. They also worked faster when they were working later than usual.
If they have been catching a lot of violations, they are more likely to spot problems when they go to the next packing plant.
The research results are published in a paper, “How Scheduling Can Bias Quality Assessment: Evidence from Food Safety Inspections,” that has been published on the website of the Social Science Research Network.
The results are intended to apply to inspectors of all types of business sectors, but the study sample included information on 12,017 inspections by 86 inspectors over several years at 3,399 restaurants, grocers and schools in Alaska, Illinois and New Jersey, according to a report in Food Safety News.
In the area of food safety, the researchers propose that arranging an inspector’s schedule to account for such biases, if the rescheduling was 100 percent successful, would produce an average of 9.9 percent more violations noted which could result in 19 million fewer cases of foodborne illness each year, and savings of an aggregated $14.2 billion to $30.9 billion.