Tag Archives: food safety culture

Jill Stuber, The Food Safety Coach
FST Soapbox

Move the Needle on Food Safety Culture Starting with Your FSQ Team

By Jill Stuber
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Jill Stuber, The Food Safety Coach

“Yeah, yeah, I know. We’re supposed to have FSQ (Food Safety and Quality) verify the line before we start. But c’mon, we could see the plastic so we just removed it and then we visually inspected all the product on that part of the line. We looked everywhere for the other missing piece. We didn’t find it, so somebody probably found it not knowing what it was and tossed it out. We radioed for someone for FSQ about five minutes ago and no one came. We did what we needed: Stopped the line, found the foreign material, and now we’re running again. We only have an hour of production left and we’re almost done filling this order.”

As the operations supervisor was telling me this, I could feel my entire body become agitated. My blood began to boil, and I had to bite my tongue to avoid saying unkind and unhelpful words.

It wasn’t the first time we’d had foreign material on that line that week. And to top it off, it was the same supervisor telling me they knew the FSQ Team had to be part of foreign material incidents, yet the supervisor decided the situation wasn’t important enough to follow the written SOP on handling foreign material that we all signed off on earlier in the month in an attempt at streamlining the process to be easier to execute.
I’m not sure what made me angrier—the fact we were having this conversation again or that this type of conversation always got under my skin. How was it I was blowing a gasket while the supervisor thought it was no big deal?

It all seemed to come down to a difference in beliefs. A difference in attitudes. A difference in the actions taken when no one is watching. This situation is showing the food safety culture of the organization, and everyone nearby is seeing it. This isn’t uncommon—these every-day moments are displays of the food safety culture within our organizations. These moments are an opportunity to create a new story around food safety culture.

Join Jill Stuber and other food safety experts for a discussion about industry professional development, training and mentorship on November 4, during the 2021 Food Safety Consortium Virtual SeriesIt begs the question: How do we start to re-write food safety culture in these moments?
To write a new story around food safety culture, many say it needs to start at the top. In fact, GFSI, EU Regulations, and the New Era of Smarter Food Safety focus on top leaders creating the mission, values and key performance metrics around food safety culture. While I believe having top leadership support is important, I’d challenge one to consider: Does food safety culture really have to start at the top?

In 1989, Sidney Yoshida unveiled the concept of the “Iceberg of Ignorance” that found large knowledge gaps between senior management and the rest of the organization.1 Yoshida’s research concluded that top leaders are too far removed from the day-to-day operations, which limits them to only see the very tip of a problem, meaning most of the problem isn’t visible to them. When we consider Yoshida’s concept for food safety culture, one may conclude top leaders are unlikely to fully understand the frustration, depth and frequency of stories like the one illustrated above.

Then who is positioned to understand the issues around food safety culture and make a difference? After working with multiple teams across multiple companies in food safety and quality for more than 25 years, I can confidently say, no one wants to see food safety practices and systems working more effectively than the FSQ Team!

FSQ Teams see first-hand the effect of failures in the food safety and quality systems that plague companies through things like product on hold, downtime and customer complaints, as they are often the ones involved with resolving issues. That’s why they are perfectly positioned to make a meaningful, daily impact on how people understand, perceive and embrace food safety behaviors.

Keep in mind, each year additional workload falls to the FSQ Team through new customer requirements, new regulations, new certification requirements, and more. That certainly explains how 60% of people have taken on more tasks than they can get done at work causing confusion in job responsibilities.2,3

Before we add another element to the FSQ plate, we need to ensure the FSQ Team is well positioned and energized to model the food safety behaviors that align with the culture we want to see. The following are several practical steps to support this journey:

  1. Evaluate Workload. Given 60% people have taken on more work than they can get done, evaluating workload is the first step to ensure the FSQ Team is ready to carry the food safety culture torch. Effects of overwork can be displayed as things like stress, or being disconnected, along with siloed work and even disconnected goals.4 Those outward appearing signs don’t typically align with the behaviors and attitudes aligned with the food safety culture wanted. A simple step to support alignment in the every-day behaviors and attitudes to support food safety culture is ensuring workloads are appropriate. An easy workload evaluation is to create a list of tasks, and compare it to the number of hours a person is expected to work. Just like production line time, if the workload is greater than available capacity, adjustment may be needed or vice versa.
  2. Provide Clarity around Decision Making Responsibilities. When actual work tasks aren’t clear, team members may also be unsure of where their decision making authority begins and ends – especially when it comes to food safety culture. Clarity comes from being curious, asking questions, and having conversations. For example: Can FSQ Team Members ask other Team Members to change how they’re doing a task to be more food safe? Should they ask the Team Member’s Lead or Supervisor first? Does it depend on the severity of the situation? When the FSQ Team sees behaviors that exemplify food safety culture, how are they able to recognize those fellow Team Members? When there are several options for safe handling of product, what’s the role of the FSQ Team in deciding which option is selected? Every individual will have a different perspective for these questions. Exploring how decisions are made and aligning across functional areas of the company will help FSQ Team Members carry the messaging around expected attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that support the food safety culture at the organization.
  3. Focus on Mindset. In FSQ, we are here to serve: The business, our team, our customers, and others. Showing up with the positive attitude to serve food safety culture can get lost when firefighting and being worried about getting everything done. After your FSQ Team has a clear picture of workload and responsibilities, a mindset around the food safety culture you want to see can be aligned in just a few minutes a day! Stuart Smalley was on to something when he repeatedly said, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me”. This type of mindset training had enumerable benefits for improved confidence, improved relationships, reduced stress, improving company outcomes, and more.5

The dreamy Food Safety Culture state where the inherent beliefs and behaviors that drive food safety are second nature to all team members is within reach. To reach that dream state, your FSQ Team is perfectly positioned at the front line every day to carry the food safety culture message. By taking these three practical steps, you’ll move the needle for taking care of your FSQ Team, which in turn, moves the needle on food safety culture for your organization.

