Tag Archives: behavior

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

How Do We Incentivize Behavior Change?

By Deirdre Schlunegger
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Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness

In March, I presented and participated in a session regarding produce safety at The Global Food Safety Conference in Houston. In April, I was the keynote speaker at the BRC conference in Orlando, Florida. I asked: What incentivizes the human spirit and how do we draw on people’s creativity and their ability to have empathy and to solve problems?  Which interventions are more or less likely to stimulate one’s ability to care about food safety as it relates to human beings? Knowledge alone seldom changes behavior. The imagination benefits from stimulation—for example, listening to personal stories. For change to happen, there must be an emotional connection to the idea of achievable outcomes.

This past year we spoke at a large food company. During a pre-call to discuss what the presentation might look like, one man said that nearly 20 years ago, he heard Nancy Donley speak about her son Alex, who died at the age of six from a foodborne illness. He said since that time, he has never looked at food safety the same way, and he takes every single infraction dealing with food safety as a possible consequence for someone’s life. A rational understanding of what a better outcome might look like will often involve a deeper understanding and a connection with an issue and with the individuals related to that issue. Change is difficult. We often don’t learn until we risk collapse or fail. In a moment of crisis, we are presented with a unique opportunity for change. This idea could stand to be finely calibrated, as there are moments that are too painful to activate learning as one struggles with a deep sense of hopelessness, and there are moments when change lies outside the realm of possibilities. An analytic perspective without access to emotional content is unlikely to provide the conditions for change, but a link between the head and the heart may initiate transformation.

I met Will Daniels, formerly of Earthbound Farms after an emotional presentation he made at a conference. He spoke about a young boy who died from the spinach outbreak and he referred to his children of nearly the same age. He also presented the sequence of events that led to and followed the outbreak in a very factual and logical way. This link between his head and his heart delivered a presentation that was impactful, emotional, factual and sincere. A cold analysis of a problem is seldom sufficient, nor is the condition of people when they are stuck in an overwhelming emotional state. The challenge is to find middle ground and put together thinking and feeling in a context where a coherent narrative will be created. For individuals to change their behavior, we must influence not only their environment, but their hearts and their minds. What we do know about change and people’s readiness to change is that it has much to do with timing and ripeness. The crucial question is whether issues are close enough to the surface to break into the public discourse or to have an impact on a system. As a protective mechanism, people resist the pain of engagement and hold onto old assumptions, often adopting a deluded narrative. People may find that blaming others, scapegoating, externalizing the other party, denying the problem, jumping to conclusions, or launching a distracting issue might restore stability and feel less stressful than facing and taking responsibility for a complex challenge.

We often see change in companies and their policies after they have experienced an outbreak, not before. Over the years we have seen this with several companies whose confidence was high prior to an outbreak, as they had never had a problem before and felt as if they were immune. The challenge is to allow for conditions in that there is sufficient pressure to change but there is also a safety net in place. There is a real tension between the pressure to change and the conditions that allow for necessary creativity, flexibility and imagination to get us through a crisis.   Businesses that are transparent in their admittance to a problem often are better able to create change in a safe environment. In other words, “yes, we have a problem and what are we going to do to change course?” Crisis isn’t necessary but in reality, catastrophic events often precede modifications in policy and practice. Creating a head/heart connection during planning and training may deliver a sense of urgency to help individuals remember “the why” behind food safety.

Until we prepare for a future with a sense of urgency and commitment and fully integrate “the why behind food safety”, we will merely repeat errors of the past. It takes courage and true leadership to carry out a vision, a future that doesn’t deny or divorce itself from the past but uses it in such a way that opens the door to progress. We have improved our narratives and are better at risk analysis and detection, and I believe we will continue to improve.

Marc Simony, TraceGains

The Culture of Change Management

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Marc Simony, TraceGains

Complying with FSMA regulations or GFSI schemes isn’t always straightforward, but that also may not be the biggest challenge facing companies today. According to Marc Simony of the TraceGains Network, the large issue is change management and the culture shift that is happening within companies. In a quick video shot during the 2016 Food Safety Consortium, Simony explains.

