A mature food safety culture is audit-ready at all times. That might seem like an impossible goal, given the amount of time and preparation companies go through when preparing for an audit. But a truly mature food safety culture is an ongoing journey that’s all about efficiency — not a last-minute scramble to the finish line.
In our recent webinar, Achieving Food Safety Culture Maturity: From Audit-Readiness to Business Success, Dr. Rolando Gonzalez, Chief Scientific Officer at TAG, explains how to achieve audit-readiness throughout the entire organization and the business growth benefits of doing so. In this blog, we’ll cover some of the highlights to get you started on driving your food safety culture towards maturity.
Business Benefits of Food Safety Culture
Recently, a deadly international Salmonella outbreak from whole cantaloupe imported from Mexico has led to massive recalls in Canada and the United States. As of November 30, 2023, there have been 117 confirmed cases of salmonella poisoning in the United States, including 61 hospitalizations and two deaths. In Canada, there have been 63 confirmed cases, with 17 hospitalizations and one death.
Events like these are tragic, and it’s up to everyone within the food manufacturing supply chain to minimize risks of contamination and outbreaks. Food safety efforts are paramount for risk mitigation and have additional business benefits, such as preserving company reputation, avoiding recalls, eliminating inefficiencies, and establishing trust with both current and potential customers.
On average, a single recall costs a food company $10 million in direct costs — not including indirect costs such as litigation, government oversight, lost sales, and impact on the company’s stock market value and brand reputation.
Staying audit-ready at all times with a mature food safety culture helps protect the public health and your company’s bottom line.
Core Necessities for Complete FSQA Visibility
Many of the top audit violations can be attributed to insufficient visibility. Organizations have unique challenges to face when it comes to maintaining visibility over their plants. For example, small organizations generally have more limited resources compared to larger organizations, and massive enterprises must contend with multitudes of interconnected processes and higher numbers of employee turnover.
No matter the size of your organization, there are three essentials for achieving a mature food safety culture: the right technology, sufficient leadership support, and strong interdepartmental collaborations.
The Right Technology
Leverage technology can facilitate company-wide food safety visibility for both small and large companies. This is because the right technology doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive — in fact, the FDA held a Low- or No-Cost Tech-Enabled Traceability Challenge as part of its New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiative.
“The New Era of Smarter Food Safety represents a new approach to food safety, leveraging technology and other tools to create a safer and more digital, traceable food system.”
While some companies may find that factory-floor tablets available with automated checklists may work well for them, different technologies will appeal to different companies based on their unique needs, teams, and production specifications. It’s up to organizations to do due diligence to find the right technologies for their products and people.
This cannot happen without buy-in and support from the top, which brings us to leadership.
While the right technology certainly helps, it’s not enough without the entire team on board to continuously evaluate and optimize food safety culture. This starts with leadership to drive food safety culture.
“It’s…about simpler, more effective, and modern approaches and processes. It’s about leadership, creativity, and culture.”
Leadership needs to be visibly supporting food safety goals and initiatives. They should show that food safety is a top priority, regularly lead by example, and provide sufficient resources for other departments to prioritize food safety. Setting smaller achievable goals and having leadership participate in celebrating these accomplishments sets a tone for propagating food safety culture throughout the organization.
And, speaking of other departments….
Dr. Gonzalez suggests that inviting colleagues from completely different fields — such as accounting or human resources — to participate in internal inspections, can offer unforeseen boosts to inspections. Not only will involving people from outside of FSQA bring in new perspectives, but they may also be able to ask questions about processes that people inside of the department are too close to evaluate objectively.
“A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.”
Turn Compliance Efforts into a Business Opportunity
The business benefits of a mature food safety culture can directly impact a company’s bottom line on the scale of millions of dollars. With that in mind, compliance initiatives are potentially lucrative opportunities to boost efficiencies, brand reputation, consumer trust, and more.
FSMA 204, which takes effect on January 20, 2026, makes supply chain traceability more essential than ever for food manufacturing companies. SafetyChain has created a free guide to start planning for FSMA 204 compliance as part of improving your overall food safety culture.
Read our free Guide: The Finalized FDA Food Traceability Rule to learn more.