Tag Archives: food safety culture

Bob Lijana

Checklists: Useful Tools or Traps?

By Bob Lijana
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Bob Lijana

Everyone knows a “checklist” when they see it: a systematized tool that lists things, components, steps or criteria whose presence or quantitative amount are essential to the performance of a specific task. The order of items in a checklist may or may not be critical in terms of the sequence of tasks which need to occur.

Checklists serve the wonderful purpose of identifying the important and critical steps needed to manufacture fresh food, fly a plane, perform a surgery or run a nuclear plant. They serve the purpose of helping to make sure that no important step is forgotten, and all critical steps are performed in the right order. Having a high “checklist intelligence” means that checklists are used proactively and dynamically, and that they drive continuous improvement in practices and procedures. And this occurs regardless of personal or organizational biases.

Let’s review some of the published literature on checklists.

A popular book on checklists is “The Checklist Manifesto” (Picador, 2009) by surgeon Atul Gawande. As noted in the book, checklists are very useful when there is a lot to get right, that is, when there is a high degree of complexity for certain actions. For example, commercial airplanes have “become too much airplane for one person to fly.” Hence, the industry uses a number of checklists, especially pre-flight, to address possible risks before the airplane takes to the air. Food manufacturing is similar, especially given its impact on public health.

A distinct disadvantage is that checklists can drive a tyranny of the urgent, i.e., simply checking a box to be done with it.

A distinct advantage of checklists is that they can be built by the “wisdom of a group” of experienced people, and therefore do not rely solely on a single individual’s memory or experience base. A distinct disadvantage is that checklists can drive a tyranny of the urgent, i.e., simply checking a box to be done with it.

Western Michigan University (2017) has an Evaluation Checklist Project with a number of excellent resources showing how to develop checklists for evaluating programs and projects. These include a “checklist for formatting checklists” and scholarly presentations on the logic behind checklists. Their suggestions can easily be re-applied to the food industry.

There are many published articles which address bias in decision making. For example, Ely et al. (2011)[1] studied the use of checklists to reduce diagnostic errors in hospitals, clinics and emergency rooms. Of note, the authors delve into cognitive processes to identify the inherent biases and reliance on intuition that often drive decision-making. They remind checklist developers to take into account “Type 1” thinking processes which are fast, reflexive and intuitive (and usually subconscious) and “Type 2” processes which are analytic, slow and deliberate (and usually take very focused attention).

Application of Checklists in the Food Industry

Checklists are widely used in the food industry. The USDA (2014) has a label submission checklist that helps companies avoid common labeling mistakes, and clarifies what is needed. The agency also has a guideline checklist for the cooking of meat and poultry products.

In 2020, FDA published an Employee Health and Food Safety Checklist in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2001, the agency developed the Allergy Inspection Guide, a checklist for inspection of food companies which manufacture products potentially susceptible to contamination by allergenic ingredients, and now has a draft guidance/checklist for evaluating the public health importance of allergens.

Employees in factory

In the food manufacturing setting, companies often conduct their FSMA-related GMP audits by having employees walk around the plant using a checklist of equipment, documents and practices to look for. Companies making prepared foods have checklists that operators must follow to ensure that proper cooking and cooling procedures have been followed (these are also called SOPs, or Standard Operating Procedures, which are, in essence, checklists). Similarly, sanitation teams follow strict SOPs/checklists to ensure the right sanitizers are used in the right concentrations and for the right durations. Line changeovers often use checklists to prevent allergen cross-contamination. The same is true for pre-production equipment assembly. And product development/chef teams use checklists to ensure that the right ingredients are used, with proper consideration given to allergens, glutens, GMOs and organic product needs.

Finally, some of the most widely used checklists in the food industry are standards, including those developed by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), Safe Quality Foods (SQF) and the British Retail Consortium Global Standard (BRCGS).

