Part 2:

Importance of a Strong Food Safety Culture

A strong food safety culture starts with the CEO and leadership team for the company.  Food safety needs to be a regular leadership agenda topic, just like financials and other key company performance metrics.

Some key leader behaviors that demonstrate a food safety culture mindset:

  • Talking about food safety often during town halls and business updates
  • Demonstrating food safety behaviors when visiting plants such as proper hand washing and good manufacturing practices compliance
  • Encouraging a food safety first mindset–rather than accepting plant presentations that first talk about line efficiencies and productivity targets, leaders can set the expectation to start with food safety performance

Food safety metrics vs. food safety culture metrics

Measurement of food safety performance often includes things like audit scores and recalls.  While these can be important measures, they don’t do a good job of capturing how well the company is set up to deliver food safety by design all the time.  An excellent tool to measure food safety culture is the Food Safety Maturity Model from Cultivate Food Safety.

Recognize, recognize, recognize—and incentivize

Are operators recognized for great food safety efforts in your plants—or is the operator that shuts down a line frowned upon for slowing production?  In a strong food safety culture, operators that catch problems and stop lines when food safety hazards occur are recognized for their efforts.

When incentives and bonus structures are based solely or largely on operational metrics like productivity and efficiency, the operation is set up for failure from a food safety perspective.  Incentives for food plant and operations leadership need to significantly include food safety, otherwise competing priorities may drive decisions not in the best interest of food safety.

Find ways to recognize and reward food safety behaviors to help drive a strong food safety culture.  Talk about food safety in newsletters and on company web sites.  Everyone in a food company should be part of the food safety culture:  operators, maintenance teams, R&D, sales, information technology and more.  Discuss food safety broadly across the company, at levels appropriate for the audience.

Next in this series we will discuss key systems and documentation needs, followed by the final segment of the series discussing the facilities and equipment infrastructure needed to achieve food safety by design.