References

  1. Adonix. (January 31, 2020). Uncovering the Iceberg of Ignorance.
  2. Bolden-Barrett, V. (2019). “Workers with overstuffed to-do lists feel overwhelmed, not organized, study shows“. HR DIVE.
  3. Stange, J. (February 6, 2020). 20 Employee Engagement Statistics that Impact Your Business.
  4. Martins, J. (May 21, 2021). Feeling Overworked? Strategies for Individuals and Teams to Regain Balance.
  5. Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
Melody Ge, Corvium
Women in Food Safety

The Breadcrumbs that Lead to Success

By Melody Ge
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Melody Ge, Corvium

It was a great pleasure to sit down with Jennifer Crandall, CEO, founder and owner of the Safe Food En Route, LLC. She has more than 20 years’ experience in food safety, and tremendous experience as a business entrepreneur.

Jennifer Crandall
Jennifer Crandall, CEO, founder and owner of the Safe Food En Route, LLC, has more than 20 years’ experience in food safety, and tremendous experience as a business entrepreneur.

Jennifer started her career in production for a variety of products after she graduated from Purdue University as a Food Science major. When she looks back at her career path, Jennifer says all the dots are connected together in getting her to where she is now—as though she was leaving her own “breadcrumbs” in each stage, and now everything has come back together. For example, after she spent eight years on the production line, she took a position at Kroger Manufacturing for the next 12 years, where she had opportunities to work at positions in corporate food technology, regulatory compliance and global sourcing roles. Jennifer said, “it was a detour at the time when I took the sourcing position, however, it was these last two positions that set the foundation and knowledge when starting Safe Food En Route“…“I went the path of least resistance, what felt right at that time, and that natural interest just linked to the next opportunity. Each time I moved around, I either learned something new or developed another skill—that’s what motivated me. I left myself breadcrumbs along the way, so when I looked back, I knew where I had been,” she said. “I don’t regret any of the decisions that I made in getting me into the position where I am today.” Jennifer shared one quote she learned from Kathy Beechem, a retired EVP of US Bank: “When you are facing two choices, always take the path with the most opportunities!” “Her words still have an impact on me. Every time I make a choice, I choose the one that gave me more opportunities to grow,” Jennifer said.

We ended our conversation with some tips Jennifer would have given to her younger self, back 20 years ago. First: Use your network more, and do not be afraid to ask more questions. Second: Do not be afraid. You have unlimited potential and are destined for great things. Decide what you want with all your heart and focus on it.

“All in all, it is crucial to understand what you want, and understand who you are!” Jennifer said.

Melody Ge: Every time I speak with you, you are very confident and comfortable in the conversation. What tips can you share on being confident?

Jennifer Crandall: Thank you, and I think it still comes with practice. There are three things I think I would like to share.

  1. Be prepared. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be.
  2. Be on time and enforce your own boundaries. Be realistic with the time you need for preparation; you can’t prepare for everything, especially if it’s a discussion. But give yourself the space and grace to have that preparation time within the boundaries.
  3. Recognize and understand your own needs, simply as knowing yourself. It’s probably a good tip to reemphasize and work in a lot of other situations. It’s surprising how many people that do not self-reflect. I see many people living their life like a pinball machine, not knowing where they are going. That will show that they lack confidence, because they are waiting for someone to tell them where to go. Women especially will wait on other people to tell them what they are good at. If you are waiting on someone to tell you your strengths, then you are going to be waiting your whole life, because you are never going to believe what other people tell you. So know yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses.

Ge: Why and what persuaded you to start your own business? Do you have any advice for females out there who are interested in starting their own business?

Crandall: I wrote down several version of answers for this [question] and they all kind of fall into four buckets: Professional, Inspiration, Timing, and Trusting myself.

To start from personal experience in my professional life, I was feeling really burned out at one stage with corporate, and I knew I needed to change my career. I also recognized a pattern in corporate life; and in reality, people need to live their life beyond their career. At the same time, my family member was having a heart problem, and a colleague passed away from an illness soon after he retired. In addition, I had a friend’s husband pass away from cancer. All these combined circumstances caused me to reflect, as I already had some thoughts about the meaning of life. Life isn’t about just moving up in the corporate ladder.

