Introduction: Despite the increasing effort in food safety measures, food poisoning remains a reality. Employees’ perception regarding food safety and hygiene at their workplace (food safety climate) can influence the microbiological status of the final product.

objectives: To study the relationships between food safety climate, knowledge about food safety and personal and professional characteristics of workers of higher education institutions’ food service units (canteens and bars).

Methodology: A convenience sample of 77 workers of 15 higher education institutions’ canteens and bars in three Portuguese cities (Porto, Aveiro and Coimbra) was evaluated. The relationships of sociodemographic and workplace data with food safety climate (18 items divided into six components) and knowledge about food safety (20 items grouped in four themes) were assessed.

Results: Food safety climate (median = 83.3%, P25 = 70.8%, P75 = 88.9%) was not significantly associated with food safety knowledge (median = 45.0%, P25 = 30.0, P75 = 55.0): rs = -0.128, p = 0.262. Food safety knowledge had a positive association with years of experience in current workplace (rs = 0.247, p = 0.032) and in food sector (rs = 0.326, p = 0.004). Workers who had attended training in their current workplace presented higher food safety knowledge (mean = 45.0% vs. 40.0%, p = 0.021). None of the relationships of workers’ characteristics and food safety climate were statistically significant.

Conclusions: Workers of Portuguese higher education institutions’ service units present low knowledge about food safety despite the positive perception of food safety climate. Experience and training are related with food safety knowledge but not with food safety climate.