Checklists as an Indicator of Food Safety Audit Maturity

Companies going through the GFSI certification process (e.g., SQF) often follow a three-phase audit maturation process that highlights how checklists can help or hinder food safty. In the first phase, the company is new to the process and therefore may not have systems in place to handle all of the requirements inherent to the standard. Thus, the company may “shotgun” their approach based on where they think they have gaps (by their own evaluation and/or with the help of third-party consultants). In this phase, the SQF Code may not be looked at in its totality nor in its intent, and certain requirements may be looked at as more important than others (with the insidious side effect of some requirements being missed).

In the second phase of the growth curve, the company recognizes that the food safety requirements are laid out in a very organized and helpful manner: the SQF Code. They realize that if they can match each requirement in the code with practices and procedures, then they can essentially use the code as a checklist. Many companies in this phase build their programs and their audit readiness exactly in the order of the code, and solely to meet the specific requirements detailed in each section of the Code. This ensures that when the SQF auditor comes in, the company will have addressed each and every requirement. This approach serves those companies well who are still in the learning phase of building a strong food safety plan and food safety culture, and generally helps most companies “pass” their food safety audit.

The right culture drives the right entries on the checklists. Not the other way around.

All is well until there is a food safety incident, trade withdrawal or public recall, which can happen in spite of a company checking every box on the SQF “checklist.” A major negative event, or even the recognition that such an event could happen, can therefore rightly push a company into the third phase of using the SQF Code.
In the third phase, a company uses and views checklists as valuable tools (and likely still structures its audit readiness in the same order as the SQF Code). However, the company has critically realized that it needs to go beyond checklists to drive the right food safety culture in the organization. Additional practices, procedures, documentation and systems are put in place to drive the right culture. These in turn make sure that the checklists get checked. Said another way, the right culture drives the right entries on the checklists. Not the other way around.

A Checklist for Checklists

Let’s consider creating a checklist for checklists. Each of the following provides perspective on the value, and the warnings, of using checklists to drive and improve an organization’s food safety culture and therefore its “checklist intelligence.”

Checklists Can Speak the Truth. If the results from a completed checklist are pointing out significant issues, then at the basic level the checklist is working. This is not a time to alter the checklist, which can happen in low-maturity organizations as a way to hide an issue, or an excuse to fill out the checklist incompletely. Rather, complete results should be heralded as validation that the checklist is performing as it should.

Learn From Failures. Something going wrong despite the use of a checklist is a good clue that the wrong things are being checked or that something is missing. This should be discussed broadly and cross-functionally and drive a root-cause analysis, which can markedly point out what got missed, which in turn allows for continual improvement of the checklist.

There Is No “One-Off.” All experienced auditors have heard “this is the first time that this has happened.” Or “there are many unusual things going on at the same time, and this caused the issue; it won’t happen again.” There is no one-off! A root cause analysis should be performed. Checklists must be able to help the organization identify and diagnose root causes.

Check the Checker. Is the person filling out the checklist being driven by the checklist to look for the right food safety behaviors, or is the person merely checking the boxes since that’s the job? Perhaps more insidious, employees might follow a checklist quite diligently—observing just those tasks which are on the list—yet miss faulty or risky behaviors. This may not be the fault of the checklist, but it is certainly the fault of the organization and its training. Relying solely on a checklist can still allow egregious and unwanted behaviors. If the employees are trained only to follow the checklist and make sure it gets filled out, significant untoward behaviors get missed. In this regard, checklists become shackles.


Check the Documents. Critical to some checklists are documents which are meant to substantiate that a particular task on the checklist was taken care of. The utility of these documents is only as good as the value of having them on the checklist to begin with. Time must be taken to identify which procedures or cooking logs, for example, need to be checked as part of a checklist. This is independent of having these documented as part of the organization’s food safety plan.

