While the FDA has provided strategies and guidelines to help food companies make food safety a priority across their facilities, promoting safe food ultimately falls in the hands of the people within an organization. Minimizing risk is therefore achieved by creating a culture in which food safety is ingrained in everyday behaviors.
How does a strong food safety culture provide tools that manage risks in the supply chain?
When leaders work with employees to understand and own food safety, they become empowered to perform the behaviors that support food safety every day. They also open up a dialogue and allow for communication around food safety to take place. The workforce can then provide valuable feedback to leaders and suggest better methods for executing food safety programs.
Of course, this isn’t to imply that the workforce is free to do whatever they want; rather, it allows everyone to work together to develop, implement, monitor, follow, and improve strong food safety programs. To achieve this, however, leaders must “walk the walk” and show up on the plant floor to search for efficiencies and begin establishing strong lines of communication with their teams.
How is the performance of a food safety culture measured?
Most leaders want to see KPIs to prove that fostering a food safety culture is actually helping them minimize risks. While every facility will have their own unique metrics, some may come from a system of complaints. This is a reactive approach, however, so others must come from factors such as environmental monitoring, verifications, and so forth. Ultimately, you’ll need to measure trends of performance, as well as behaviors.
For instance, you might measure how frequently you’re training your workforce and what they’re learning. You can also collect feedback through interviews and look at issues such as non-compliances to measure the strength of your food safety culture.
How is growth and strengthening of the culture assessed?
Oftentimes, people are eager to participate in new initiatives, but they ultimately lose steam as time passes. To maintain the momentum of your food safety culture over time, you must look at it from a marketing standpoint: what can you do to keep your teams empowered and engaged over time?
The answer lies in ongoing training and communication. Recognition models are also effective for showing appreciation for employees and making sure they feel valued. While you may need to give negative reinforcement now and then, try to emphasize praise whenever possible, and always make negative feedback a learning moment. Moreover, make sure all teams support food safety – from sales teams to marketing departments and executives – to ensure that it’s truly ingrained in the company culture.
How do consumers benefit when food companies have a strong food safety culture?
Consumers have high expectations, and they expect to receive quality food that won’t cause them to get sick. Food safety incidents can stay in the mind of consumers for many years. On the other hand, customers can have a more enjoyable experience with your brand if they feel they can trust your commitment to food safety, and they’re more inclined to buy your products more than once. Food safety, therefore, benefits everyone.
To truly work effectively, food safety must be built into your culture and not pursued as a cost-savings or resource reduction model, but as a model for continuous overall excellence.