Tag Archives: employee training

Ibidun Layi-Ojo, Prometric
FST Soapbox

Effective Testing: Developing Rigorous, Reliable and Relatable Questions

By Ibidun Layi-Ojo
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Ibidun Layi-Ojo, Prometric

Success Factor 2: Develop rigorous, reliable and relatable exam questions (items) that are developed, tested and continuously evaluated to correlate with market needs and trends.

My previous column in Food Safety Tech outlined the single most important factor in ensuring that all employees have the proven ability to keep the public safe from foodborne illness: Education. Only rigorous, continually evaluated exams, designed for a company’s particular industry segment, can give employers the assurance that employees have the skills they need to make food safe.

Constructing and administering those exams starts with partnering with the right food safety assessment provider. Once that provider has been chosen, the next step is to develop questions—and ultimately an exam that exemplifies the three R’s: Rigorous, reliable and relatable.

Rigorousness begins with the process by which questions are created. This process must be a step-by-step effort to ensure that the final exam asks the right questions, based on the industry segment and the skills needed to be measured, and that the questions meet or exceed current industry standards. The ultimate aim is to give employees the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge, which results in a sense of empowerment that makes them effective stewards of food safety every day.

To meet these goals, a company must work closely with its food safety assessment provider throughout the test development process, which begins with an analysis of the job (or jobs) for which the exam is being created (i.e., what are employees’ important tasks for which performance must be measured?). This analysis informs the development of precise specifications for the exam, and with those specifications established, the food safety assessment provider can begin collaborations with subject matter experts to formulate questions for the exam. Every question on the exam should dovetail with needs and trends in the marketplace, with emphasis on the client’s position in the marketplace.

The next step in the process—item review (question validation) —is key to making sure the exam is comprehensive. In effect, this is a ‘test of the test’ and should address the following:

  • Does the exam ask all the right questions?
  • Are the questions free of ambiguity that could lead to an inaccurate measurement of knowledge?
  • Are the questions in line with current industry standards?

Once every question has been subjected to validation, a passing score for the exam is set concurrent with best practice guidelines for making scoring decisions. Next the food safety assessment provider and the client collaborate on the best way to administer the examination (e.g., whether on paper or online, taken at work or home).
Only then is the test ready to be given, scored and analyzed.

It might seem, at this point, that the exam-creation cycle has been completed. On the contrary, the cycle must be a continuous process, with results from the initial test administration serving as a baseline for ongoing test maintenance and fine-tuning.

This continuity is critical, because standards and practices for food safety are always evolving. FSMA gave the FDA broad authority to prevent contamination of food in every step of the supply chain. In the seven years since then, regulations at the federal, state and local levels have been constantly amended and updated across the entire spectrum of the food industry, from growers, manufacturers and processors to grocers, retailers and even culinary schools. Only ongoing test maintenance—including the development and validation of new test items—can ensure that exams stay in lockstep with the FDA food code and safety guidelines.

Exam questions also must be aligned with the accreditation guidelines of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the private, nonprofit organization that, since 1918, has been the overseer of U.S. standards for consumer protection.

Developing and maintaining accurate, reliable food-safety exam content is complex and challenging, requiring a commitment to continuous validation and “testing of the test” to meet the needs of the marketplace and the requirements of federal, state and local regulators. Partnering with the right food safety assessment provider is crucial in meeting those needs and requirements, protecting the public, and ensuring a company’s reputation for providing safe, wholesome food.

Look for Part 3 of this series to learn more about how to create food safety exams that factor in a best-practices approach to properly assess the workforce.

Chelle Hartzer, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Minimize the Risk of Pests by Maximizing Your Staff

By Chelle Hartzer
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Chelle Hartzer, Orkin

If you were given the option to run a long-distance relay race, would you select four runners to split up the distance or would you choose to run it alone? That’s a no-brainer—you’d pick four runners to give yourself the best chance of success every time!

Apply the same mentality to your food safety program, and (by extension) your pest management program. The only way you’re going to be able to effectively monitor an entire facility is by establishing a team to help. Otherwise, that’s a lot of ground for just one person to cover.

As a food processing facility, you probably already have an integrated pest management (IPM) program in place. But does your staff know the telltale signs of rodents or stored product pests? Would they be able to spot cockroaches crawling around in your facility’s storage area? The earlier you can spot a pest problem, the quicker it can be resolved before it turns into a major issue that could prove costly.

Staff training is the best way to get everybody on the same page when it comes to pest management, because pests are great at hiding and living in hard-to-reach locations. It takes a trained eye to spot certain pests, and informed employees can be a great help to this.

Before you begin staff training, you will want to identify all of the areas both inside and outside of your building that are at high risk for pest issues. Schedule a meeting with your pest management provider and make note of the high-risk areas and the most common pests your facility may be prone to. Once you’ve determined these high-risk areas and the best tactics to protect against them, employee training is a logical next step.

The bigger your facility, the tougher it is to manage all of the different potential hot spots. Everybody knows this, but few consider what this means for their pest management programs. Creating an educational pest program for employees is critical to protecting your facility. The employees are on the ground level and are often the most likely spot the early signs of a pest problem.