 

FBI, food safety, terrorism

FBI to Food Companies: Insider Threat Should Be Big Concern

By Maria Fontanazza
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FBI, food safety, terrorism

SA Scott Mahloch will present FBI’s Role in Food Defense on November 29 at the 2017 Food Safety Consortium | Learn moreIn most cases, contamination that occurs within a food facility is unintentional. However, it’s been documented that terrorists are interested in targeting the food sector, and as lone wolf attacks gain popularity, companies need to be able to identify and protect themselves against the insider threat, said Special Agent Scott Mahloch, weapons of mass destruction coordinator for the Chicago division of the FBI, at the 2016 Food Safety Consortium.

In the following video, Mahloch talks about FBI’s role in the food industry, explains how food companies can protect themselves against terrorism by identifying the insider threat, and discusses some of the FBI’s initiatives surrounding food defense. “One of the biggest concerns that we have is the disgruntled employee and the FBI really isn’t in the position to identify these people,” says Mahloch. “That’s going to be the frontline supervisors, the coworkers that can see somebody’s behavior that maybe deviates outside anything that they would recognize as being baseline behavior.”

Read the article: FBI Says Terrorists May Target Food Sector

How Much Do Consumers Really Know about Food Safety?

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Consumers think they’re more likely to get a foodborne illness from food they consume at a restaurant versus food they prepare at home, and they’re also more worried about contamination of raw chicken or beef than contaminated raw vegetables.  These and other findings were part of an annual survey, conducted by FDA in partnership with FSIS and USDA, to assess and track consumers’ understanding of food safety handling techniques, along with their feelings and behaviors surrounding food safety. The findings can help the FDA determine its education efforts to help improve consumer food safety behaviors.

Nearly 4200 Americans participated in the survey between October 6, 2015 and January 17, 2016. The questions measured food safety behaviors such as handwashing and washing cutting boards; preparing and consuming risk foods; and food thermometer use. Highlighted findings among respondents include:

  • Rates of consumers owning food thermometers remains constant, but usage has increased for roasts, chicken parts and hamburgers over the past 10 years.
  • Handwashing rates remain constant or decreased between 2010 and 2016.
  • New finding: Only 35% of consumers wash their hands after touching handheld phones or tablets while preparing food.
  • 67% wash raw chicken parts before cooking; 68% wash whole chicken or turkeys before cooking. “This practice is not recommended by food safety experts since washing will not destroy pathogens and may increase the risk of contaminating other foods and surfaces,” according to FDA.
  • 65% of respondents had not heard of mechanically tenderized beef (Labeling required as of May 2016).

A full copy of the 49-page 2016 FDA Food Safety Survey is available on the agency’s website.

Frank Yiannas, VP of Food Safety, Walmart

Use Homophily to Deliver Food Safety Message

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Frank Yiannas, VP of Food Safety, Walmart

Watch part I of the video with Frank Yiannas: Apply Behavioral Science Techniques to Food SafetyWho is your company charging with delivering the food safety message? Are they believable? Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart, provides insights about how companies should be spreading their message when implementing a behavior-based food safety program. By applying the principle of homophily, companies (especially global organizations) can communicate more effectively with employees—and in a more believable way.

 

Food Safety Culture Series: 2016 Outlook

By Maria Fontanazza
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In the final article in Food Safety Tech’s Q&A series on food safety culture, Lone Jespersen, director of food safety at Maple Leaf Foods, and Brian Bedard, executive director of the GMA Science and Education Foundation sound off on the development of food safety culture this year.

Food Safety Tech: Where are we headed in the food safety culture landscape in 2016?

The GMA Science Forum takes place April 18–21, 2016 in Washington, DC | LEARN MORELone Jespersen: I think we’re going down a path of standardizing or at least agreeing on a set of definitions for food safety culture. Some of this will come out of the GFSI technical working group on food safety culture. That will lead us to better guidelines for what the different components of food safety culture are. That’s going to be strongly science based and collectively agreed upon. I think we’ll see a lot of that work done in 2016.

I think we’re also going to see a greater focus on connecting food safety culture to organizational culture. Many organizations are looking at integrating food safety and quality assessments into their organizational culture assessments and I think for larger organizations this makes sense.

