What is Food Safety Culture?
Food Safety Culture is all about how an organisation values their food safety. It’s super important that the values are shared by management and employees alike. An organisation with a strong positive food safety culture demonstrates to its employees and customers that making safe food is an important commitment.
If you’re running a food business you understand the fundamentals of customer service and the experience that you deliver to your customers can make or break your business. With negative reviews able to be spread like wildfire, overnight your brand reputation can go from hero to zero. Now, would you consider your food safety culture part of your customer service and experience? It’s probably not something you’d immediately consider, but it’s so vital.
Poor food safety culture can lead to many food hygiene violations. Cleanliness, cross contamination and improper storage can very easily result in serious illnesses for your customers. Food hygiene violations quickly get picked up by the media and can tarnish your reputation overnight.
Let’s leave the scaremongering talk there and let’s focus on how we can ensure you never have any problems! In this blog, we’re going to cover:
6 ways to create a positive food safety culture
At Navitas we follow these 6 key areas as we believe these contribute to a positive food safety culture. Based on our digital food safety clients and work as environmental health auditors where we have observed food businesses closely following these steps we have seen very high food hygiene ratings awarded by the FSA. An an example, 96% of our digital food safety customers have a 5* food safety rating – so we guess the proof is in the pudding!
The 6 key areas for positive food safety culture are:
1) Management Commitment
3) Great Communication & Training
5) Monitoring & Review
6) Continuous Improvement
Establishing food safety responsibilities within your organisation from the top down is the next step to creating a positive food safety culture. These responsibilities should be placed within the job description so employees know what to expect from their role.
Keeping a handy reminder on walls (such as on posters) where staff are working is also a good idea to keep expectations at the forefront of their mind. We’re all guilty of forgetting things when we’re busy!
Great Communication & Training
The implementation of food safety protocols is almost entirely dependent on how well they are communicated to staff. That must start from the top down but can also come from bottom up and between personnel at the same level.
Telling employees what to do isn’t enough. Your team has to understand why it’s important and be reminded on a regular basis of the consequences of poor food safety practices.
As well as the Food Safety training carried out by the employees, comprehensive training should also be carried out on the organisations HACCP system.
Next step towards a positive food safety culture is to ensure you have sufficient knowledge and resources to develop you food safety management system. This is achieved by training key personnel within the organisation or, bringing in a food safety consultant to assist.
Sufficient resources to implement your food safety culture system are also necessary, such as temperature control & monitoring equipment, protective clothing, chemical supplies etc. These can be done digitally which will show a drive towards a positive food safety culture as switching to digital technology removes the issue of potentially falsifying documentation – there is a time-stamped record of exactly what check was carried out, when, where and by whom and, furthermore, managers can view and compare data from multiple sites from a single computer. Goodbye paper, hello time back!
Monitoring & Review
The next step is how you are going to measure the success of your positive food safety culture. This isn’t just ensuring due diligence documentation is fully completed and checked or critical control points have been met, it is also about individuals completing their responsibilities as well.
Why not think about linking positive food safety culture to staff objectives? A great way to promote food safety culture is to celebrate employees that are actually doing it!
Finally, food safety is a never a finished product it should always be a continually improved. Your HACCP document should be a living document which is frequently reviewed, verified and if something should go wrong help figure out the steps of how and stop it from happening again.
We recommend reviewing your HACCP at least once a year, or if you make any changes to your processes. Keep tabs on changes in regulation as this could impact your HACCP – signup to our newsletter as we send out alerts if the FSA make any important changes!
How to monitor that employees are adhering to your safety procedures
Without going too ‘Big Brother’, ensuring that your employees are adhering to your safety procedures is a vital managerial task which should be carried out to monitor that all employees are working in a correct and safe manner whilst following your procedures.
There are various methods to monitor performance which fall into 2 categories:
Active Monitoring – To ensure that safety standards are correct in the workplace before accidents, incidents or ill health are caused
Reactive Monitoring – Using accidents, incidents and ill health as indicators of performance to highlight areas of concern.
Both types of monitoring have their place in most workplaces. Monitoring should be conducted by management with senior management having the responsibility for ensuring that effective health & safety performance monitoring systems are in place.
Active monitoring is concerned with checking standards before an unwanted event occurs. It’s intention is to identify:
– Complying with standards, so that good performance can be recognised and maintained.
– Non-compliance with standards, so that the reason for non-compliance can be identified and a suitable corrective action put in place to resolve any shortfalls.
Some ways to actively monitor if your procedures are being followed are:
Systematic inspections – these inspection can focus on the 4 P’s, Plant (machinery/vehicles), Premises (workplace and working environment), People (working methods and behaviour) and Procedures (Safe systems of work, method statements etc). An inspection might concentrate on one, a couple or all of these, with different inspection regimes carried out in different workplaces e.g. monthly housekeeping inspection or daily equipment check.
Safety Inspections – safety inspection implies that a comparison has to be had against a given standard, whether it’s in-house or a legal standard. An example of a safety inspection would be a routine inspection of a workplace to determine if general standards of H&S are acceptable or is corrective action needed (e.g a quarterly housekeeping inspection of an office).
Safety Sampling – this is a technique of monitoring compliance with a particular workplace standard by looking at a sample only. If a large enough sample is collected then there is a strong likelihood that the results will reflect the workplace as a whole. An example would be to do a microbial swab on some, not all, food preparation benches within a kitchen to show that they have been effectively cleaned and sanitised.
Safety surveys – or safety tours and benchmarking are also types of active monitoring that can be carried out.
Reactive monitoring uses accidents, incidents, ill health and other unwanted events as indicators of health and safety performance to highlight areas of concern. However there are two weaknesses to reactive monitoring:
1) An accident/incident has already taken place, so things have to be corrected after the event rather than before
2) It measures failure; a negative aspect to focus on, whereas active monitoring can praise good behaviours and procedures found.
Reactive monitoring can be a good tool to use for an organisation as long as it is used alongside some forms of active monitoring. The two main methods for carrying out reactive monitoring are:
– Figuring out the root cause of an event (accident, ill health, incident) and resolving the issue. The issue can be resolved through varies methods like an increase in active monitoring aswell as carrying out staff training be it new training or refresher training on the topics around the cause of the event.
– Learn lessons from data gathered from a large number of events
The first method involves incident reporting, recording and investigation, whereas the second method is concerned with the collection and use of statistics to see if any trends or patterns can be identified
Pre EHO Visit Checklist
An EHO visit can be a daunting experience for some, however it shouldn’t be anything to worry about if you are following the correct procedures. Their purpose is to ensure the food your business produces is safe to eat.
EHO’s can turn up unannounced to enter and inspect your food premises at any reasonable time, they do not need to book an appointment. As they can turn up at any time this is why it’s crucial that you strictly follow food safety law so when the EHO turns up you are fully prepared.
At the end of their visit, in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, you will be presented with a score from the Food Hygiene Rating scheme of 0 – 5. Any business should be able to achieve a “5 – very good” rating. Scotland has its own equal system but will either issue a “pass” or “improvement required” rating.
When an Environmental Health Officer comes to visit your premises to conduct a Food Hygiene Inspection they look at 3 areas:
1) Structure – cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation and pest control
2) Food Hygiene – how the food is stored, prepared, cooked, cooled, re-heated
3) Safety Management
Need Food Safety Certificates?!?
Safety Management of Food Safety Practices is a major part of the EHO inspection. You can display or produce your Navitas training certificates to show your understanding of the correct procedures being followed. Check out our Food Hygiene and HACCP training courses!