Step 1: Start with the Basics

When beginning staff training, make sure employees understand the IPM program in place and how it works in your facility. Many pest control providers offer complimentary employee training, so reach out to your provider about on-site training sessions. As employees learn more about what each tactic does to prevent pest issues, they’ll get a better understanding of why pests get into the facility in the first place. Once informed, they can use this knowledge to help reduce potential risk factors such as standing water from a leak, food waste in processing areas and waste removal.

Here are a few telltale signs of some common pests:

  • Stored product pests: Though generally tough to spot, there are some common telltale signs you can spot on products like webbing, larvae, live adults—some of which can look like grain products—and, of course, damaged packaging.
  • Flies: If you see larvae (maggots), especially around drains and in other damp or wet areas, it’s time to act fast. Flies reproduce quickly, so small problems can escalate rapidly.
  • Cockroaches: They can be found behind or under equipment, wall voids, or any other protected area. Cockroaches will take advantage of nearly any food source!
  • Rodents: These pests leave droppings constantly, so watch out for tiny pellets. Rodents are constantly gnawing, so if you see any products with gnaw marks, that’s a good indication that rodents may be present.

A pest management provider can identify what challenges are unique to your facility and which areas are most likely to experience pest activity. Employees are going to be a crucial part of this process, so they will need to know where to look.

Step 2: Designate Roles

Employees are the eyes and ears of your business. Whether it’s pest problems or any other issues at your facility, your staff is probably going to notice issues before management does. Once they know the pests to look out for, they can also keep an eye on:

• Cracks and openings: Any opening that leads from the inside to the outside may allow pests in.
• Sanitation issues: From large bins of food waste, to break room trash cans, let them know to report when these are overflowing or need to be cleaned.

The key is once employees know what to look for, they need to know how and who to report it to. Make sure there is a pest sighting log and employees know where it is and what information to record.

Step 3: Emphasize Communication

Communication is key. We all know that. Which is why it’s so important to encourage the age-old adage when it comes to potential pest problems: “If you see something, say something!” The longer a pest issue persists, the more likely it is to turn into a costly, potentially hazardous infestation.

Consistent communication between employees, management and pest control providers benefits all parties. It ensures employees are in-the-know about important information and new initiatives while making it easier for managers and pest control professionals to stay a step ahead of invading pests. Designate a point person that employees should go to if they have something they want to talk about and make sure to utilize that pest sighting log!

Open dialogue makes it clear to employees that they are a contributing part of your IPM program. Your employees serve as the first line of defense against pests, so if they see pest activity, it’s incredibly important they feel comfortable escalating it immediately. Tell employees you want and need their input in order for your pest management efforts to be most effective. And don’t forget to solicit feedback—they might even have ideas on how to make the program better!

Step 4: Establish a Pest-Sighting Protocol

There needs to be a clear course of action for any employee who notices a pest or evidence of pests within your facility. You’re in the business of protecting your products, and many pests spread dangerous pathogens everywhere they go.

Establishing a protocol for reporting pests will keep things simple for both employee and manager, as it ensures pest problems are documented and action steps are clear. Should a pest be spotted, make sure employees know to do the following:

  • Capture pest(s) for identification if possible. Take pictures if you can’t. The better a pest management professional can see a pest, the more accurately they’ll be able to prescribe a solution.
  • Fill out a pest-sighting log and note when, where and how many pests were seen. Imagine this as a crime scene, and your pest management professional is the crime scene investigator.
  • Contact management if the issue is severe and needs immediate attention, at which point management should contact their pest management professional. The sooner everyone is on the same page, the quicker you can implement a solution to help prevent pests from compromising your products.

Even the best IPM program can’t keep out every pest trying to get into your facility, which is why it’s so important to establish a pest-sighting protocol. It might also be worth forming an IPM committee to meet on a monthly basis. It’s best if this committee includes members from each department and, if possible, the pest management professional in order to promote ongoing improvements.

Step 5: Ongoing Education

Once you’ve taught your employees the basics of how to spot pests, pest evidence, and how to proceed once they see any, training should not stop there.

Although pests stay relatively the same year to year, your facility won’t. Staying up to date with the latest information can help you proactively prevent pests before they become a threat to your operations. Review monitoring reports with your pest management professional to determine if changes need to occur to focus on new areas, or redouble efforts at a hot spot that hasn’t been resolved yet. Remember: Many pest issues take time to completely manage.

Ask your pest management partner for tip sheets, checklists and other educational materials to stay current, and share them with your employees. Also, keep in mind that different pests thrive in different weather conditions, so adjust your tips for employees seasonally so they know what to look for.

With all staff members consistently armed with the necessary information to help identify hot spots and minimize the risk of pests, you’ll be in great shape for your next audit. Just make sure to document everything being done to help proactively protect products. You’ve got to have proof of your efforts!

