Food safety culture is a term that is not found in the ISO 22000/FSSC standards, but it is implied in numerous of the requirements ranging from Top Management commitment to communication and continual improvement. But what is it?
The GFSI TWG defines food safety culture as “shared values, beliefs and norms that affect mindset and behaviour towards food safety in, across and throughout an organisation” (1). The question we can ask ourselves here is: Do we do the right thing even when no one is looking?
Every organisation has a Food Safety Culture. Is it a bad culture where no one cares about the hazards around them and do not realise their role in food safety, or believe that the Quality Department is the only department responsible for food safety? Or is it a good culture, where everyone knows that they are responsible for identifying hazards in their work area and to report them, and that each person in the organisation is responsible for food safety. It is easy to determine this in your facility: Ask the employees if they will give the products produced (or products produced from the organisations products i.e., ingredients) to their children, elderly parents, or immune compromised loved ones. If there is any hesitation, then you know you need to work on your Food Safety Culture.
How can we instil a good Food Safety Culture? Ask yourself some questions:
Does everyone understand their functions, roles, and expectations, and are they involved in defining their roles, responsibilities, and authorities?
Do the employees understand how their roles contribute to the organisation’s mission, vision and Food Safety objectives?
Are managers washing their hands and boots when entering the facility or just walking past the washing station “because they will not be handling food”? I.e., do rules apply to everyone or are certain groups excluded from having to follow the rules?
Communication across departments is very important. Does Quality know what Purchasing is buying, or do they only find out when it gets delivered, or even worse when they see a new product on the shop shelf that they were not even aware of?
Do employees know what hazards are, and do they know that they can report them and who to report them to?
Are employees too afraid to report potentially hazardous situations that could influence food safety because they are afraid of disciplinary action?
Organisational culture may take a long time to change but having employees, who are able to influence others in a positive manner, in key areas driving the change at all levels within the organisation could help you get there.
A culture of food safety – A position paper from the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) Summary V1.0 – 4/11/18
Written by: Amilia Franklin – MiChem Dynamics Food safety consultant, auditor and facilitator