Perhaps the biggest challenge for food manufacturers is that they need to produce safe food consistently, in large volumes …. while making a profit. A culture of cutting corners can gradually seep in such a demanding environment. This is a poor food safety culture.
It’s worth bearing in mind that food safety is a key element of BRC Food Safety Issue 8. A safety and quality culture also features in Packaging Materials Issue 6 (clause 1.1.2 – effective from February 2021).
Many food manufacturers resort to additional training to counter a poor food safety culture. There is a clear problem with this:
You are presuming that the reason there is a poor food safety culture is that people have not had the right training … most of us have had excellent training in safe driving, does that mean we always follow the speed limit?
Of course training is important … indeed, this blog is inspired by a great conference I attended, organized by totrain. But training is not the solution to everything.
It’s easy to have ‘food safety’ high on the company’s agenda, on paper. But how does this transfer to reality? Are agenda items on top of the agenda largely about finances, with food safety further down? Is food safety addressed as something distinct to everything else?
Food safety is part and parcel of everything else. Not separate. I love the diagram at the top. It highlights how prioritizing food safety informs all other decisions. Food safety should be built in everything else that is done in the business. For example:
This is make people come to see food safety as their own personal responsibility. These employees will put positive peer pressure on others, so they all work with food safety in mind.
This is the difference between ABC Foods Ltd where Bob doesn’t say anything when Charlie cuts corners, as it’s nothing to do with him; and XYZ Foods Ltd where Rob sees Jane pick up a food item from the floor and put it back on the tray, and politely tells her ‘That’s not how we do things here, this is what we need to do instead’.
Getting to this stage means food safety is less of a headache for management, as everyone in the business manages or polices food safety. It also means that new employees, outside the formal induction, are shaped into working in the right way, with food safety as a priority.
Perhaps an effective way to encourage food safety is to consistently ask the question:
Would you give that item of food to your children/loved ones?
See how BRC Gap Analysis can help you prepare for your BRC audit, where you will be asked about food safety culture in your business.