Steven Burton, Icicle Technologies
FST Soapbox

Six Best Practices To Make Audits Stress-Free

By Steven Burton
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Steven Burton, Icicle Technologies

Your next audit is already on its way. Now that many regulatory bodies and certification agencies are no longer required to give you a heads-up about upcoming audits, it’s completely up to you to stay on top of compliance, recordkeeping, and a myriad of other tasks on a day-to-day basis. And without that buffer of warning from auditors, falling behind can be more detrimental than ever.

Let’s walk through some effective practices that keep you ready for an audit at a moment’s notice, make the process go smoothly once the auditor arrives, and get rid of some unnecessary stress all along the way.

Connect All Departments to an Online Database

When it comes to collecting and moving data from one department to another, there’s nothing as inefficient as disconnected documents. Not only are they a strain to keep organized in big filing cabinets or file folders, but they take a long time to create, share and edit. It seems cliche to harp on this point in 2018; yet, many food safety coordinators have a purely manual system.

By connecting your entire company to an online database, you enable different departments to organize, share and update documents in seconds, rather than minutes. This level of connectivity can shave time off dozens of tasks per day, which ultimately leads to hours or days of extra productivity over the course of a year. When you adopt a system that updates connected documents in real time, you won’t have to make manual changes to multiple documents for small changes.
If you want to get extra efficient, the real trick to this best practice is to find software that you can incorporate into every department. Then, as people go about their normal jobs, the information they collect is automatically uploaded to the central database.

Utilize the Internet Of Things to Streamline Data Collection

These days, it’s possible to connect almost every piece of equipment to the Internet of Things. Even if your machinery doesn’t have measurement tools built-in, there are almost certainly additional tools you can install to create that functionality.

Having your equipment feed data directly into your central database is faster than manually collecting information and eliminates the risk of human error when it comes to data entry. Thanks to that simple degree of automation, already standard in large parts of the global economy, you can also use system dashboards and alerts that let you know when something’s off, like the temperature in the freezer or the production speed of equipment on the floor.

Don’t Settle for Uninspired Internal Audits

Many food safety coordinators are so focused on specific issues that they forget to take steps back to look at the situation from a bird’s eye view. When the time for an internal audit comes around, they do it with one eye on the audit and one eye on the next fire that needs putting out.

Lazy internal audits are not only noticeable to external auditors, they keep you in the dark about what’s really happening in your facility. Here are a few ways you can ensure your internal audit empowers you rather than slows you down:

  • Schedule the internal audit ahead and make it immovable
  • Plan out your scope, objectives and process to establish momentum and direction
  • Dedicate your full attention to running the audit and managing relevant staff
  • Report your findings in detail and discuss with necessary employees
  • Schedule and verify corrective actions

A well-performed internal audit is a powerful way to regroup, refresh goals and stay on track.

Train All Employees for Go-Time

Do you know which employees an auditor is allowed to interview? Any of them. No person is disqualified from interviews, which means every employee needs to be well trained on food safety procedures. While most facilities only train employees until they know the basics of food safety for their department, going above and beyond here can have some major gains.

Consider the perspective of the auditor. When they are asking your employees questions, they’re not just trying to complete a basic inspection. They want to see signs that you haven’t done the bare minimum, but that your employees are immersed in a food safety culture, that they have been receiving training long-term, and that food safety is a fundamental value of your company.

When auditors get the sense that your employees are up-to-speed, things tend to go a little smoother, stress levels lower, and the auditor becomes less suspicious.

Give Food Safety Coordinators the Appropriate Authority (and Budget)

One issue that many facilities run into is an unempowered food safety coordinator. When that person discovers ways to improve or correct operations or employees that are not following protocol, he or she is often unable to take the appropriate action.

Hazards aren’t the only things that need corrective actions from time to time. Sometimes employees need to face consequences for compromising the production area with food or for haphazardly completing safety-related tasks. Other times, employees don’t have the necessary software or equipment to perform their job well and even though their managers may be aware, they don’t allocate the appropriate budget to improve the situation. In order for any company to thrive, standards must be enforced by relevant leaders; and there’s no one better to call the shots on food safety than the designated coordinator.

Establish a Company-Wide Food Safety Culture

When it comes down to it, companies that value food safety thrive. Companies that consider food safety an annoying task to check off the list—they’re the ones that run into extra trouble.

Building food safety into your company’s system of values starts at the very beginning with how you train your new hires. It continues on into how you provide ongoing training even to experienced employees. It’s not an item on the list of meeting topics; it’s a value that underscores the entire agenda.

In order for this approach to be successful, it has to start at the top. Facility owners and managers that value food safety will organically pass that on to the people below them. But when the upper levels can’t be bothered with food safety, the entire organization struggles to hold onto it as a value.

Some of these best practices you can start working on tomorrow; others will take time to implement. Embedding these into your company can be a long road, so keep your eye on the prize: A safe, efficient food safety program that impresses auditors and keeps things running smoothly.

