Developing a Successful Food Safety Culture: Questions and Answers

Establishing a food safety culture is essential when cultivating a mindset where food safety and consumer well-being is at the forefront at food processing facilities. Meritech's Director of North American Sales, Scott Jones, is here to answer questions about food safety culture.

Two Food Processing Employees Discussing Food Safety Culture

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What does it mean to establish a food safety culture, and why is it important for businesses in the food industry?

Jones: When you’re establishing a food safety culture it means you're fostering a shared set of values, attitudes, and most importantly behaviors that prioritize food safety throughout the organization. These values are essential because we are talking about FOOD. As consumers we all assume, and depend on the fact that, the products that we buy and consume are safe to eat.

What are the key components of building a food safety culture across all levels of the organization? 

Jones: A successful food safety culture has to start at the top. There must be an element of leadership commitment which in turn allows the resources needed for communication, training, implementation, constant monitoring, and always looking for ways to be even better. For it to be a “culture” everyone has buy in. If leadership has a lackadaisical attitude toward something (whatever it is) it will always trickle down throughout the company. Leadership participation in food safety training, promoting initiatives/practices…and recognizing and rewarding behaviors is paramount. Walk the walk and talk the talk! 

What are effective communication strategies for promoting a food safety culture throughout the organization?

Jones: Proper communication solves so many things right? Promoting a food safety culture within a company is all about messaging, defining expectations, staying on top of industry trends, and establishing an open forum for sharing or reporting concerns/suggestions. Keeping open communication lines with your team helps information flow both ways, allowing employees to learn about new changes or practices and allows the management team to learn about potential concerns that need to be addressed. 

How can training programs be tailored to instill a strong food safety culture among employees?

Jones: Training programs should cover the foundational knowledge of food safety principles. It shouldn’t be designed as a "do this or you will be fired"…it should be educational providing demonstrations of proper practices, and emphasize the consequences of foodborne illnesses. It is important to remind employees that the whole company is affected if a consumer of the product gets sick. It’s a company pride thing to be part of a company doing the right thing and being the best at food safety. 

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What role does employee engagement play in creating a food safety culture, and how can it be fostered?

Jones: Again, a food safety culture means everyone has buy in. You want employees to take ownership in their part of food safety. Having defined roles, maybe having food safety committees or teams…keeping the communication open for input and feedback. You really want to reward and encourage those food safety behaviors. You want to always encourage that sense of pride and responsibility in maintaining those food safety standards, just not enforce punishments for when the standards are not met.

How can businesses measure and evaluate the effectiveness of their food safety culture?

Jones: Well the ultimate end result a company is trying to achieve is staying out of the news from having an adverse event or recall right? Constantly monitoring and evaluating compliance is key. Again, this becomes a little easier when everyone understands the "Why" behind the behavior protocols.  

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Can you provide examples of businesses that have successfully built a strong food safety culture, and the benefits they have experienced?

Jones: So of course our part in this arena is proper handwashing and addressing footwear. We’re in a bunch of plants from Mars to Kelloggs to Nestle to Beyond Meat, you name it… 

Kens Foods really spoke up about how implementing our systems in all their plants over the last 14 years really had a huge part in their overall food safety protocols by keeping consistency and guaranteeing compliance with handwashing. 

A successful implementation of a food safety culture leads to improved compliance with regulations, enhanced brand reputation, increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, greater operational efficiencies….and of course most importantly reduced foodborne illness incidents! 

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Topics:Food Safety Culture