Moving on to Inspiration: An inspiring moment happened around that time, as one of my female colleagues who was a counterpart left the company. She left a couple years before I did, and had no plan—she just wanted to take a pause in her career. I was like, “How is that even happening, what are you talking about?” She told me she did this after reading the book, The Escape Manifesto Book: Quit Your Corporate Job. Do Something Different! The book is about how people use the skills they learned from corporate careers and implement them outside the corporate environment. That day, I downloaded the audio book, and started listening to it. I listened to it 13 times during the year of 2017 (it’s a short book), and it really gave me some things to think about. I was inspired, and I am still using some of the tools the book recommended today to run my own business.

Timing: FSMA was perfectly timed with the opportunity for me to launch a business around FSVP consultation because implementation of the regulation was beginning, and Kroger had just trained me on it; I was having so many conversations with suppliers in my final Kroger position as a supplier verification program manager. In addition, I picked up about 2500 connections from my global sourcing role, and everything was really coming together. Again, like the breadcrumbs, the dots are finally connected.

On Trusting Myself: I was inspired by an interview between Oprah and Maya Angelou to write down all the people that influenced me to the point I was at in my career. I ended up with a list of hundreds of people that supported me to the point I was in life. I realized I did not fully believe in myself, but all these people on the list did. And I thought, “If they believe in me, why can’t I believe in myself?” So trusting myself is like the last kick to give me the courage to take the leap. Once I knew what I was going to do, those four factors kicked in at the same time to push me forward with my own business with confidence.

Ge: Based on what you have learned from your own career, what advice would you give to female professionals?

Crandall: Three things come to mind:

  1. Believe in yourself that you are worthy and deserving of anything you want in your personal and professional life. It is allowed, you are allowed, and as long as they do not negatively impact people, you are allowed to have them. As women, I think we always put ourselves last and never believe we are allowed to have those things. We are.
  2. Nothing beats a good friend, mentor or a coach. They will take you far. We need friends that can help give us unbiased judgment and coaching to help lead our lives. I was an athlete growing up; 25 years after being on the diving board, I still learn things from diving and from my coach. I am fascinated how the physics side of sports and the coaching can continue to help me in my real life. Coaching has guided me to where I am today. Right now, I hired a coach to guide me on how to be a better CEO and entrepreneur; how to streamline my business. And in thinking about mentors, they can be anyone, for example, listening to audio books, watching an interview, who is influencing you… those all can be mentors.
  3. Don’t limit yourself. It happens either through allowing others to limit you, or you may do it through limiting your own beliefs around other people. There are no limits on you or what you can do except how you allow other people to put them on you; or you may allow systems or structures to limit yourself. I learned that I am limitless—and there was a time when I didn’t know I was. It can still be scary now to say that I am limitless. But I do believe it. I went through a lot of what coaches call “limiting beliefs” before I got to this point.

Ge: Do you have any final tips for female students and those professionals who are working towards being on an executive team?

Crandall: For students I would say, be patient and spend time in the field. For example, spend five to 10 years to master your skills on the production floor, take time learning quality assurance and food safety systems. Learn the basics and master it. I know it is hard, but it is worth it.

For those who are working towards being in an executive position, I would say think in a business manner. In some form or fashion, add business to your knowledge and thoughts. It doesn’t have to be earning an MBA degree, but at least learn some skills to know what it is involved in being a business person—i.e., things like sales, networks, marketing, finances, and accounting. You don’t want to start an executive position without having some basic knowledge of how a business runs. Make risky choices as often as possible and make the uncomfortable comfortable. My coaches often repeat this, and I want to share it with the group. Take those risks and learn to speak the language that professionals at the executive table often speak.

Greg Staley, SynergySuite
Retail Food Safety Forum

Pathway to Progress: How to Invest in Food Safety Technology when Future Is Uncertain

By Greg Staley
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Greg Staley, SynergySuite

The last 18 months have been tremendously difficult for the restaurant industry. Six years of growth were undone by a global pandemic, and industry sales were $240 billion dollars lower than pre-COVID-19 projections, according to the National Restaurant Association.

While the pandemic accelerated the adoption of trends like online ordering, off-premise dining and delivery, it also brought others to a halt. Revenue loss from the pandemic meant many restaurants had to put other technology upgrades on hold.

Now, despite diners eagerly returning to dine in, other costs have not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Supply chain and labor disruptions, rent, and other operational costs are still making margins razor thin. This likely means the technology teams at many brands will be looking to do more with less for several years as the industry normalizes again. And oftentimes that means food safety will take a back seat.

Traditional ways of trimming budgets are no longer feasible, so operators looking to restore profitability will need to find new ways to boost operational efficiencies. These challenges do not mean you can’t make strategic investments, but they do mean you will have to be thoughtful about how and where you put those tech budgets.

Operators are facing a number of challenges while trying to regain their footing as COVID restrictions wind down. However, there are ways you can still invest in food safety technology, even while profits are recovering. Let’s look at what roadblocks are potentially introducing risk into your food safety program and how you can still create an effective food safety culture to protect employees and guests.

The Challenges

The following are just a few of the issues introducing risk into your food safety processes.

Challenge 1: Staffing shortages have employees spread thin.
Many people left the restaurant industry during the pandemic, exacerbating an already tight labor market. This has led to closing for some days or specific times, slower service, drive thru or take out only, and routine tasks falling behind.

While safe food handling should be routine, time crunches put pressure on even the best staff. Your employees may be fudging line checks, not throwing out food that reached unsafe temperatures, or forgetting specific tasks at the busiest times.

