Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness
Food Safety Culture Club

Changes in Culture

By Deirdre Schlunegger
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Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness

Leadership programs help to give food safety professionals the tools necessary to create and maintain a culture of prevention.

The vast majority of foodborne illnesses in the United States results from either a management system failure or human error. This supports our belief that all foodborne illnesses are preventable. With the introduction of FSMA, prevention has become a significant focus in the battle to eliminate foodborne illness.

STOP Foodborne Illness is collaborating with Intrinsic Leadership, LLC to offer a Food Safety Leadership program. The primary objective of this program is to equip leaders with the knowledge, skills and abilities to develop and sustain a culture of prevention relative to food safety.

Successful prevention requires more than just the introduction of new knowledge and skills for workers. Success requires the consistent and ongoing application of those skills.

We know that training can provide knowledge and skill. However, the most significant predictor of long-term success is the extent to which frontline managers actively support behavioral changes within the employee base. Experience shows that transforming an organization to produce superior results is much more than training programs, process improvement or new technology. While each of these elements are important, sustainable improvement occurs when we are able to shift the way people think about the business in a way that drives them to consistently act different then they did in the past. The role of leadership is to:

  • Frame the business opportunity in a way that inspires employees to seek a better outcome
  • Relentlessly pursue management system improvement
  • Represent, support and encourage a culture that aligns with improvement opportunities

Stories are powerful reminders and provide the “why” behind food safety.  Below are two such stories.

Raw Milk – E. coli 0157:H7

It is the stories that create the urgency behind the importance of food safety.  Christopher’s story is heart breaking—yet, he was one of the lucky ones, as he recovered from his illness.

Cheese – Listeria

Allison survived as well but had a rough entry into the world, as she was diagnosed with Listeriosis shortly after birth.


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