Honor the System. Checklists are just that: lists. They are not roadmaps, graphs or linkages to knowledge bases. They are static, rather than dynamic systems that drive action and resolution of issues. In general, checklists can be ill-equipped to capture systemic behaviors and the culture of an organization. This is especially true if the checklists are from a third-party and/or have not been adapted to specific organizations and facilities. Hence, checklists should be used for what they can bring—no more, no less.

The Law of Unintended Consequences. An oft-quoted phrase is “you get what you measure.” And this is certainly in play for checklists. If the item on the checklist is wrong, or is directing the wrong behavior, measuring it regularly could serve the unwanted purpose of instilling that behavior as “correct.”

Defeating the Checklist

By now you realize that checklists in the food industry can serve as a crutch or as a divining-rod for continuous improvement of food safety practices and procedures. Following are some indicators that a checklist is not working or is not as effective as it should be.

Too burdensome. A very common checklist used in food manufacturing is the “GMP audit checklist.” This is typically a long list of behaviors and practices which the organization believes it should be engaging in to meet the GMP regulations and produce safe food. Most organizations commit to conducting such audit checklists as part of their promises to the auditing organization. The list gets longer and gets spread across more functions, and all of this work becomes quite burdensome. When it is time for the GFSI audit, missing or incomplete checklists may get pencil-whipped, leading the auditor to believe that the company has been using the checklists regularly.

Pencil-Whipping. As much as putting false entries on a form is unethical, and usually illegal, it can still occur under the right stressors or employee attitudes. Simply checking the boxes on a checklist does no one any favors and can provide a false sense of security.

Complacency. Organizations that rely on the data from checklists could develop a false sense of security and become complacent about corrective actions. Although not necessarily unethical or illegal, someone checking a box as “complete” just because it always has been in the past is misleading (if not outright wrong) if the checker really did not check. Understanding this risk can help define the items in the checklist, including those things needed to ensure that the checklist checker is focused and paying attention.

Pressure to “get back to work” can be one of the quickest means to defeat a checklist.

Inaccurate documents. Practices and procedures change over time, and often the documents that go along with them do not get updated on the production floor. Continual vigilance is needed to ensure that the most up to date documents are aligned with current practices and the details on the checklist. In fact, one of the items on a checklist might be checking the issue dates of key documents being used by operators.

Stress. Pressure to “get back to work” can be one of the quickest means to defeat a checklist. This could be due to senior management’s communications, a team’s own leadership or individuals believing they need to hurry up so that they can resume their “real job.”

The End-Game: A Game of Checkers

To win at the game of checkers (or draughts), there are a number of strategies which experts often espouse, most of which apply to checklists in the food industry.

Control the center: Focus on the stuff that counts, not the stuff on the edges.

Play offense, not defense: Attack the issues that strive to undermine the food safety program.

The goal is to get to the end of the board: The checklist must be completed in its entirety.

Checker Board

Be willing to sacrifice: If an item on the checklist is not working, take it off.

Advance as a group: Don’t just leave checklists to one group (e.g., QA); build and use them based on input from experts from all functions.

Realizing the value of checklists requires the right culture, rules and execution as well as recognition that checklists are tools to maximize risk identification and risk management. Building your organization’s “checklist intelligence” will help in the development of the checklists, the effectiveness of those checking the checklists and in increasing the assurance of those checking the checkers.

The game never ends, which means that with the right strategy you can win all the time.


[1] Ely, John, Graber, Mark, and Croskeey, Pat (2011): Checklists to Reduce Diagnostic Errors, Academic Medicine, 86:307.


FDA Logo

FDA and Stop Foodborne Illness To Co-Host “Food Safety Culture: Storytelling to Shape, Reinforce and Inspire”

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA Logo

On December 6, the FDA and Stop Foodborne Illness will co-host the ninth complimentary webinar in the ongoing series, Collaborating on Culture in the New Era of Smarter Food Safety.

This webinar, which will take place from 12:00pm-1:00pm EST, is entitled “Food Safety Culture: Storytelling to Shape, Reinforce, and Inspire” and will focus on the importance of storytelling in building and reinforcing a strong food safety culture.