Challenge 2: Supply chain and transportation disruptions threaten safe food supplies.
Global supply chains are still fluctuating, and transportation has been disrupted as well. This means many restaurants are not getting the entire inventory they need when they need it. Trucks may take longer to transport food and high temperatures across North America could mean food is going out of temp when it normally wouldn’t. This is particularly troubling if employees aren’t checking deliveries, as you won’t know if food has been delivered outside safe temperatures.

Challenge 3: Dropping revenue leads to more manual processes and temp checks.
According to the National Restaurant Association’s annual report, 86% of restaurants say profitability is lower than it was prior to the pandemic. This is not an unexpected statistic in a year that saw unprecedented challenges to the industry, but it has had a number of domino effects.
One of those effects is restaurants that may previously have been using operational software to monitor and report on safe food practices returned to spreadsheets or clipboards to save on tech costs. Or those that had smart devices such as Bluetooth temperature probes or fridge and freezer monitors replaced them with non-smart devices if they broke or became out of date.

Challenge 4: Employee turnover threatens food safety culture and institutional knowledge.
It’s no secret that a food handler’s permit is not the end-all-be-all of food safety in a restaurant. The longer employees work in foodservice, the more experience they have with safe food handling practices, and they are able to pass this down to new employees to reinforce best practices.

However, the loss of many longtime foodservice employees leaving the industry has left huge gaps in institutional knowledge that affect everything from how smoothly a restaurant runs to how well employees follow safe food handling.

The Solutions

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for every restaurant. However, here are a few things operators can focus on to help bolster food safety practices and bring in modern food safety technology even while profitability is lower than it was prior to the pandemic.

Solution 1: Look for improvements in existing processes or technology.
You don’t have to immediately look to new technology. There is a lot to be gained from optimizing what you already have that’s working well. This can mean looking for new ways to take advantage of technology you already have in place or making small adjustments to processes that work well but could be tweaked to be more efficient.

For example, if you are using some sort of digital checklist tool, think about ways you can integrate a previously manual food safety process into it. You may not think it’s a big change, but even skipping the step of having to transcribe data from checklists or spreadsheets means you will get faster, more accurate reporting. Or you can use existing temperature probes and add the step of checking deliveries as they arrive to ensure they are within a safe temperature range.

Then talk to the customer success manager at any company you already use. There may be features you are paying for and don’t even realize you aren’t using. One example is that many inventory systems also carry food safety capabilities as a side offering, and their customers aren’t using it because they originally signed up for inventory help.

You can begin with seemingly small changes that will ultimately add up to a big reduction in risk as you snowball strategies and build safer processes.

Solution 2: Look for places where you can consolidate technology.
In today’s restaurant technology ecosystem, you can find virtually anything you want. If you’ve been building a piecemeal tech stack, it’s time to take another look at what’s out there. Many restaurants are paying for separate software for things like operations checklists, inventory, food safety, scheduling and training.

If you’re using separate systems because you feel like that’s giving you the best technology, then carry on. But if it’s just because that’s how you added them, and you never took a look at where you could consolidate multiple systems into one platform, then get acquainted with your options. Many back-of-house platforms can help you cover multiple areas of your operations more efficiently and you’ll be able to bundle pricing rather than paying for disparate systems.

Solution 3: Focus on systems that pay for themselves.
The idea that software is only a cost center has been around for a long time. Some systems may not tie back directly to revenue, but there are more places than you realize that cover their own subscription costs with the money saved.

First, look for any areas you can consolidate technology and piggyback food safety tools into that. If you are gaining a new restaurant management system, odds are you will find food safety technology as part of that package, and you can justify the overall upgrade on food and labor savings.

Second, food safety is so reliant on employee buy-in and consistency that technology that improves retention and training will also have a positive effect on your food safety risk reduction. Labor management and scheduling systems will bring down one of the two major costs of running a restaurant, with a secondary benefit of making food safety practices stronger.

The longer you retain employees, the better they are at teaching correct practices to others as well as adhering to brand food safety practices. Plus, training systems that come with labor tools allow you to provide micro learning moments that reinforce proper practices for even the most experienced employees.

Life during the pandemic has taken a toll on all areas of restaurant operations, including food safety. Now that guests are dining out more, you don’t want to take a chance that a foodborne illness will destroy business just as it is being rebuilt. Times are tight to pay for new technology, but there are things operators can do to make food safety programs stronger without breaking the bank.

Kathy Wybourn, DNV-GL

Ask the Expert: What Makes a Company’s Food Safety Culture Strong?

Kathy Wybourn, DNV-GL

Q: What are the maturity levels of food safety culture?