Lack of Resources, Negative Attitudes Barriers in Training

By Maria Fontanazza
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Part I of the Q&A: New Workers Means New StrategiesFood safety culture has been a part of several industry initiatives over the past year, from employee training in preparation of FSMA implementation to GFSI’s technical working group. In part three of a Q&A series with Food Safety Tech, Laura Nelson, vice president of business development at Alchemy Systems, shares some thoughts about current industry efforts surrounding employee education and food safety culture.

Food Safety Tech: How does employee education tie into instilling a food safety culture within a company?

Part II of the Q&A: Go Beyond the Classroom to Improve Training PerformanceLaura Nelson: In the global food safety training survey we conduct with Campden [BRI] and other industry leaders—for the fourth year in row, food safety professionals confirmed that the number one goal for food safety training is to improve their food safety culture. Effective employee training is foundational to a robust food safety culture.  And yet we have feedback on why we as an industry are challenged to achieve this goal—lack of resources is identified as the biggest challenge for almost half of the total survey respondents. Additional challenges identified include negative employee attitudes, lack of effective communication, the multicultural workforce, high turnover, and just complete lack of awareness of culture. The good news is that more awareness and best practices are emerging to help organizations improve their food safety culture. As a member of the GFSI Food Safety Culture Technical Working Group, we are actively working on guidance to help meet the identified needs of the industry. The focus on the importance of food safety culture to an organization is growing. We know that FDA investigators are going through food safety culture training to better recognize companies that have an effective food safety culture and those that may not have an effective one. GFSI is shining a light with its working group. BRC is introducing their voluntary “Culture Excellence:  Food Safety Culture Module” to help companies assess their food safety culture.  Research is ongoing with the development of new food safety culture assessments and best practices. All of these efforts are in agreement that effective employee training is a key factor in developing and maintaining a robust food safety culture.

Maria Fontanazza and Laura Nelson discuss food safety culture and employee empowerment at IAFP 2015.
Maria Fontanazza and Laura Nelson discuss food safety culture and employee empowerment at IAFP 2015. WATCH THE VIDEO

Given that employee training is so important to a healthy food safety culture, we need to resource this effort accordingly. We asked survey respondents to tell us how many hours of food safety training they’re conducting for employees. The responses ranged from less than four hours (a little more than 20%) to more than 35 hours annually. In that wide continuum, there’s a large disparity between the focus on food safety for those employees receiving less than four hours of food safety training versus those employees receiving over 35 hours of food safety training. Our business is complex and recruiting and training new employees on our critical operational programs is challenging. Those companies who are still utilizing their legacy classroom-only food safety training program will continue to struggle to mature their food safety culture. Innovative companies are finding new ways to overcome time and resource limitations. We asked: How are you keeping food safety top of mind? The innovative companies who are using digital signage, newsletters, email communications, posters, team meetings, huddle talks, etc., those who are trying to immerse their employees into their food safety culture using all the different touch points are having more success in making food safety top of mind.

Go Beyond the Classroom to Improve Employee Performance

By Maria Fontanazza
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Employee training continues to be a hot topic as companies in the food industry gear up for FSMA compliance. Many are working with a much leaner staff and have several different generations of employees, many of whom absorb information in very different ways.

In a Q&A series with Food Safety Tech, Laura Nelson, vice president of business development at Alchemy Systems, discusses how training programs that may have historically been successful are no longer an effective means to educate today’s employees. “A vast majority of employees are doing what we ask and are doing it consistently. But the reality is that we have a subset of folks [who] aren’t doing that,” says Nelson. “I don’t think you can classroom train them to the point that they get it—I think some need that coaching and demonstration; they’re the kinesthetic learners that need to see you do it and then you watch them do it.”

Food Safety Tech: Where are the gaps in how food companies conduct employee education and training today?

Laura Nelson: It can be summarized in three areas.

1. Recognizing that the legacy training programs that food companies have is not effective. Companies are acknowledging that their historical training programs are not entirely effective in driving consistent behaviors. In [a recent] global food safety training [survey], we asked: “Despite our efforts in food safety classroom training, we still have employees not following our food safety program on the plant floor”. Over 60% said they agreed—yes, we still have employees not following our food safety programs. The survey involved 1200+ food safety professionals, so that’s a large number of folks acknowledging that their food safety training programs—largely classroom training—is not delivering the desired results and reducing inherent food safety risks.

There are so many things challenging the food industry and everyone is trying to manage these expanding expectations with their lean teams. The industry is changing dramatically—[from the perspective of] employee demographics, the business itself, pervasiveness of social media and exposure that it brings, and the different regulations—so a static food safety program established two, five or ten plus years ago is not going to address these changes.  But who has the time and resources to continually update content, embrace technology and apply the latest behavioral science to the instructional design of new training content?  Because of the lack of resources and time challenges, many in the industry are still trying to operate on their legacy training program. It might be old DVDs, PowerPoints, etc. —trainers are covering food safety, workplace safety and operational topics via PowerPoints in all-day sessions, sending around a sign-up sheet and ticking off their training compliance checkbox.  Training has to be improved and enhanced for many key reasons—whether it’s considering different cultures, updating languages, engaging millennials or focusing on those critical employee behaviors that present a risk to an individual operation.