Guest speakers include:

  • Jeff Almer, Constituent Food Safety Advocate, Stop Foodborne Illness
  • Jorge Hernandez, Quality Assurance Vice President, The Wendy’s Company
  • Lone Jespersen, Principal and Founder, Cultivate SA
  • Conrad Choiniere, PhD, Director, Office of Analytics and Outreach, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA

The webinar series features experts from the public and private sectors in a collaborative exchange of ideas and experiences related to the importance of a robust food safety culture in helping to ensure safe food production. The series supports the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety blueprint, which states that dramatic improvements in reducing the burden of foodborne illness cannot be made without doing more to influence the beliefs, attitudes, and, most importantly, the behaviors of people and the actions of organizations.

Those interested in attending can register here. You can learn more about the series and listen to recordings of past webinars by visiting Collaborating on Culture in the New Era of Smarter Food Safety.


Don't Eat Poop logo
Food Safety Culture Club

Human Skills: The Key Ingredient of Food Safety Culture

Don't Eat Poop logo

Building relationships and trust with your team are the backbone of strong leadership. But these skills are seldom part of a food safety and quality assurance professionals training. At the 2023 Food Safety Consortium, Jill Stuber and Tia Glave, founders of Catalyst, a food safety consultancy that offers leadership training programs, sat down with Matt Regusci and Francine Shaw, co-hosts of the “Don’t Eat Poop” podcast to discuss strategies leaders can use to build their “human skills” as well as the lack of respect often seen in today’s workplace.

“The technical skills are very important in food safety, and we are consistently building them, but we are missing the human side,” said Glave. One danger of missing this human side is a lack of respect toward team members that translates to high turnover and low productivity.

You have to respect your people, which means saying “Please,” “Thank you,” working alongside them and understanding their unique goals and responsibilities. “If you want someone to work on Black Friday, you may have to work around a track schedule or a baseball schedule,” said Shaw. “If you want them to give up part of their Christmas, maybe you only have two-hour shifts. It is a give and take not a constant take, and leaders have forgotten that.”

One exercise Glave and Stuber use to help new leaders build their human skills is The Three Ps. “It’s all about learning what people are Passionate about Professionally and Personally,” said Stuber. “And we hear from attendees that their people are opening up to them because they started using this process and team members are working more cooperatively with them.”

One of the key frustrations of new leaders is that they feel bogged down by constantly having to deal with the “people stuff.” Welcome to leadership, says Stuber. “People will say to us, ‘I can’t get any work done because it’s all talking with people, and we say, ‘Your job is people now, welcome to the change!’”

Listen to full conversation here:






2024 Food Safety Consortium logo

Call For Abstracts: 2024 Food Safety Consortium

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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2024 Food Safety Consortium logo

Share your expertise, experience and/or research with fellow food safety and quality assurance professionals at the 2024 Food Safety Consortium, taking place on October 20-22, 2024, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott, near downtown Washington, DC.

We are seeking abstracts for educational presentations, panel discussions and Posters in the following categories:

Food Safety Hazards – Detection, Mitigation, Control, Regulations

Food Safety Culture – Best Practices and Techniques to advance a positive Food Safety Culture

Food Safety Supply Chain Management – Audits, Record Keeping, Logistics, etc.

Food Integrity – Food Fraud, Economically Motivated Adulteration, etc.

Food Defense – Strategies, Best Practices and Regulations

Compliance – Regulatory, FSMA, Standards, GFSI, etc.

Abstracts are due by December 15, 2023, and will be judged based on educational value. Poster submissions are due by June 30, 2024.

Submit abstracts here.

Presented by Food Safety Tech, the Food Safety Consortium is a business-to-business conference that brings together food safety and quality assurance professionals for education, networking and discussion geared toward solving the key challenges facing the food safety industry today.

