How to implement a Food Safety Culture

When it comes to food safety, there can be no shortcuts. Knowledge and appreciation of legislation, standards, and industry best practices is only the beginning — the trick is to ensure food safety practices are implemented every hour of every day, including night shifts, weekends, and even when you are not looking. Achieving this level of consistency requires going beyond having documented policies, procedures, and checklists — it requires that every employee cares about food safety. So how do you get your employees to care? Creating a food safety culture within the business requires a deeper understanding and appreciation of the people we work with. It requires that top management lead employees towards a shared vision, aligned with the same value system that remains steadfast — not only when things are easy but also when things are tough. Here are ten steps to help your food business implement a healthy food safety culture.

  1. Step 1: Assess Your Current Food Safety Culture

There are five critical dimensions to consider when assessing the status of your food safety culture. These include the business’s vision and mission, its people, and levels of consistency, adaptability, and awareness of risks and hazards. Several assessment tools are available to help you identify which of the above dimensions need work, including those from BRCGS, SSAFE, and Food Safety Standards Australia/New Zealand. Of course, a physical inspection of the plant will also reveal symptoms of a poor food safety culture. For example, you may find employees bypass the handwash station, wear dirty or damaged protective clothing, or even fraudulently complete food safety checklists.

  • Step 2: Identify Any Food Safety Culture Barriers

Management needs to have a frank discussion about any barriers to achieving a healthy food safety culture. Some barriers may include a lack of resources, communication, food safety knowledge, or strong processes and systems. It is essential to address these barriers in your food safety culture implementation strategy.

  • Step 3: Identify and Document Your Core Values

As a team, identify the principles that set the norms for how you wish to conduct your business every hour of every day. These will become the values that you want all your employees to use as a frame of reference for how to work, behave, and make decisions. Core values determine your business’s character; how your employees speak to customers and one another, approach their work, and make decisions in your absence.

  • Step 4: Develop a Vision and Mission Statement for Your Business

The vision and mission statement will set the purpose and direction for your business so that all employees understand what you as a business are trying to achieve and the impact you wish to make on the world. It should reflect your business’s character and core values, and it should be written in such a way that all stakeholders will understand its meaning. Here are some inspiring examples of vision and mission statements.

  • Step 5: Establish a Communication Strategy

The next step is to communicate your vision, mission, food safety policy, and company values. This can be done during team meetings, at staff performance reviews, on staff notice boards, or in company newsletters. It is also essential to establish a communication process for any changes, such as changes to regulatory requirements, food safety policies or control measures, as well as customer specifications, service providers, or raw materials.

  • Step 6: Clearly Define the Roles and Responsibilities

Compile an organogram with the reporting structures clearly defined. Each staff member should have a clear job description that highlights their role in ensuring food safety in the company, as well as identifying and reporting any food safety hazards or non-conformances to their superiors. Hold staff accountable for their duties by having clear consequences should they fail to uphold their responsibilities.

  • Step 7: Compile a Comprehensive Training Plan for All Employees

Based on the job descriptions compiled in Step 6, conduct a training needs analysis per job function and implement an effective training programme to address any competency gaps. High-quality training providers can be sought to address these gaps. In-house training can be customised per staff member, where they can shadow or be mentored by more competent or experienced staff members who support the company values. Your chosen training solution/s should include a competency assessment.

  • Step 8: Compile a Performance Measurement Programme

Capture, track, and trend all food safety and quality data, such as the speed and effectiveness at which customer complaints about food safety incidents are addressed or the turn-around time of the completion of non-conformances. All monitoring and verification data can be tracked and trended if data is captured digitally. Examples of what can be measured include regulatory compliance inspection results, supplier assessment results, customer survey results, production efficiencies, and employee absenteeism.

  • Step 9: Implement an Employee Feedback System

Provide mechanisms whereby employees can immediately report food safety hazards or concerns to the food safety team. Ensure that these communications are recorded and acted upon and that employees are rewarded for reporting concerns. Also engage employees in addressing food safety concerns, ask for their input or suggestions, and acknowledge their contribution toward problem-solving.

  1. Step 10: Implement an Incentive, Reward, or Recognition Programme

Finally, implement a fair, consistent, and transparent recognition program. This can be done through staff performance reviews, self-assessments, or peer reviews. Reward the reporting of food safety hazards, non-conformances or failures, as well as suggestions from staff that contribute to food safety objectives. Rewards can be in the form of awards, prizes, coupons, monetary or time, or public praise or promotion.

Once all ten steps are implemented, it is essential to assess your progress by using any of the food safety culture assessment tools listed in Step 1 once more. The commitment to implementing a healthy food safety culture needs to remain steadfast. Once a healthy culture is achieved you can never become complacent as old habits can creep in and undermine what you have accomplished. Your next objective will be to build on your accomplishments, make improvements, and strive for excellence.

How Can Entecom Help You?

We have a one-day Food Safety Culture workshop for management that will help you develop your food safety culture implementation strategy. This workshop will take your team through the above steps and provides all the tools and templates to help you with your strategy. Learn more about our Food Safety Culture workshop.

Related Posts

Search & Filter our blog

  • Filter by Category

Almost complete 90%

Download e-Book