2. Understanding that training expands beyond the classroom. The industry as a whole continues to think that classroom training is their training program and that once the classroom training is complete and [the employee is] on the operations floor, that the training and education job is done. The reality is, it’s not. There’s lots more training happening beyond the classroom. Understanding that we need to formalize the extension of the classroom training and manage the ‘plant floor’ training aspect is really important. The industry is starting to embrace this [concept]. Anywhere from formal coaching and mentoring by frontline supervisors to posters and digital signage and short reminders to monthly campaigns on key critical items around food safety. Companies are starting to embrace the power of this holistic approach to training, leveraging new and emerging technology and tools to optimize employee behaviors.

3. Most people are not making the connection between training effectiveness and the ROI, the return on the investment. They think they don’t have the time to make improvements—yet, if they carved out time routinely to assess and evaluate best training practices to make training more effective and implemented these new and proven strategies, then all of a sudden the time and resource question becomes less of an issue because now you’re delivering on things like a decrease in food quality issues or reducing [employees] turnover, decreased downtime, reduced GMP non compliances, etc. It takes some time to establish those related training metrics, but once you’ve done that and have ensured that your holistic training program is current and behaviors are being exhibited consistently, you start to have fewer operational issues, enhanced customer satisfaction and motivated, engaged employees.

In part II of this Q&A series, Nelson shares her insights on training strategies based on employee demographics.

Question mark

Hiring and Training, Understanding FSMA Remain Big Industry Challenges

By Maria Fontanazza
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Question mark

A new industry survey is highlighting several issues facing food safety and quality assurance professionals, from employee retention to understanding the final FSMA rules. The 2016 Annual TraceGains Food Safety & Quality Assurance (FSQA) Professional Survey digs into the top priorities (FSMA compliance, audit readiness, supplier relationship management, etc.) of professionals and sheds light on some of the current challenges that companies are facing, especially in the area of compliance, FSMA readiness and supplier documentation.

“We’re seeing a recipe for stress in the food and beverage industry: Take one-part low margins, blend in one-part increased government regulation, one-part unannounced audits, one-part increasing customer demands, and one-part manual paperwork,” says Gary Nowacki, CEO of TraceGains. “Mix well, bake on high, then spread thinly with a limited pool of FSQA professionals.”

Anthony Arocha, TraceGains
Anthony Arocha, customer success consultant at TraceGains

Nearly 500 FSQA professionals participated in the survey. In a two-part Q&A with TraceGains, Anthony Arocha (customer success consultant), Rajan Gupta (vice president of customer success), and Jason Ulrich (customer success manager) explain what the results mean in to the broader industry.

Food Safety Tech: Were there any surprises with this year’s survey?

Anthony Arocha: FSMA compliance is across the board a top priority with staffing/training as one of the biggest obstacles to overcome. I would say this is a huge opportunity for automation to help reduce the risk and long-term costs incurred by the increasing demand for accurate documentation.

22% and 19% cited training and staffing respectively as a big challenge. Graphic courtesy of TraceGains.
22% and 19% cited training and staffing respectively as a big challenge. Graphic courtesy of TraceGains.

Rajan Gupta: I do not think there are any surprises but a very strong restatement that FSQA staff is difficult to hire/retain due to limited individual growth, low salaries, inadequate training, incentives, etc. All of these lead to the fact that most food companies look at food safety and quality as a nuisance that they must deal with versus as a function that is a necessity or a requirement with adequate funding.

Rajan Gupta, TraceGains
Rajan Gupta, vice president of customer success, TraceGains

FST: With FSMA being a top priority among survey respondents, are you finding that companies are concerned about any of the rules in particular?

Arocha: Honestly, it seems that most folks are trying very hard to get a handle on all the new rules and what their responsibility is for compliance. Not sure they have gotten to the point of having just one or two main concerns yet. There is more emphasis on creating strong relationships with the downstream and upstream customers and suppliers than ever before. Some of the rules seem vague, which will require an operation to be prepared to support how they meet a particular requirement or may be potentially exempt from it. These have been some of the concerns that seem to be popping up most.

FSQAStaff_TraceGains
Survey Question: What, if anything, hinders your company’s ability to on-board, recruit, and retain skilled FSQA staff? (Graphic courtesy of TraceGains)
Jason Ulrich, TraceGains
Jason Ulrich, customer success manager, TraceGains

Gupta: The main theme that we hear from our customers is that there is confusion. Companies have had to deal with many requirements in the past, some of which conflict each other. I think lack of a thorough understanding of food safety within an organization is a key limiting factor to truly determine what is needed at each organization to meet FSMA guidelines.

Jason Ulrich: Companies are concerned about FSMA. Most are concerned with FSMA as a whole. Many have taken steps to educate themselves, but the law is vague, especially for companies that are in multiple areas of food manufacturing.

Part two of the discussion will explore supplier documentation and automation.

