Inter-organizational learning: A comparative study of the Food and Drug Administration's (HHS) reaction to the Food Safety and Inspection Service's (USDA) E. coli O157:H7 experience

Amy M Woron, Tennessee State University

Abstract

The purpose of this dissertation is to explore the applicability of inter-organizational learning as a plausible explanation of variation in dealing with food safety issues at the federal level.^ The primary questions for this dissertation are IF the policies resulting from the 1993 Jack in the Box outbreak had an effect on subsequent FDA food safety policies and if so, HOW did this effect take place.^ A case study was conducted for the 1993 Jack in the Box and 2006 Natural Selection Foods E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks. Food and Drug Administration (hereafter FDA) policies will be examined for evidence of influence by policies from other agencies and indications of inter-organizational learning. Specifically, the United States Department of Agriculture (hereafter USDA) policies post-1993 will be compared to the FDA policies for evidence of a mechanism of knowledge transfer.^ Findings include the identification of evidence supporting the hypothesis that the learning resulting from the 1993 Jack in the Box outbreak had an effect on subsequent FDA food safety policies to the exclusion of other possibilities. Support for an inter-organizational learning process may be a key to advancing organizational performance over time. The idea of unstructured organizations learning from the experience of others is of interest to public policy research and public administrators.^ The main limitation of this study is focusing on a single example of inter-organizational learning. This study should be viewed as a starting point of my assertion that unplanned inter-organizational learning takes place and influences performance. A thorough evaluation of additional cases and a host of other potential external factors which may have effected FDA policy changes may help to reduce this limitation. External factors such as advances in technology, public reaction, interest groups and industry influence were controlled for through the data collection screening.^ Future studies of other instances where spontaneous inter-organizational learning took place may enrich the understanding of this phenomenon. This, in turn, may induce planned initiative to facilitate and encourage such learning. Also, this will not only support the development of inter-organizational learning models, but proper use of the methodology that was adopted for this study. ^

Subject Area

Sociology, Public and Social Welfare|Sociology, Organization Theory

Recommended Citation

Amy M Woron, "Inter-organizational learning: A comparative study of the Food and Drug Administration's (HHS) reaction to the Food Safety and Inspection Service's (USDA) E. coli O157:H7 experience" (2010). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3404299.
http://digitalscholarship.tnstate.edu/dissertations/AAI3404299

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