Kathleen Wybourn: The UK Food Standards Agency defines 6 levels of maturity:

  1. Calculative non-compliers intentionally violate regulations for reasons of financial gain. They only comply under inspection requirements, prioritize productivity at the cost of hygiene and, lack adequacy of facilities and/or equipment. They are accustomed to bad conditions without realizing risks and continuously do not comply with food safety requirements.
  2. Doubting compliers question the overall risk posed by lack of food safety, leadership is not a reference for behavior, exhibit failures of structures, equipment and utensils; training is an unnecessary investment for them, employee suggestions are not encouraged. They do not understand the potential severity of deviations from food safety regulations.
  3. Dependent compliers seek advice or instructions and see food safety as something that needs to be addressed by others. Possibly, if there is no external control, food standards are not met; they have a few structural deficiencies, including employee facilities, they are not proactive about food safety, have some awareness of contamination risks, while knowing the rules and legislation, and rely on external sources for updates on legislation and to tell them, if and what needs to be changed.
  4. Proactive understand that hazards are significant and accept that requirements are effective and necessary. Their leaders are a good example, care for the safety of food constantly, work conditions ensure the work is done properly. Employees are encouraged to warn about deviations, review their procedures to comply with new regulations.
  5. Leaders see food safety and quality as a part of their business. They encourage, explain and praise good practices, the board adopts improvements and view them as investment and not cost, seek best practices, not only compliance with regulation. They are never complacent, when it comes to food safety, and food safety rules are not questioned by them.

Q: If your leadership and management do not want to get engaged, which steps can you take to develop your organizations food safety culture?

Wybourn: This depends on each organization; however, technologists and practitioners should provide education and knowledge to their management regarding food safety culture. If you are a certified site, it is a requirement, not a nice to have. The FDA is considering reducing inspections and the worst what can happen is a recall and food safety culture can assist with preventing. Food safety culture is beyond food safety management systems. Showing your leadership, the full benefits and positive results will get their attention.

Kathy Wybourn, DNV
Kathleen Wybourn, DNV Director, Food & Beverage Supply Chain and Product Assurance, North America

About Kathleen Wybourn, DNV Director, Food & Beverage Supply Chain and Product Assurance, North America

Kathleen began her career in food manufacturing at the NutraSweet Division of GD Searle/Monsanto where she held various managerial positions including managing analytical and microbiology labs, quality control, quality assurance, supplier audits and operations. Since leaving food manufacturing, Kathleen has worked in various food safety auditing management positions, including Director of Operations at the GMA as Director of the GMA SAFE program.

In 2008 Kathleen joined DNV as Director of Food Safety Solutions where she is responsible for the Food and Beverage division of DNV GL – Business Assurance. Kathleen has written articles on Food Safety Certification including: First Look: GFSI Adds New FSSC 22000 Standard, WAL-MART’s Magna Carta for Auditing, and Navigating the Jungle of Food Safety Standards – all published in various Food industry magazines. Kathleen was instrumental in the study conducted at Michigan State University on Food Safety Certification in the US titled “Food Safety in the U.S. Supply Chain – Consumer and Food Industry Perceptions.” Kathleen is very active with GFSI, having served on various Technical working groups and speaking at the GFSI Global Conferences.

Kathleen has a Bachelor of Science Degree from Northern Illinois University and an MBA from Loyola University of Chicago.

Content Sponsored by DNV.

Ceci Snyder, FoodChain ID
FST Soapbox

Food Safety Training Research: What You’ve Missed in the Last Year

By Ceci Snyder
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Ceci Snyder, FoodChain ID

While many food safety professionals can point to specific professional challenges of the past year, one obstacle exists no matter what the year: How can I keep up on newly published training research?

For this common professional dilemma, I have a solution. With input from my colleagues, I’ve summarized a selection of the Top 5 Food Safety Training Articles in last year, with a link to the abstract or paper.

Any top papers you think we missed? Feel free to reach out and make a suggestion through the contact information listed below.

1. Computer-Based Training Proves Equally Valuable

A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Food Safety and Hygiene Training on Food Handlers1

The paper reviews research on the effects of training interventions for food safety knowledge, attitude, and practices among food handlers at different stages of the food supply chain.

The authors concluded, “practical demonstration and continuous support might increase positive attitudes towards food safety and hygiene practices among food handlers, with the ultimate goal of minimizing the incidence and prevalence of foodborne hazards. Effective food safety training should be relevant to the situation, promote active learning, increase risk perception, and consider the work environment.” Computer-based training outcomes did not differ from face-to-face training.

The authors also identified positive results when food safety training was supported by resources, commitment, leadership, and a receptive management culture.

2. Produce Growers: An Important Target for Food Safety Education

Produce Growers’ On-Farm Food Safety Education: A Review2

The review summarizes findings by researchers who assessed the food safety knowledge and attitudes of produce growers, and the effectiveness of food safety educational programs. Study selection criteria included publication between 2000 and 2019, and a focus on one of six topics: “Handling of agricultural water, soil amendments, domesticated animal and wildlife management, worker health and hygiene, food safety plans and record-keeping, and cleaning and sanitation…Handling of agricultural water and soil amendments were the two topics least understood by growers, whereas worker health and hygiene as the best understood.” The majority of the studies involved in-person workshops and self-reported pre- and post-intervention knowledge assessments. They also reported increased knowledge, improved attitudes and perceived behavioral control; four of the studies reported behavioral changes.

3. Consider New Technologies in Food Safety Training (and Still Wash Those Hands)

An Integrative Review of Hygiene Practice Studies in the Food Service Sector3

The article reviews studies relevant to food safety practices of food service workers published between 2014 to 2019. For the assessment of hygiene practices, hand washing observation was the most frequently used method. The article looks at new technologies in training, such as multimedia case studies, cognitive word association, behavior-focused training, wearable technology and simulation games. The paper emphasizes the importance of variables such as food handlers’ knowledge, attitude, risk perception, self-efficacy and optimistic bias.

