What Is A Food Safety Culture?
A food safety culture is the values of a business with regard to food safety. An organisation with a strong food safety culture demonstrates to its employees and customers that making safe food is an important commitment.
Why is a positive food safety culture important?
Creating and maintaining a positive food safety culture within a business is of utmost importance. It demonstrates that a food business operator is committed to providing safe food. It also shows that they are willing to invest in and value their employees.
Staff need to be aware that their actions are critical. In other words, they need to know the potential consequences that could happen if they get it wrong. For example, if they use the same chopping board to prepare raw poultry followed by ready-to-eat food, they need to know that cross-contamination could occur, and this could lead to illness in customers. Unsafe practices result in unsafe food, which can be very damaging to both your customers and business.
What are the benefits of a good culture?
There are several benefits to implementing a positive food safety culture, such as: –
- Safe food production – poor practices can result in unsafe food. No business wants to give its customers food poisoning!
- Improved staff morale and retention of committed employees
- Complainant – business is more likely to keep within food hygiene regulations, reduced visits from EHO’s as a result
- Fewer customer complaints
- Good reputation
- Practices and procedures are more streamlined = better organised and run business
- Improved profits and potential for reduced insurance premiums
How to create a food safety culture with your team?
Below is a list of ways how you can create a positive food safety culture with your team.
- Management Commitment – Ensure that food safety starts at the highest level of management and that they have invested in a positive culture. Food hygiene should be a top priority. Managers should enthuse safety, cleanliness and the need to understand and follow food safety protocols at all times. Top-down leadership emphasises to staff to work hard towards implementing and adhering to policies. A positive commitment benefits all round.
- Staff Buy-In – Highlight to staff the reason for maintaining high standards. Always reinforce that food safety and compliance with legislation is essential to prevent making people ill.
- Staff Training and Development – It is essential to be aware that training alone may not necessarily result in behavioural changes. Continuous supervision is needed to ensure that the staff put into practice what they have learnt. Regular reviews of training and refresher training sessions should be in place.
How to improve food safety culture?
It is vital that Managers ‘walk the walk’, not just ‘talk the talk’. For example, if a Manager enters the kitchen, they should wash their hands and put on protective clothing. Leading by example is key to developing a positive food safety culture. It is fundamental that they set a strong commitment and have a positive mindset towards food safety so that employees to follow suit.
Staff should take ownership and pride at every stage of their role. They should be made aware of their importance in the business and the positive impact they are contributing.
Supervisors and Managers should undertake regular monitoring, and this process should be recorded. Furthermore, a method of continuous improvement should be in place.
It is important to invest in the training and development of your team. This training should include upskilling and refresher sessions. It does not always mean you have to spend lots of time and money. For instance, short, bite-sized toolbox talks are ideal and can be just as effective.
How do you measure food safety culture?
Measuring the effectiveness of food safety culture isn’t always easy; however, here are some suggestions on things you can do: –
- Take some time to observe how often employees wash their hands. Do they use the correct method of handwashing? How often is the hand soap dispenser replenished?
- Monitor how often things go ‘wrong’. For example, how often is food found past its intended use-by date in the fridge? Does a piece of equipment break down frequently?
- Have there been any customer complaints received or food poisoning allegations made? Similarly, have any allergen incidents occurred?
- Observe staff to capture data on attitudes towards food safety and job satisfaction levels.
- Encourage Managers to be open to staff suggestions and promote open communication. If appropriate, have a confidential whistleblowing mechanism in place.
- Ask staff questions about food hygiene and gauge their responses to see if there are any gaps in their knowledge.