Posted by Marie Ristic on 27 May 2020

Food Safety

How To Improve Food Safety Culture In Your Processing Plant

For food processors in Australia and New Zealand, HACCP compliance and the importance of food safety has long been understood. Only recently however, has the industry begun considering an organisation’s food safety culture.

The BRCGS Issue 8 mandate was released in 2018, with a new clause (1.1.2) focusing on exactly that. BRCGS states:

“In the first year of the Issue 8 standard, sites would be expected to have developed the plan of action to improve food safety and quality culture and demonstrate implementation of planned actions has commenced at their first audit against Issue 8.”

Now that year two is here, companies are required to verify the effectiveness of their actions. So, how ready are you to demonstrate your positive food safety culture? In this article, we’ll look at various ways for you to commit to food safety and feel more prepared for your second Issue 8 audit.

Overview:

What is a positive food safety culture?

BRCGS states that clause 1.1.2 requires food sites to define and maintain a clear plan for the ongoing development of a positive food safety culture. This plan must include:

  • Clearly defined activities that will be completed
  • All the sections of the site that have an impact on product safety (whilst specific activities may be relevant to certain departments or roles, overall the plan must ensure that all relevant section/roles are covered)
  • An action plan indicating how the identified activities will be undertaken/completed
  • Measurement of the activities (i.e. were they completed, were the correct people involved, were activities successful, any other learnings)
  • Intended timescales for the completion of the activities
  • A review of the effectiveness of completed activities

Why is it important?

A strong food safety culture within a processing environment cements good processes and behaviours that improve the safety and legality of food products. It also dramatically reduces the risk of product recalls that can be detrimental to the organisation and its customers.

How do you promote food safety culture?

Remembering that clause 1.1.2 requires organisations to make a commitment to “continuing improvement” of food safety culture, here are 5 essential steps for promoting it at your site.

1. Build a taskforce

When you allocate team members to be responsible for food safety culture, you make them accountable. Not only that, but you create a body of people that can generate ideas and drive the ongoing improvement of food safety at your site. Management commitment is necessary but buy-in is also needed from all levels of the workforce.

2. Develop effective communication

Eagle PI, the pioneers in product quality inspection equipment, write in their blog:

BRCGS Issue 8 underscores the importance of trust between employees and management and calls for honest, important feedback and insights to be received through open communications.

Effective communication should never be underestimated, particularly when it comes to the important issue of food safety.

3. Involve and train your team

Involving your staff encourages a sense of ownership within the team: this is something we’re doing together, not just something we’re being told to do.

Update and invest in training. Don’t assume that employees understand or repeatedly perform the correct actions. Any good behaviour must be repeated over and over again and supported by positive reinforcement in order to make it stick. 

4. Invest in advanced food safety technology

FPE endorses the world-leading food safety technology and equipment made by Eagle; for example, their dual energy Eagle X-Ray machines. Not only do these machines detect inorganic contaminants such as rubber, which were previously undetectable, they also demonstrate to auditors a commitment to improving food safety.

5. Monitor and measure improvement

Ongoing assessment is critical. More on this below.

How to measure food safety culture

We recommend that food businesses start by revisiting their food safety goals. From there, they should evaluate their HACCP or other food safety plans, food defence/food fraud prevention plans and quality assurance systems to achieve the standard.

Eagle also suggests that a company surveys its employees “to check attitudes about the current culture of food safety” and “welcome suggestions to enhance it.”

Remember, food safety culture is not just about HACCP. Make sure you evaluate equipment, staff behaviours, process documents and other things you can visibly see. Look at your food safety training, internal communications and team incentives scheme. Survey staff opinions, hold food safety meetings and encourage the giving of feedback – because values underlie culture and they’re the hardest to assess. Contact FPE today to find out how advanced X-Ray food inspection systems can foster a strong food safety culture in your organisation.

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