Sanitary Transportation of Human and AnimalFood

Ready, Set, Train! Sanitary Transport Rule Is Here

By Holly Mockus
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Sanitary Transportation of Human and AnimalFood

The Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food rule goes into effect June 6, 2016. Large businesses must comply by April 6, 2017; small businesses must comply by April 6, 2018. The rule governs the protection of food during transport, including the sanitation of transport vehicles and equipment, refrigeration of food for safety, and proper cleaning of bulk transport vehicles between loads. So you’ll need a game plan…but what should your game plan include?

  1. Read the rule—every word of it—to understand the reasoning behind the decisions made in crafting it and to get a glimpse into how it will be regulated and enforced.
  2. Review all of your processes, protocols, procedures, and contracts to ensure compliance with the rule, and outline responsibility for how you’ll manage the safe transportation of food.
  3. Close any gaps in your current programs to ensure you’ll meet the regulations well in advance of the compliance date.
  4. Kick the tires by conducting mock inspections. Find non-compliances and give yourself time to correct them, rather than wait for bad news during a real inspection.
  5. Confirm the accuracy of all your documentation on a regular basis. Documentation can be the difference between success and failure when it comes to proving that you’re doing the right things.
  6. Get all stakeholders on board to empower employees at all levels and drive culture change.
Sanitary Transportation of Human and AnimalFood
Establish a driver training program to ensure compliance with the Sanitary Transport rule. Image courtesy of Alchemy Systems (Click to enlarge)

Use Driver Training to Prepare

Drivers are the conductors of the food supply chain. They literally have loads of responsibilities, including maintaining the cold chain, meeting delivery requirements, practicing safe driving always, and meeting all Department of Transportation regulations and requirements. Whether transporting raw materials, packaging, work-in-progress, or finished goods, drivers are the people that keep food safe in transit. So how can you take advantage of your driver training program to ensure compliance with the Sanitary Transport rule?

  • A blended learning strategy, combining online and instructor-led training, has been shown to provide the best food safety training outcomes.
  • Use online lessons to introduce and reinforce knowledge of new FSMA regulations and food safety awareness topics. Digital lessons are economical, learner-paced, provide consistent messaging, and are accessible 24/7.
  • Use hands-on direct instruction for refreshers or for topics like proper vehicle inspections, reefer unit checks, cargo securement, etc.
  • Subject matter experts should conduct any instructor-led training using a skills check-off approach to document driver’s abilities and to ensure that drivers perform to standard.
  • Group and prioritize drivers for training based on their compliance history.
  • Use online lessons and safety messaging proactively to sustain driver compliance and performance.

Use online training at least quarterly, but use safety messaging monthly. Drivers, like all learners, need regular reminders in order to break old habits and form new ones. Communications programs can provide multi-touchpoints to reinforce new knowledge, shift behaviors, and help ensure compliance.

Put Your Game Plan Into Action

The Sanitary Transport Rule is a reality. Now is the time to put written procedures and protocols in place and make sure all stakeholders have a clear understanding of them. Determine precisely who has responsibility for compliance throughout the distribution channels. A blend of online and face-to-face training will ensure compliance, increase performance, and protect foods during transportation operations. The benefits far outweigh the cost.

Resources

Frank Yiannas, Walmart, Food Safety Consortium

Make Food Safety Culture the Social Norm

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Frank Yiannas, Walmart, Food Safety Consortium

WATCH VIDEO I: Apply Behaviorial Science Techniques to Food Safety
Most people are influenced by the behavior that surrounds them, especially in a professional environment. In part III of a video series of his presentation at the 2015 Food Safety Consortium, Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart, discusses the key role that behavioral science plays in food safety culture and how companies can build a stronger culture by considering the principle of social norms.

Yiannas also touches on how learning through the mistakes of others can be an effective teaching tool.

“I think we have to teach food safety the wrong way sometimes to teach it the right way,” said Yiannas. “I think a lot of food safety professionals create curriculum and modules that are teaching it the right way…when the research is clear—teaching the wrong way can be pretty good.”

 

Sanitation in Retail

Out with the Old: From Dirty Rags to Cleaner, Safer Technology in Retail

By Maria Fontanazza
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Sanitation in Retail

Across the board, increased employee awareness and training has become a big issue in food safety. The foodborne illness outbreaks that hit Chipotle Mexican Grill has put retail and restaurant establishments on high alert, yet this is just another example of the reactive culture in which we operate, according to Matt Schiering, vice president and general manager at Sani Professional.

Matt Schiering, Sani Professional
“Think about your own restaurant experiences. Guests don’t want to see or be confronted with a greyish brown rag [that is used to] wipe a table, then wipe a seat, then wipe an adjacent table. It just screams unclean,” says Matt Schiering of Sani Professional.
Food Safety Tech recently hit the road with Schiering and John Caton, regional sales manager at Sani Professional, to experience first hand how one company is communicating its message to customers. Breaking with tradition has been an important part of promoting cleaner technology: The use of the rag and bucket as a means to clean both the front of the house (tables, chairs, counters, etc.) as well as the back of restaurants and retail establishments, while still fairly common, has outlived its effectiveness, and frankly, says Schiering, “screams unclean”. Caton and Schiering continued the conversation with their customers about how using disposable wipes for cleaning, sanitizing and disinfection helps prevent the spread of contamination, along with the cost savings associated with using such products. The company takes a multi-prong approach to promoting awareness among its current and potential clients, from deploying a sales force that directly interacts with quality assurance and food safety professionals in establishments to offering how advances in sustainable technology can help them stay ahead of the curve to driving consumer advocacy.