4. New Ideas to Connect Food Safety Knowledge Sources to Effective Implementation

A New Approach to Food Safety Training: A Review of a Six-Step Knowledge Sharing Model4

This paper argues that training context and the implementation context often differ, creating challenges for the food handler to transfer learning into practice. “Understanding the connection between knowledge, the organization, and its environment is critical to knowledge implementation.” The review described a six-step knowledge-sharing model in order to change a practice or behavior. The authors organized their model based on knowledge transfer between researcher to educator, then educator and food handler. The paper provided suggested actions at each step of the knowledge sharing process.

5. Behavior-Based Food Safety Education is Most Effective

Improving Food Safety Practices in the Foodservice Industry5

With the volume of food consumed away from home, the foodservice industry plays a significant role in avoiding foodborne illness and protecting consumers’ health. This study explains how “behavior-based strategies improve food safety practices in the foodservice industry. This study highlighted the role of a proactive food safety culture and improved environment promoting behavior changes”. The authors conclude that organizational and environmental aspects affecting food safety are critical to improving food safety.

References

  1. Insfran-Rivarola, A., et al. (August 25, 2020). “A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Food Safety and Hygiene Training on Food Handlers”. Foods. 9(9):1169. doi: 10.3390/foods9091169.
  2. Chen, H., et al. (April 1, 2021). “Produce Growers’ On-Farm Food Safety Education: A Review”. Journal of Food Protection. 84(4):704-716. doi: 10.4315/JFP-20-320.
  3. Lee, J.H. and Seo, K.H. (December 1, 2020). “An Integrative Review of Hygiene Practice Studies in the Food Service Sector”. Journal of Food Protection. 83(12):2147-2157. doi: 10.4315/JFP-19-488.
  4. Yeargin, T.A., Gibson, K.E., Fraser, A. (2021). “A New Approach to Food Safety Training: A Review of a Six-Step Knowledge Sharing Model”. Journal of Food Protection. doi: https://doi.org/10.4315/JFP-21-146.
  5. Thimoteoda da Cunha, D. (December 2021). “Improving food safety practices in the foodservice industry”. Current Opinion in Food Science. 42: 127-133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cofs.2021.05.010.
Deborah Coviello, Illumination Partners
Food Safety Culture Club

3 Tips to Managing Hard Conversations with Your Team

By Deborah A. Coviello
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Deborah Coviello, Illumination Partners

My heart sank when I had to call an emergency meeting with my team and had to basically say, “stop everything”, because we had multiple crises to manage. I had fallen victim to what so many organizations do: Ditch the strategic work in favor of firefighting. And here I was in that position, having to lead others and feeling so off track.

I pulled out my “Compass” to figure out how to stay grounded amidst the chaos and still move the organization with the strategic work in addition to the task at hand. The “Compass” I am referring to became my guide to stay calm amidst chaos and navigate my team through rough waters. But before I explain what I did, let me give you some context.

Crisis 1: We were having a food safety problem in one plant for which we’d not found the root cause and it was putting us in a position of constant mitigation. While it was fully contained, it would continue to show up, leaving us feeling helpless that we still hadn’t resolved it. On top of that, there was external pressure to resolve the issue, because there was also a major infrastructure enhancement due to start in the same area. To make matters worse, I was challenged to gain the support from some local leadership in order to bring in external resources to fill our capability gap given the multiple issues to manage.

Crisis 2: We had found a food safety issue with a supplier for which they were pushing back on us that it was not them. Despite collaboration to try to find the root cause of the quality issue, it soon escalated into our inability to ship products to a customer. When we brought all the interested parties together on a call we reached a conclusion that allowed us to continue shipping, but I felt defeated that I could not get to the root cause. What I did realize was that I got people’s attention and we collaborated on a solution—though not optimal. In the face of darkness, a leader’s leadership is truly challenged and doubt in your capabilities soon takes over.

Crisis 3: We had a food safety leader who was not performing and impacting the morale of the employees. We worked extensively to give them guidance and an opportunity to improve performance, but in the end we had to let them go. The energy we took to try to improve the situation for the manager and the employees ultimately was exhausting; we let them go and moved forward with interim leadership to help rebuild the organization.

I had to quickly manage resources, set expectations and provide a calm environment for my team to perform at their highest potential as we gathered in our “War Room” to manage the crisis. While The CEO’s Compass was not even an idea at that point, it was a story in the making and here’s why.1

To get back to True North or “Peace of Mind”, I needed to focus on three things.

  • Purpose. We needed to get back on track as being a trusted brand, and deliver safe and quality products that our customers expected. Diverting resources for this greater purpose gives us the freedom to focus and know we would get back to the strategic work once capacity allowed us. The team poured their collective wisdom into the situation and they naturally started to collaborate on the best approach.
  • Performance. I needed the framework to assess the needs of the organization, individual teams and the individuals themselves and provide the leadership, coaching and feedback needed during this time. I was no longer the subject matter expert and had to rely on really smart people on the best approach. My job was to remove barriers and provide tactical and emotional support so they could do their job.
  • Pride. The intersection of the humanity on my team with their intellectual property was my single most important tool to get through this challenge. The team had expertise in areas I had not needed to leverage, and since I knew their past and what they’ve done before, I was able to deploy resources based on acknowledging their gifts and put them in the right places for the multiple crises.

