This paper reports the findings of a study which investigated the effectiveness of a food hygiene training course in Scotland, and discusses the implications these may have for food safety control in the UK and elsewhere. One hundred and eighty-eight individuals who undertook the elementary food hygiene training course of the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS), and a comparison group comprising two hundred and four employees of a City Council were surveyed by means of a structured self-completion questionnaire. Food hygiene knowledge, attitudes and opinions of the course participants were assessed before and after training, and compared with those of the comparison group. The training course evaluated by the study is typical of many certificated training courses applied in the food industry. After training, no significant improvements were observed in course participants' pre-course knowledge of a number of crucial aspects of food safety, including food storage, cross contamination, temperature control, and high risk foods. The findings highlight problems likely to arise from reliance on training designs which primarily emphasise the provision of information that seldom translates into positive attitudes and behaviours. This suggests a need for the adoption of approaches which take account of social and environmental influences on food safety, thus, ensuring that food hygiene training is seen, not as an isolated domain which sole purpose is to produce certificated personnel, but as part of an overall infrastructure for effective food safety control. © 1997 Elsevier Science Ltd.