Food Safety Culture
Implementing a quality system within ones company is taking time and efforts. However, implementing a quality system might not be enough to ensure the safety of the food products.
In its position paper entitled “A culture of Food Safety”, the GFSI defines (based on a derived one from existing literature on organizational and food safety culture) food safety culture as, “shared values, beliefs and norms that affect mindset and behaviour toward food safety in, across and throughout an organization.”.
Food safety is a shared responsibility and all employees have a role to play in its effective implementation and maintenance. Employees, regardless of their position within the company, need to understand the impact their actions can have on food safety.
A strong culture of food safety contributes to prevent and catch deviations in processes that could impact the safety, quality, and regulatory compliance of the products.
A mature culture within an organization is expressed by the fact it:
- is supported by the entire organization,
- is clear to everyone and regularly discussed,
- will be adjusted/improved when needed,
- is a culture where issues can be addressed,
- is supported by knowledge about the food safety threats / risks,
- is concrete and connected to daily work.
Food Safety Culture can be defined as the food safety behaviours, attitudes, norms and beliefs shared by a group of people. These elements determine the solidity of a company’s food safety management.
Food safety awareness
If the awareness of food-safe production is widely supported within your organization, the chance of a food safety incident / risk with your product will be lower. The possibility for employees to report matters safely, positive leadership and management’s exemplary role are important factors that contribute to improving the company’s FSC (Food Safety Culture).
The more the employees feel involved in the organization, and based on intrinsic motivations, the more they will put their best foot forward to guarantee food safety and quality. The outcome of having employees more involved and with a better understanding of the impact of their actions will provide an advantage for the entire organization.
Food Safety Culture
In September 2020, the Codex Alimentarius Commission adopted a revision of its global standard on General Principles of Food Hygiene (CXC 1-1969). The revised CXC 1-1969 introduces the ‘food safety culture’ concept as a general principle. Food safety culture enhances food safety by increasing the awareness and improving behaviour of employees in food establishments. Such impact on food safety has been demonstrated in several scientific publications.
Considering the revision of the global standard and the expectations of consumers and trade partners that food produced in the EU complies at least with such global standard, in march 2021 the Commision Regulation published the COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) 2021/382 of 3 March 2021 amending the Annexes to Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the hygiene of foodstuffs as regards food allergen management, redistribution of food and food safety culture. According to this new amendment in the Annex II, this ‘CHAPTER XIa was inserted:
Food Safety Culture
- Food business operators shall establish, maintain and provide evidence of an appropriate food safety culture by fulfilling the following requirements:
- commitment of the management, in accordance with point 2, and all employees to the safe production and distribution of food;
- leadership towards the production of safe food and to engage all employees in food safety practices;
- awareness of food safety hazards and of the importance of food safety and hygiene by all employees in the business;
- open and clear communication between all employees in the business, within an activity and between consecutive activities, including communication of deviations and expectations;
- availability of sufficient resources to ensure the safe and hygienic handling of food.
2. Management commitment shall include:
- ensuring that roles and responsibilities are clearly communicated within each activity of the food business;
- maintaining the integrity of the food hygiene system when changes are planned and implemented;
- verifying that controls are being performed timely and efficiently and documentation is up to date;
- ensuring that the appropriate training and supervision are in place for personnel;
- ensuring compliance with relevant regulatory requirements;
- encouraging continual improvement of the food safety management system of the business, where appropriate, taking into account developments in science, technology and best practices.
3.The implementation of the food safety culture shall take account of the nature and size of the food business.’
In BRC Global Standard Food Safety Issue 8, Food Safety Culture is clearly mentioned under the Senior Management Clause. GFSI, IFS Food v7 and BRC Issue 8 recognize the establishment of a food safety culture will play a vital role ensuring that all employees adhere to the correct behaviours at all times.
To ensure this, each employee needs to be trained suitably and know what is expected of them. They need to understand what is considered to be the right thing to do, the correct manner in which to do things, as well as the implications of not doing the right thing.
The goal of Food Safety Culture is to improve employee awareness and their behaviour in food production plants. In the update, a clear definition of responsibilities is required, along with documentation update, controls compliance, in terms of timing and effectiveness, training and supervision of personnel. This is because culture plays a fundamental role in the management of food safety and these new indications will ensure that the regulations are aligned with the growing expectations of consumers, leading companies to improve.
How Mérieux NutriSciences can support you
Creation of a culture within an organization a topic for discussion and to improve the behavior of employees so that food safety also improves. The starting point for the organizational culture is the business values as established by senior management. Translating these business values into concrete behavior in the workplace in this way gives substance to the identity of the organization. After all, “good” behavior not only has a positive effect on food safety, but also on quality, sustainability, efficiency and all other important aspects of business operations.
In order to be able to change the culture, it will first have to be mapped out what the current culture is. Actions can be determined from the gap between the current and desired culture. The implementation of the action plan can be monitored and evaluated.
To support culture improvement, Mérieux NutriSciences has developed the following services.
Online survey: Questionnaire with about 30 questions on six aspects of Food Safety Culture. All employees receive a link to the questionnaire. Comments can be added. The result is a report on the strong and weaknesses of the culture.
On site assessment: Small interviews with the employees on the shop floor to learn what they feel is important and how they and their colleagues behave. The specific circumstances can be addressed and recommendation are attributed to the specific situation for the employees concerned.
Food Safety Culture Training: Training on how to define a culture and how to link company values to workplace behavior. Attention is also paid to the requirements of the standards and how an action plan can be implemented.
Culture workshops: often customer specific workshop where the culture is discussed and detailed.
The above services are generally purchased in combination for a good project execution. A survey is deepened with on site assessments to define clear and organization specific recommendations. These results are then discussed with employees and senior management in workshops.