I cleared the table for my team to address these multiple crises and had to say, “stop everything”, and with these compass points in my pocket, they rose to the occasion and we addressed the crisis. Lessons unfolded into the strategic work we were meant to do. We had a few scars from these events, but we came out stronger than before.

As I assessed the Compass points of “Purpose, Performance and Pride” to set the strategy to navigate these crises, I found myself back on track and could continue forward with the strategic work and lessons learned from these events.

  • How do you manage through transformation or a crisis?
  • What hard conversations do you have with your team?
  • Do you have a Compass that with a few course corrections can get you back on track?
  • If you don’t have a Compass, do you know how to find one?

As food safety professionals, we need to support each other to grow our network and our collective capability via community.

Reference

  1. Coviello, D. (Publish Date August 2021). The CEO’s Compass – Your Guide to Get Back on Track is an approach to assess your organizational gaps and a deliver a strategy to get back on track to true north or “Peace of Mind”.
Frank Yiannas, FDA, food safety

Ten Years Later, a Reflection on FSMA’s Accomplishments

Frank Yiannas, FDA, food safety

It may be hard to believe that 10 years have passed since FSMA became law. The risk-based preventive approach to growing, manufacturing and processing, packing, storing and transporting food has transformed the industry and the nation’s food system. Today, on the anniversary of FSMA, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas takes a look at where it all began and walks us through progress, accomplishments and what the future holds.

  • Seven foundational rules established, and the proposed Food Traceability Rule (September 2020) positioned to harmonized traceability
  • Global partnerships (Canada, Mexico, Europe, and China) to strengthen safety of imported food
  • Investment in cooperative agreement programs to support compliance with FSMA rules at the state level
  • Looking forward: New Era of Smarter Food Safety, with blueprint released in July 2020 creates a 10-year roadmap for a more “digital, traceable and safer food system”
    • Incentivizing industry to adopt new technologies that facilitate full traceability
    • Emphasis on food safety culture on farms and in food facilities
    • Improving root cause analysis when preventive control measures fail

“Have we accomplished everything we wanted to help ensure that the food you serve your family is safe? The honest answer is that we’re still working on that. We are working diligently to ensure that remaining FSMA rules and related guidance documents are finalized and implemented,” said Yiannas in the FDA Voices blog. “But even when we have reached all of those milestones, we will always be working with industry on continuous improvement based on the latest science and the application of new technologies. Every day we will do our utmost to make our nation’s food as safe as it can be.”

Maria Fontanazza, Food Safety Tech
From the Editor’s Desk

Top 10 from the 2020 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series

By Maria Fontanazza
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Maria Fontanazza, Food Safety Tech

2020 has taken a lot away from us, but it has also taught us the importance of being able to quickly adapt (can you say…“pivot”?) to rapidly changing, dire circumstances. For Food Safety Tech, that meant shifting our in-person annual Food Safety Consortium to a virtual event. I really look forward to the Consortium each year, because we are a virtual company, and this is the one time of year that most of the Food Safety Tech and Innovative Publishing Company team are together. When we made the decision to move the event online, we really wanted to be considerate of our attendees, who more than likely were quickly developing webinar and Zoom fatigue. So we created a series of 14 Episodes that spanned from September until last week. I am not going to single out one episode or speaker/session in particular, because I think that all of our speakers and sponsors brought a tremendous amount of education to the food safety community. Thank you.

With that, the following are my top 10 takeaways from the 2020 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series—and this simply scratches the surface. Feel free to leave a comment on what you learned from our speakers and the discussions this fall.

  1. COVID-19 has served as the springboard for digital transformation, more of which we have seen in the past nine months than in the last several years or even decade. Tech advances are increasing efficiencies, adding the ability to be more predictive, giving more visibility and traceability in the supply chain and offering increased accessibility. These include: IoT; Advanced analytics; Artificial intelligence (FDA has been piloting AI technology); Graph technology used in supply chain visibility; blockchain; mixed reality; and remote monitoring.
  2. There are new responsibilities that come with being a part of America’s critical infrastructure and protecting essential frontline workers.
    • Companies must have a strong relationship (or work to build one) with local health departments and authorities
    • Name a COVID Czar at your company: This is a designated person, located both within a production facility as well as at the corporate location, who manages the bulk of the requirements and precautions that companies should be undertaking to address the pandemic.
  3. Every company should have an emergency risk management plan that centers around good communication.
  4. The COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder to us that the threat for viruses is always lurking beneath the surface. There is still work to be done on the food labs side regarding more rapid assays, leveling the playing field regarding conducting viral testing, and technology that enables labs to get safe, effective and consistent results.
  5. Lessons in sanitation: Investment in sanitation is critical, there are no shortcuts, and empower your sanitation employees, give them the tools they need to effectively do their jobs.
  6. The FDA’s FSMA Proposed Traceability rule is expected to be a “game changer”. It will lay the foundation for meaningful harmonization. FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas said the pandemic really put a spotlight on the fact that the U.S. food industry needs better tracking and tracing.
  7. Know your suppliers, know your suppliers, know your suppliers!
  8. Biofilms are ubiquitous, and the process of detecting and eliminating Listeria in your facility is a marathon with no finish line.
  9. Food Safety Culture is a profit center, not an overhead department.
  10. “If I’m not well, I can’t do well.” Making sure your needs are met personally and professionally plays an important role in being a better contributor to your company’s success.

