Tag Archives: behavior

Jorge Hernandez, All Baroudi, 2019 Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo

Food Safety Professionals: Earn Respect and Be True to Yourself

By Maria Fontanazza
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Jorge Hernandez, All Baroudi, 2019 Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo

Food safety professionals are underappreciated. This statement was met with a round of applause last week at the seventh annual Food Safety Consortium. It was made by Bob Pudlock, president of Gulf Stream Search, who has heard the remark from folks working in this demanding field many times, as his firm works to place them in food safety and quality positions within the industry. Pudlock shared his advice on how you, the food safety professional, can better market yourself and earn the respect of peers and higher-ups, as well as how those who are doing the hiring should approach the process.

Read Bob Pudlock’s insights on recruiting in the food safety and quality field in his column series, Architect the Perfect Food Safety TeamCompany cultures change, the popularity of products (and their safety) ebbs and flows, company leadership fluctuates and a company may even move its corporate headquarters. Amidst all of these changes, the only things that a professional can control are his or her reputation, professional acumen, and enhancing one’s education, said Pudlock. “Focus your energy on improving parts of you. Invest in your brand,” he said. “You never know how you’re being perceived and who’s out there in the crowd.” He added that it’s important to take a moment to do some deep digging and ask questions that can help draw out greater meaning:

  • What do you want to be when you “grow up”?
    • Where are you in your career today?
    • What do you aspire to?
    • What are the obstacles? What’s keeping you from getting there?
Bob Pudlock, 2019 Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo
Bob Pudlock, president of Gulf Stream Search

“Get yourself in a position where you’re personally responsible for getting yourself in the right lane,” said Pudlock, emphasizing the importance of accountability. He also advises that professionals take a moment each day to work through organizational issues via journaling. Writing serves as a cathartic exercise and can help as one is going through the problem-solving process. “Work through your overwhelm with journaling,” he said.

On Earning Respect

On the final day of the Food Safety Consortium, Pudlock led a panel of industry stakeholders who shared their insights on how to remain motivated and earn the respect of peers and superiors in the industry.

Pudlock: As a food safety professional, what has contributed to your ability earn respect from the peers who you’ve worked with over the years?

Jorge Hernandez, Al Baroudi, 2019 Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo
(left to right) Jorge Hernandez, vice president, quality assurance at The Wendy’s Company and Al Baroudi, Ph.D., vice president of quality assurance and food safety at The Cheesecake Factory at the 2019 Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo

Jorge Hernandez, vice president, quality assurance at The Wendy’s Company

“What I’ve learned throughout my career is the fact that you have to understand why you are doing this. You have to reach inside and figure out for yourself, and then build your brand around that. It has to be honest; it has to be true to you. Why are you doing this? Is it to get a paycheck? Is it to get away from the kids? There are multiple reasons. There will be times in this field that you have to make the tough decisions. As you build your career, try to figure out why you really want to do this.”

April Bishop, senior director of food safety at TreeHouse Foods/Bay Valley Foods

“The ‘why’ is for those around me: We [speak] a lot of scientific jargon, and we know what we’re talking about. But the folks on the other side—in sanitation [for example], doing the most miserable job at the worst hours and in the worst condition, [for them] I need to translate all the way to the top on why we need so much time to clean the plants. Simplify the scientific jargon down to the facts that people can understand. Sell them on the ‘why’ of what they’re doing.

April Bishop, Marcus Burgess, 2019 Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo
(left to right) April Bishop, senior director of food safety at TreeHouse Foods/Bay Valley Foods and Marcus Burgess, senior food safety and quality systems specialist at The Cheesecake Factory

Marcus Burgess, senior food safety and quality systems specialist at The Cheesecake Factory

“A lot of it is communication and being able to relate at all levels from [in the field] to the top. It’s the 30-second conversation with the server or the dishwasher about why food safety is important. Being able to connect with the front line employees goes a long way. Approach the job with professionalism and sincerity. Have integrity and know the reason why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s easy to see the pot of gold. Be selfless and know that ultimately our obligations is to customers.”

