What is food safety culture?
Food safety culture can be described as the attitudes, values, and beliefs employees have toward food safety. It is the responsibility of everyone in the organisation to create and shape this culture. The food safety culture directly reflects the quality of food produced. Employees should have pride in the food they create, and understand the foundation of quality food is providing food that is safe to eat.
Why is a positive food safety culture important?
Large multinational companies spend millions creating a positive business culture; why do they do this? They do this because it has a positive impact on their bottom line.
In the food industry, there is nothing more important than food safety, which is why there are guidelines and checks carried out by the authorities.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) estimates that around 2.4 million cases of foodborne illness occur every year in the UK, of which 60% come from restaurants and takeaways. Foodborne illnesses are a result of poor food safety; and can be easily avoided by demonstrating more care when producing and storing food. Causing foodborne illnesses can have a host of repercussions, such as negative reviews and damage to reputation, the potential of being sued, and sparking a food safety inspection.
As a business owner or manager, you juggle many different responsibilities and tasks, so it is not always possible to oversee everything. Building a positive food culture offers peace of mind, knowing staff will take ownership of food safety, even when you are not there.
“Culture matters... Failure to understand culture and take it seriously can have disastrous consequences for an organisation.” Edgar H. Schein, 1999.
5 tips to introduce a positive food safety culture
Areas that have a large impact on culture are shown to be reinforcement, training, and risk oversight.
1. Top down approach
The key to producing a positive food safety culture is to demonstrate it from the top down. Front-line staff must see the owner and manager leading by example, adhering to all policies, handling food the right way, carrying out the correct checks, and using the right equipment. Reinforcing how you expect staff to behave should remain consistent, fair, and well-communicated. There should be transparency regarding food safety objectives and how they fit into overall company objectives.
2. Involvement and ownership
Assigning food safety tasks and checks to individual staff members offers a sense of ownership and empowerment, which is more likely to result in culture buy-in.
Understanding is the bedrock of winning over staff participation. If there is a deep understanding of why something is carried out, and the repercussions if not, staff are more likely to be more mind-fall of their actions and carry out tasks with purpose.
The extent of Food safety training may depend on the job role and level of food handling. Training may be carried out internally, if so, select the trainer carefully. Does the trainer come across as having solid understanding and interest in food safety and able to confidently answer any questions?
4. Support and resources
By law, all food businesses must have a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP). Your HACCP must be reviewed regularly to ensure that it reflects the current business operations. A HACCP should act as a how-to guide offering support and reassurance to staff, such as what to do in certain situations, what food safety checks need completing, and what are safe temperature ranges. Our food safety due diligence app Hubl allows checks to be recorded digitally with reminders, and built-in best practice guides. Even with the most reboost HACCP issues can arise. Therefore it's important to create an environment whereby staff feel listened to, respected, and comfortable to raise concerns.
5. Evaluating and addressing problems
Monitoring your food safety can be done by reviewing your due diligence checklists. Hubl offers a live compliance status, flagging any issues that need addressing, which can be accessed even when you are not on the premises. The speed in which food safety issues are addressed will have a direct impact on your food safety culture, if problems are not addressed it gives the impression to staff that food safety is not important, which in turn will affect how staff view food safety.
Benefits of evaluating
Discovering strengths and weaknesses in your food safety culture
Offers insight into staff experiences, and attitudes
Identifying focus areas that need addressing
Measuring the impact of training and food safety systems
Do you need help and support
We provide consultancy services to improve food safety ratings and create a positive food safety culture within your business. Get in touch today.