Lone Jespersen of Maple Leaf Foods debates food safety culture at the 2015 Food Safety Consortium.
Lone Jespersen of Maple Leaf Foods debates food safety culture at the 2015 Food Safety Consortium.

I hope we’ll get closer to having compared measurement systems and be able to publish work around that so we don’t fall into a trap of a fragmented and independent approach, but rather building on each other as we work [together] and have a common definition.

Brian Bedard: The measurement tools and the gap analysis for which these tools are being developed needs to be done. In terms of operationalizing and actually getting food safety embedded in companies, I would envision a roadmap that looks at a four-tiered framework of who the targets are for changing behaviors. That would be focused around senior leaders in an organization, mid-level managers, supervisors in operations, and at the fourth level, the operators on the plant floor. At GMA’s Science & Education Foundation, we have a group of companies investing in this to roll out a portfolio of training programs. We’re trying to consolidate them under the umbrella of food safety culture and dealing with the full spectrum, from entry level and plant operators through to senior leadership.

Lone Jespersen, Maple Leaf Foods

Food Safety Culture Series: Measuring Behavior

By Maria Fontanazza
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Lone Jespersen, Maple Leaf Foods

Food safety culture is yet another example of the current and future state in food safety: The movement toward being proactive versus reactive. There are still many questions surrounding how companies should be measuring behavior and a lot of companies don’t know where to start. Lone Jesperson, director of food safety at Maple Leaf Foods, provides some guidance in part 3 of Food Safety Tech’s series on food safety culture.

Food Safety Tech: What are the most important behaviors that organizations should be measuring?

Lone Jespersen, Maple Leaf Foods
Lone Jespersen, Maple Leaf Foods

Lone Jespersen: I think we need to get the order right. You start by figuring out the metrics, which should drive behavior, not the other way around. If you’re not clear on how you’re going to measure success, then how are you going to know that the behaviors you’ve identified will make a difference to the safety of your products or food?

Ultimately you want to be in a situation where people are looking out for food safety so that if something goes wrong, it’s constructively brought forward and fixed. Predictive and preventive measures are defined and implemented as needed. When talking about food safety—the metrics and behaviors—these depend on the organization’s state of maturity. [For example,] in an organization with a relatively low level of maturity that doubts whether food safety [culture] is something that is going to help the business, they’re mostly checking boxes and conducting food safety tasks because regulators are saying they have to.

So if you’re in that state of doubt, I would look at measuring something like: Are you completing your food safety training? Does that manager complete food safety communication on a regular basis? Has the plant done its risk assessment in a standardized way? Do they have tools and infrastructures in place to meet food safety requirements? That can spill over into a measurement that your plant manager actively enforces the training schedule for food safety. It [becomes] a behavior you can define outright and measure the plant manager on.

The GMA Science Forum takes place April 18–21, 2016 in Washington, DC | LEARN MOREOn the other end of the maturity model, there’s the relatively high level of sophistication and maturity for food safety. For example, a CEO completes a food safety workout session in which he or she sits down and looks at what the plant needs to do to improve food safety, and the decisions are made on the spot. When you’re in that level of maturity, you’re improving your food safety costs, because you have better control of your food safety program and you’ll get more uptime, less downtime, and make product that goes out safely.

We’ve had some great discussions around food safety culture metrics. But I think we’re a little misguided, because we’re not measuring food safety culture, we’re measuring the organization’s performance, and food safety culture is an enabler that is tracked to performance. So if you have a weak culture, it’s reasonable to assume you’ll have higher costs and a higher level of incidents, and less competent individuals. There are some characteristics you can put around the performance of food safety if you have a weak culture. There’s lots of research that shows the connection between organizational effectiveness and organizational culture. I have yet to find a counterargument that says it should be different for food safety culture.

It’s not a food safety culture metric that you need, it’s a performance effectiveness measure. We are looking at culture because we want to improve our performance—for consumer and business protection.

Frank Yiannas, VP of Food Safety, Walmart

Catch the Food Safety Culture Bug: How to Influence Others

By Maria Fontanazza
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Frank Yiannas, VP of Food Safety, Walmart
Rick Biros and Frank Yiannas, Food Safety Consortium
Frank Yiannas (right), vice president of food safety at Walmart, answers questions about measuring behavior in food safety culture.