As part of a special offering, we are making four episodes of the 2020 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series available on demand for free. Head to our Events & Webinars page to register to view the sessions on or after January 2021.

Mitzi Baum, Stop Foodborne Illness
Food Safety Culture Club

Partnerships in Promoting Prevention (of Foodborne Illness)

By Mitzi Baum
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Mitzi Baum, Stop Foodborne Illness

At Stop Foodborne Illness, or STOP, we know about collaborative partnerships. For more than 26 years, affiliating with like-minded organizations to prevent foodborne disease is the mainstay of our success and continues to provide beneficial results today.

The mission to prevent illness and death due to contaminated food resonates with our allies and aligns with their goals to coordinate and expand efforts. At any given moment, STOP is working with a diverse spectrum of individuals and industries to move the needle on foodborne illness prevention. Today, STOP’s work is focused on constituent services and food safety policy with the overarching goal of public health. Below are examples of current collaborative projects that are uniquely effective.

Alliance to Stop Foodborne Illness

The Alliance to Stop Foodborne Illness (Alliance) is an initiative of STOP, leading food companies, and other organizations committed to the goal of preventing foodborne illness. For 25 years, Stop Foodborne Illness has communicated the compelling personal stories of people and families who have experienced serious foodborne illness or the death of loved ones. The goals of communicating these personal stories are to make clear why food safety must be a central value of the food system and to help motivate people in both the food industry and government to do their best every day to reduce hazards and prevent illness. Through the Alliance, STOP and leading food companies are collaborating to expand the reach and impact of personal stories to strengthen food safety cultures and prevent foodborne illness.

The Alliance to Stop Foodborne Illness has a mission to:

  • Forge partnerships between STOP and leading food companies to build trust and support strong food safety cultures.
  • Collaboratively design and implement innovative, well-tailored programs that make compelling personal stories an integral motivational element of food safety culture and training programs.
  • Expand the reach and impact of personal stories through outreach to the small- and medium-size companies that are key contributors to modern supply chains.

Current Alliance members: Costco, Cargill, Conagra Brands, Coca-Cola, Yum! Brands, Nestle USA, LGMA, Empirical Foods, Maple Leaf Foods, Mars, Walmart, Wegmans, and Amazon.

Constituent/Advocate Engagement

Working with those who have been impacted by severe foodborne illness is base to our prevention work. We engage our constituent/advocates in many projects and continually seek additional opportunities.

  • STOP’s new website houses a navigational map for anyone who is in crisis, post-crisis or managing the long-term consequences of surviving severe foodborne disease. This structured, informational composition was created by constituent/advocates that are sharing their lived experiences. This incisive work provides incredible insight into the journey that may lie ahead and how to manage the potential labyrinth.
  • With our partner, Center for Science in the Public Interest, we have created a national platform for survivors of salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis to speak about their experiences surviving these diseases.
  • The Alliance has created multiple working partnerships with individual constituent/advocates.
  • STOP’s speaker’s bureau provides opportunities for our constituent/advocates to share their personal stories with large groups in person or virtually.
  • A recent college graduate who is a constituent/advocate is leading the creation of a new program for the organization.

Dave Theno Fellowship

Dave Theno Fellowship is a partnership with Michigan State University (MSU) that provides a recent public health, food science, animal science or political science graduate (undergraduate or graduate degree) the opportunity to conduct two distinct research projects, engage in STOP programming, participate on coalition calls and earn a certificate in food safety from MSU.

STOP is working with MSU to create a new course for its Online Food Safety Program that focuses on food safety failures and the impact of those system breakdowns on consumers.

Early Detection of Foodborne Illness Research

In conjunction with North Carolina State University, Michigan State University, Eastern Carolina University and University of Michigan, STOP is engaging in research to identify gaps in knowledge and application of the 2017 Infectious Disease Society of America Clinical Practice Guidelines of the Diagnosis and Management of Infectious Diarrhea (IDSA) for healthcare workers. Our early findings have identified that most healthcare workers do not know about nor follow the IDSA guidelines, which include reporting of cases of infectious diarrhea and identification of the pathogen for identification and prevention of potential widespread outbreaks.

To support this research, STOP is completing a systematic literature review with the intent to publish.

Recall Modernization Working Group

STOP has been convening a group of experts comprised of individuals from academia, Alliance members, external industry partners, food industry associations, public health organizations, and industry consultants to deep dive into food recalls to define the current landscape, discuss systemic changes necessary for expedient and efficient execution of recalls for both industry and consumers and develop recommendations on how to accomplish those changes.

Everyone is susceptible to foodborne illness; thus, we need a varied, coordinated approach. Each of these partnerships helps our colleagues meet their goals while promoting prevention of foodborne illness by straddling both industry and consumer focused work. Executing our mission takes many forms and that requires diversity in partnerships, a shared vision and tangible, sustainable results.