Food Safety Tech: How is Sani Professional raising the level awareness of the disadvantages of the traditional cleaning method (the rag and bucket method) in the retail environment?

Matt Schiering: There are a few ways to raise the level of awareness. The first and foremost is “feet on the street”. We’ve deliberately moved toward a direct-to-customer sales force, which gives us the opportunity to interface directly with QA, food safety and operations to show them a simpler, more efficient, more effective, and guest appealing way versus the traditional rag and bucket. The first win is one for the user (the employees of a given establishment), because associates have shown us time and time again that they do not like the mixing and measuring, and the errors that are often associated with that process. They don’t like the dirty rag itself—having to fish it out of the bowl and then present it or be seen with it in the front of the establishment. It’s a win for the operator (the manager), because with our system, there’s no longer any heightened heart rate when the health inspector shows up. One of the most common violations is the water in the buckets being out of spec or the rags themselves not being inside the bucket per regulation. And perhaps most importantly, it’s a win for the guest. Think about your own restaurant experiences. Guests don’t want to see or be confronted with a greyish brown rag [that is used to] wipe a table, then wipe a seat, then wipe an adjacent table. It just screams unclean.

As we talk about the evolution in perception, away from traditional methods, we believe that speaking directly to the consumer has to play a role. There has to be a degree of consumer-driven advocacy for a better way. – Matt Schiering

FST: Regarding employee training, how should retailers be more proactive in ensuring their employees are engaging in proper food safety practices and aren’t spreading foodborne illnesses?

Schiering: It varies by chain. Unfortunately, we live in a reactive culture—and that goes well beyond the restaurant industry.

Oftentimes a problem precedes a protocol or other means of addressing said problem. Chipotle is one example: They’ve taken an exhaustive look at restructuring their food safety protocols as a result of a myriad of foodborne illness-related issues that they suffered in the preceding months. The [retailers] who are doing it best are the ones who build it into their establishment in the first place where it’s not predicated by some sort of problem. That involves training materials, in-service lessons, and online training (i.e., ServSafe certifications). Waffle House, for example, has Waffle House University where food safety is a key component to that system.

We envision ourselves as part of that process. We take a microcosm—the notion of proper food handling, prevention of cross contamination related foodborne illness—and provide an innovative and easy-to-use solution, and all the training and collateral materials associated with the solution that explain the proper use. We also provide test kits so that if the health inspector wants an in-the-moment proof that our product is doing what the label says it does, [the retailer] can provide that at a moments notice. It becomes more of a service proposition than simply a product-driven solution.

Sanitation in Retail
Using disposable wipes for cleaning, sanitizing and disinfection can help prevent the spread of cross contamination and foodborne illness.

FST: Where do you see sustainable products fitting into the space?

Schiering: This also boils down to education, because the perception of disposables is that they’re wasteful, when in fact they needn’t be any more costly than existing solutions.

If you’re using a linen service, there’s a cost associated with renting towels, but there’s a higher cost associated with wasting towels. So if a towel ends up in a gym bag or in the trash because of overuse and/or abuse, there’s a significant upcharge for not returning that towel to the rental agency. That’s what we call the hidden cost or the dirty little secret of rag and bucket sanitizing. When you factor that in, and everyone [retailers] experiences that type of loss, and you look at the fact that sanitizing wipes kill pathogens trapped in the wipe as well as whatever it is coming into contact with at the surface, thereby enabling it to be used on multiple surfaces without causing cross contamination—the cost aligns very closely. And of course it’s a more value-added guest experience than a dirty rag being used from table to table, which is not preventing cross contamination.

Speaking to the environmental piece: At the moment, we’re actually fairly well ahead of the industry. It varies chain to chain—some chains are doing a better job than others, because it’s part of their corporate culture. But by providing solutions that are leveraging either recyclable substrates or compostable substrates, we provide greater opportunity to reduce the environmental impact often associated with disposable products. If a retailer is working with a waste management partner that can handle industrial compostable products or non-solid state recyclables, we have solutions that are appropriate for those operations, so that we’re not just adding to landfills but rather essentially recycling and/or regenerating the products that are being used, and at no greater cost.

Most retailers haven’t gotten there yet. It speaks directly to corporate culture and corporate mission of the end user. We deliberately target customers who are a little bit ahead of the curve when it comes to “green technology or “green behavior”. And so when the rest of the industry catches up, we’re more than ready to serve them with products that meet those needs.

FST: Where do consumers fit into the picture, especially has industry moves away from traditional methods in food safety?