Are we winning the battle against foodborne diseases? How are we going to get better at this? How do you change employee behavior within food organizations to ultimately make food safer? Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart, posed these questions to a captive audience last week at the Food Safety Consortium. “Human behavior can be contagious,” said Yiannas. “Food safety can be caught not only taught.”

While industry has increased its efforts in training, inspections, and microbiological testing, little progress has been made in lowering the rates of foodborne diseases over the past decade. As the global food system continues to change and grow at a rapid rate, a shift in the mindset of food safety managers—from process-focused to behavior-focused—needs to occur to facilitate a food safety culture that will in turn create a safer food supply, said Yiannas. He reviewed four tools that companies can use to implement a behavior-based food safety management system.

  • Consistency and commitment. “Humans don’t want to be wishy-washy,” said Yiannas. People strive to behave in a manner that is consistent with something that they’ve either said or documented publicly.  Watch the video
    • Apply the tool: When conducting training, go beyond simply having employees sign an attendance roster. Instead, ask each employee to commit, in writing, that he or she will apply the principles learned in the class into daily responsibilities.
  • Homophily. “Birds of a feather influence food safety for better,” said Yiannas. People with similar characteristics believe and influence each other.
    • Apply the tool: When communicating an important message, use a front-line employee rather than a corporate “talking head”.
  • Make food safety the social norm. “People do what other people do,” said Yiannas. In today’s society, we are flooded with information, and as a result defer to social norms as a short cut when making decisions.
    • Apply the tool: When trying to enforce a behavior, show the behavior more than once and show it being done by more than one employee.
  • Learning from the right way or the wrong way. Learning by being taught the wrong way can be an effective teaching tool, because it allows employees to learn from their mistakes. Learning from the “wrong way” also prevents complacency, which perhaps is one of the biggest dangers to food safety. “Complacency is driven out of overconfidence, and oftentimes poor risk assessment, and certainly poor metrics,” said Yiannas.
    • Apply the tool: Create training modules that examine the missteps other food companies have made and illustrate how employees can learn from these mistakes.

Frank Yiannas also received the 2015 Industry Advocate Hero award from STOP Foodborne Illness during the consortiumThe question of metrics in food safety culture often arises, as there is no defined way to measure employee behavior. Yiannas encouraged the audience to conduct a food safety culture survey within their organizations and ask the scary questions. “You need to have the courage to hear the truth,” he said.

All images by amyBcreative photography

Michael Taylor FDA

FDA to Weigh In on FSMA Enforcement at Food Safety Consortium

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Michael Taylor FDA

How will FDA enforce the new FSMA rules? It’s a question that has been circulating throughout industry over the past few months, and it will be answered at this year’s annual Food Safety Consortium conference next month. Michael Taylor, JD, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at FDA will deliver the opening plenary presentation on November 18, which will be followed by an “Ask the FDA” interactive town hall meeting. During the afternoon,

Roberta Wagner, deputy director of regulatory affairs at CFSAN
Roberta Wagner, deputy director of regulatory affairs at CFSAN

Roberta Wagner, deputy director of regulatory affairs at CFSAN will discuss FSMA implementation and FDA’s strategies for gaining and maintaining industry compliance with the new rules. The agency will also be participating in several conference sessions dedicated to the FSMA rules that will be finalized by November, including:

  • Foreign Supplier Verification
  • Preventive Controls in Human Foods
  • Preventive Controls in Animal Foods
  • Produce Safety
  • Third-Party Auditing
  • Voluntary Qualified Importer Program

During the event, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will also be answering questions related to regulatory compliance and food safety issues at a Small Plant Help Desk.

Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart
Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart

Beyond FSMA-related topics, the Food Safety Consortium conference will feature several concurrent food safety and quality assurance tracks, workshops and training programs in compliance, food manufacturing and operations, supply chain management, food labs, and foodservice and retail. Food Safety Culture is an especially hot topic right now, and the conference will address the practical ways to actually measure behavior and start taking action. Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart will deliver a keynote presentation, “Food Safety = Behavior” on Wednesday, November 18.