Ibidun Layi-Ojo, Prometric
FST Soapbox

A Best-Practices Approach to Properly Assessing Food Safety Workers

By Ibidun Layi-Ojo
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Ibidun Layi-Ojo, Prometric

Success Factor 3: Create exams that properly assess the workforce.

Food safety exams give employers the peace of mind that the employees they hire can do the job they were trained to do and help prevent food safety incidents from happening. Equipped with the right training and assessment developed by responsible and qualified companies, employees in the field―ranging from food handlers to food managers―are the first line of defense to uphold the highest of food safety and security standards.

My previous two columns in Food Safety Tech explained important factors that employers need to consider when developing a food safety assessment program. Working with a quality-driven food safety assessment provider to develop the exam is a critical first step. Equally important is the practice of using exams with rigorous, reliable and relatable questions that are developed, tested and continuously evaluated to correlate with market needs and trends.

This article focuses on another key factor that should not be overlooked. In order to properly assess the workforce, exams must reflect best practices for test taking and learning, and be in sync with how the workforce operates and processes information. It is not enough for food safety assessment providers to merely develop questions and exams. A comprehensive exam creation process that takes into consideration technical and human factors allows for a fair assessment of workers’ knowledge and skills, while also providing feedback on exam performance that can be used to adapt exams in an ever-changing industry.

What should employers look for to help ensure that exams can properly assess the food safety workforce?

First, food safety exams should test what a food safety worker needs to know, and quality-driven assessment providers should solicit input from the industry during the exam creation process. Test developers should use surveys, conduct interviews and facilitate panel-based meetings to gather information. They also should invest in close collaboration with industry-leading subject matter experts (SMEs), as well as food handlers, managers and regulators in order to create questions and exams that are relevant. By engaging SMEs during the question writing and exam creation process, qualified food safety assessment providers can pinpoint the important information to be developed into questions and implemented in the exams.

In addition to incorporating industry stakeholder input, it is important for assessment providers to have a comprehensive understanding of the various assessment modalities —from selected response item types, such as multiple choice assessments, to performance-based, interactive scenarios that mirror real-life situations—and select the appropriate modality to maintain test fidelity.

Food safety assessment, training
Image courtesy of Prometric

An assessment provider with this level of proficiency can leverage the combination of its expertise and industry awareness to determine the best modality for the food safety workforce. For example, progressive assessment providers are actively investing in interactive, animated, scenario-based assesments because they believe this type of testing might better assess the skills and knowledge required to successfully perform in the workplace while providing:

  • High candidate engagement levels—with real-life scenarios being more relatable.
  • A safe environment for candidates to practice and understand the consequences of their actions.

Another critical component in creating effective exams is for the assessment provider to continuously review the content and incorporate quantitative and qualitative feedback from data and test takers respectively. By reviewing feedback regularly, asssessment providers can enhance the exams and adjust accordingly—keeping the exam relevant to the workforce and the industry. As the workforce and the industry change, so should food safety exam and certification programs. A feedback loop is essential to help ensure that the exam stays relevant to those who work in the food service industry as they seek to prove that they have mastered the necessary principles and skills to protect the public against food incidents. If a food safety exam does not properly assess the workforce, the consequences can be significant, not only to public health and safety, but also to the companies preparing, handling and serving food that could experience loss of reputation, revenue and the business.

Quality-driven food safety assessment providers follow a best-practices approach for creating exams and certificate/certification programs. They demonstrate a thorough understanding of behavioral learning, the necesary job skills and regulatory compliance requirements. A food safety exam that properly assesses the workforce will:

  • Solicit industry input.
  • Incorporate interactive scenarios that mirror real-life situations.
  • Create a feedback loop and adaptable exams that can easily be modified to stay abreast with the ever-changing industry.

While food handlers may be one of the biggest vulnerabilities in a safe food supply and delivery chain, they also represent one of the greatest opportunities to guard against food safety issues. Developing an effective food safety assessment program as part of a preventative strategy will help ensure both public health and corporate long-term business success.