Schiering: About a decade ago, consumers started demanding that retailers like Walmart, Target, and local grocers provide a means of sanitizing shopping carts when they walk into their local retail establishments. There were myriad news reports about the germs and potential for contamination and illness arising from the often used and rarely cleaned implements—these vehicles for placing your groceries. We answered the call a decade ago, and at one time it was a significant piece of our business.  It continues to be a marketplace we serve, albeit a much commoditized one. But the rise in that solution would not have taken place if not for consumers advocating for a better way.

We’re starting to create a presence on Facebook and other social media outlets to remind consumers that it’s up to them in many cases to ask for, if not demand a more effective, more pleasing way of ensuring their safety in dining establishments. Unfortunately, incidents like what we saw at the large Mexican food service retailer do ultimately play a part in that consumer advocacy, albeit a negative one, because we are a reactive society. But by presenting a positive message and sharing alternatives in the absence of citing examples or shaming retailers through the problem, we believe that will be one of the keys to changing perceptions at the retail level.

Gary Smith, Eurofins’ Food Safety Systems

FSMA Mandates Employee Training. Are You Prepared?

By Maria Fontanazza
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Gary Smith, Eurofins’ Food Safety Systems
Gary Smith, Eurofins’ Food Safety Systems
Gary Smith, director of food safety, Eurofins Scientific

Training plays a huge role in the effective implementation of FSMA. The preventive controls for human food final rule calls out areas in which training is now obligatory, namely ensuring that employees involved in the manufacturing, processing, packaging and holding of food are properly educated on food safety and food hygiene (mandated under Current Good Manufacturing Practices). FDA has initiated an extensive training strategy, part of which includes establishing a National Coordination Center (the agency awarded a $600,000 grant to the International Food Protection Training Institute in October), along with several collaborative efforts with other federal agencies and industry partners.

Although many food companies have been conducting training as part of their standard procedures, preparing employees for the implementation phase of FSMA may be more complicated than they anticipated. In a Q&A with Food Safety Tech, Gary Smith, director of food safety services at Eurofins Scientific, shares insights on some of the hurdles that industry is encountering (including manufacturers in the animal food arena) related to training and FSMA compliance.

Food Safety Tech: How has FSMA changed the landscape of employee training?

Gary Smith: There are a couple of updates that are very important to note for the industries as a whole. First, employee training is now mandatory for both human food facilities and, probably even more importantly, animal food facilities. Many of the human food folks may have been asked by customers or by other entities via corporate internal procedures to do training of employees and to have a training program in place. For a lot of the pet food and animal feed manufacturers, having a comprehensive training program for all employees is significantly different than what has been requested and expected of them in the past.

Second, the preventive controls rule for both human food and animal food specifically requires that animal food and human food manufacturers conduct training of all their employees on at least food safety and food hygiene topics. Now, what does that mean? We’re interpreting that to mean basic GMPs as well as common food safety hazards. Realistically, this will probably be a 30 to 60-minute training session in which everyone in the facility will have to attend, and FDA doesn’t state specifically that it has to be done more than at least once. There is no frequency for re-training. However, once the compliance dates are effective, it’s mandatory that the training has been completed. This is a new concept for the majority of industry who may have had corporate training programs or customer-driven training programs, but never a mandated regulatory requirement for training.

FST: What challenges do food companies face in ensuring that employees are prepared for the implementation phase?

Smith: There’s the challenge of putting together the training, which, in the big picture of FSMA, shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

Some of the biggest challenges companies face (especially in trying to get ahead of the game and be proactive) is the identification of the preventive controls qualified individual. Is it an internal person? Is it a consultant? Do they have to go through a specific training class? The answer is yes, they do. How do they deal with foreign suppliers? A lot of folks are really confused about the concept of the Foreign Supplier Verification Program rule and what it means. Do they need to audit [their suppliers]? Do they need to be GFSI certified? There are a lot of questions concerning the importation of ingredients from outside the United States—what’s the requirement? This is probably the biggest area in which people seek clarity.

Another [challenge] is internal supplier approval, because the new rule talks about supplier approval as one of the preventive controls that has to be in place. Again, who can do those audits? When do we have to conduct an audit? What does the audit have to cover? A lot of folks are struggling with this area as well.

The last challenge: A lot of folks have HACCP, whether they are human or animal food manufacturers, and this has been required or requested by customers for a while. But how do we transition from having a HACCP plan to a food safety plan that meets the preventive control requirements in addition to the HACCP requirements? How do I build in allergen management as a preventive control? How do I build in sanitation as a preventive control? How do I build in supplier approval as a preventive control? There are a lot of questions surrounding whether companies should scrap their HACCP plan and start over, or whether they have to add on to it.

FST: Eurofins offers an extensive training schedule for the first half of 2016. How do these offerings play into FSMA’s compliance requirements?

Smith: Eurofins is now offering the highly anticipated 2.5-day training created by the FDA’s Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA). The standardized curriculum is designed to meet the training requirements under Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations Part 117.115 for the “preventive control qualified individual” who conducts certain Food Safety Plan activities. In addition, Eurofins offers core courses such as Environmental Monitoring, Internal Food Safety Auditing and HACCP to help support the development and implementation of a company’s food safety plan.