In essence, food safety fundamentally revolves around individual human behavior. Human behavior in turn, is largely driven by culture. To successfully develop a food safety culture, an operation must possess impeccable leadership and incorporate the highest standards of food safety.
How do you convince management to buy-in to this concept?
Many times, food companies will simply say, “We have to change our culture” or “We’ve always done things this way”, but this attitude will not remedy potential outbreaks or help develop food safety protocols. As author and businessman Andy Grove once said, “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” This statement could not apply more to the food service and manufacturing industry.
The first step to change is convincing your organization from the top down to buy in; getting your executive team to accept the cultural change from manual paper-based approaches to digital food safety is paramount. Common objections will be the investment and positive record of accomplishment. Taking a proactive and preventative approach to everyday food safety compliance will have a positive ROI over time while ensuring the utmost brand protection.
Presenting the potential damages of being linked to a foodborne outbreak is a great place to start. It typically will open the eyes and slightly intimidate each audience member. After all, executives and board members do not like to hear “profit loss”, “stock plunge”, and “tainted brand image”. While this can all seem overwhelming, it does not have to be. Preparing a strategy and evaluating the processes needed to fulfill this goal will help alleviate the red tape to get this off the ground. However, before we prepare a strategy, it is important to understand the basic premise behind food safety and how technology can enhance it.
Most notably, the HACCP plan and individual processes created reflect the human behavior that shapes and molds the culture of an organization. In large organizations, the challenges are often compounded by an increased number of locations and stakeholders (employees,
suppliers, customers, etc.) Within these operations, food safety culture and human behavior can potentially become compromised due to the nature of the organization, or attitude and work ethic of the stakeholders.
Technology can assist in the development and maintenance of larger food safety cultures through the use of extensive and dynamic procedures. Human behavior can be shaped by the resources available in today’s food safety tool box. We can now overcome the arduous “pencil whipping” of safety checklists via handheld, wireless and cloud-based technologies. Such technologies are ubiquitous today in the form of apps downloaded from the internet, cell phones, reporting platforms and omnipresent communications. History has shown that in challenged cultures, individuals often behave as though they are not a part of the whole, and operate as one, rather than as a team that is linked together under one vision and shared effort. However, during the processing, handling and storage of food, we need all stakeholders to act as a collective operation and function as one. The growing adoption of technology is the fundamental turning point that can help drive human behavior and food safety culture in a positive direction.
The introduction of FSMA has brought both challenges and opportunities to the food safety industry—the requirement to document and record actions of a larger food safety plan is one of them. Conceptually speaking, you are only as good as your records say you are. In this context, we are faced with both the challenge of maintaining a positive and efficient food safety culture, in addition to the burden of increased regulatory compliance.
However, FSMA and the innovative technological era have guided the industry to a crossroads of sorts. I suggest embracing the FSMA mentality and implementing food safety technology into your operations.
This will not only protect and preserve your organization, but perhaps more importantly, it will define your food safety culture, and implement a positive change into your brand.