John Sammon, ParTech
FST Soapbox

The Role of Food Safety Culture in Regulation and Technology

By John Sammon III
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John Sammon, ParTech

Culture

The food safety challenges large food organizations face are often compounded by numerous factors, such as the number of different stakeholders (employees, suppliers, customers, etc.) disparate locations, changing menus and diverse operations.

Imagine a well-known quick service restaurant (QSR) chain with thousands of locations, whereby minimum age workers are on the front line of food preparation and sanitation. In these operations, the food safety culture and human behavior can potentially become compromised due to the complexity of the organization or attitudes of employees. The QSR is depending upon its managers to continuously train, monitor and record the proper food safety operations. Meanwhile, the global QSR brand depends upon a certain level of food quality and, of course, protection against a foodborne illness outbreak for its reputation and survival.

All food safety fundamentally revolves around individual human behavior. How behavior is managed, rewarded and recognized defines the culture. Commonly, human behavior is influenced and shaped by the surrounding social order. In order to develop a successful food safety culture, an operation must retain strong leadership, implement the standards of food safety processes from the top down, and invest in appropriate technology.

Regulation

The introduction of FSMA has brought both challenges and opportunities to the food safety industry. The requirement to document and record all daily HACCP operations and corrective actions of a 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 proactive and efficient food safety culture, coupled with the burden of increased regulation.

Typically, individual managers have responsibility for their locations and see to it that employees are following the safety plans via paper checklists. The plans themselves are printed paper logs attached to clipboards. Employees need to fill these logs out and update them continuously throughout the day. At the end of the day or week, the paper is collected, filed away and placed in storage. FSMA requires two years of this type of HACCP record keeping upon audit and, well, that’s a lot of paper, not to mention a labor-intensive process.

Technology

Employee behavior can be influenced, encouraged and monitored via tools such as mobile, cloud and sensor technologies. These solutions give large organizations greater visibility into their operations and increase the opportunities to train and coach employees on performance. Managers are free to concentrate on other issues, while employees complete food safety checks and build daily compliance records. Employees are prompted to follow safety plans, and technology can inform them of corrective actions and new requirements. Cloud technologies collect information in real-time and keep years of data, doing away with clipboards, pens and paper.

The growing adoption of technology is the fundamental turning point that can help drive human behavior and food safety culture in a positive direction. Fortunately, we live in the information age with modern means that allow for increased visibility and control. Technology can assist in the development and maintenance of larger food safety cultures.

Within the contemporary IoT (internet of things) environment, human behavior can be shaped by the resources available in today’s food safety tool box. Bi-directional wireless communications and digital record keeping merges and unites the individual into the larger collective culture. We are now seeing the advent of sensor technology as a “first wave” of prevention/ detection of environmental conditions that foster foodborne illness.

A Culture of Food Safety Technology

The future state of a business culture that pays attention to food quality and safety looks decidedly different than those of the past. Each day an employee logs into a store’s mobile device using their credentials. The cloud synchs with the device, the user is identified, and the daily checklists arrive. The employee is on the clock and she has her tasks and timelines for food and safety operations for the day. She is reminded of tasks that need completion and even scored on how well she performs. Managers have real-time visibility into her performance and are offered teachable moments for training and improvement. Managers, employees and stores are all held accountable.

Imagine temperature and humidity sensors in freezers, coolers, holding bins and storage areas. These sensors act as the first line of defense as they sample the environment on a minute-by-minute basis. The sensors send SMS / e-mail alerts to the appropriate stakeholder that something could be wrong. The employee receives the alert and is assigned the task/checklist/corrective options needed to respond. The information is recorded and synchronized in the cloud for reporting purposes. Follow up on checklists can be routed to other stakeholders through the cloud.

Human behavior will never be replaced when it comes to food safety, but it sure has gotten better, faster and easier with new technologies.

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

Hand

How Much Do Consumers Really Know about Food Safety?

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Hand

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.