Today, the idea of engaging in socially responsible practices goes beyond a feel-good concept. When considering food safety, social responsibility can have a big impact on a company’s bottom line, especially with the increased complexity of supply chains, as more ingredients and products are being imported.
According to Anna Key Jesus, senior director of quality systems at Amy’s Kitchen, social responsibility ties into food safety in a few ways:
- Increasing market size for large companies equals more imported products as ingredients for processed foods
- Differing labor laws from country to country, along with their oversight globally, require vigilance regarding employee rights and safety
- A growing and global social media presence has pushed consumers to demand that food companies engage in socially responsible practices
Jesus, who spoke during a recent webinar, “Social Responsibility As a Driver for Food Safety”, discussed how food companies should be implementing socially responsible practices within their organizations and the ethics of providing a safe environment for workers.
“Any company that willfully operates an unsafe working environment for their employees is less likely to provide a safe processing environment for their customers,” said Jesus, adding that unsafe working environments can lead to increased turnover, employee accidents involving loss of attention or oversight, and the presence of blood borne pathogens or other potential safety events. “These conditions directly impact the safety of products.”
She emphasized the use of the SA 8000 standard to drive social responsibility within companies The auditable standard is based on the UN Declaration of Human Rights and is used across industries to protect the basic rights of workers, specifically calling out the prohibition against child labor and forced labor. “Forced or slave laborers do not live in an environment of personal safety,” said Jesus. “Under the conditions that they are held in, it is nearly impossible to promote GMPs or food safety guidelines. We can state with confidence that there are not good manufacturing practices when slave labor is involved.”
SA 8000 components address the following areas, all of which tie back into continuous improvement:
- Child labor
- Forced or compulsory labor
- Health and safety
- Freedom of association and right to collective bargaining
- Disciplinary practices
- Working hours
Jesus urged food companies to carefully look at their own labor practices, as overworked and exhausted employees are the number one cause of accidents in the workplace. This is not only a legal and ethical issue from an employee perspective, but it also affects the execution of sound food safety practices within manufacturing facilities.