For sponsorship and exhibitor inquiries, contact RJ Palermo, Director of Sales. Stay tuned for registration and early bird specials.

If you missed this fall’s Food Safety Consortium, don’t miss the latest episode of the “Don’t Eat Poop” podcast featuring Food Safety Consortium founder and Food Safety Tech publisher, Rick Biros, as he discusses the conference’s history and role in improving food safety, with hosts Francine Shaw and Matt Regusci.



Prasant Prusty and Arundhathy Shabu

Food Safety Culture Is the Key Ingredient To Prevent Foodborne Diseases

By Arundhathy Shabu, Prasant Prusty
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Prasant Prusty and Arundhathy Shabu

Culture is not an initiative but rather the enabler of all initiatives, as observed rightly by Larry Senn, who is considered the Father of Corporate Culture.  Similarly, food safety culture (FSC) is the solid foundation that enables organizations to ultimately minimize food safety risks. This is why the simple idea of food safety culture emerges to be a powerful concept in reducing the global burden of foodborne diseases.

Let us consider some facts:

  • Employees working in food enterprises worldwide are required to be well-trained in food safety practices
  • A vast amount of food safety research is conducted around the world to improve and enhance food safety management
  • Companies are required to follow elaborate food safety regulations that include mandatory testing and inspections

It is quite contradictory that food safety remains a major public health threat. One way to understand why this happens is that just because something has been done in a specified manner for a long duration does not necessarily mean it is being done the right way. Hence, there must be a missing ingredient fundamental to preventing food safety incidents, which many have concluded relates to lack of a strong food safety culture.

The Importance of Food Safety Culture in Simple Terms

The behavior of your staff and leadership demonstrates whether each employee understands and is committed to ensuring your products are safe to consume and of good quality. In short, food safety equals behavior. This is the core notion Frank Yiannas talks about in his book, Food Safety Culture: Creating a Behavior-Based Food Safety Management System.

One of the most well-known outcomes associated with lack of a strong food safety culture was the PCA (Peanut Corporation of America) outbreak in 2009 when peanuts contaminated with Salmonella caused nine deaths, 11,000 to 20,000 illnesses, and a recall of 4,000 products. A proactive food safety culture that is centered on rigorous testing, quality control protocols, sanitation and traceability measures could have detected and prevented the spread outbreak, saving lives and money.

Companies are investigating and/or implementing food safety culture training and practices because no matter what we say or document regarding food safety, we cannot make progress unless we actually put these words into practice.

A systematic review of the scientific literature on food safety culture (FSC), published by the FDA in 2022 views food safety culture as a scientific concept. In conducting the study, FDA aspired to present food safety culture as a valid subset of science, rather than just a slogan, and use the knowledge obtained to provide tools that stakeholders can use to develop and assess their own food safety culture. This review is considered the primary groundwork for FDA’s efforts to uplift food safety culture in the industry, among consumers, and in regard to the present regulatory oversight.

Challenges and Barriers to Accomplishing a Strong and Effective Food Safety Culture 

The predominant challenges and barriers to creating, promoting and evaluating a strong and effective Food Safety Culture, as presented in the review, include:

Over-reliance on food safety management systems (FSMS)

FSMS plays a non-negotiable role in every food enterprise. Nevertheless, FSMS tend to be process focused and thus do not affect how human attitudes influence food safety. This is where a behavior-based FSMS is beneficial to forge a well-built FSC, as it offers a total system approach based on scientific knowledge of human behavior, organizational culture, and food safety.

Prioritization of cost-saving and money-earning

A profit-focused mentality is often the main barrier to implementing a positive FSC. Compromising food safety principles to save costs is never a good strategy. It can even be counter-productive as a negative FSC can eventually lead to a food safety incident, generating tremendous economic losses for the organization. An ideal FSC ensures that an obligation to food safety exists throughout the firm that outweighs all other company goals and practices.

Frequent staff turnover

Continuous staff turnover is a common phenomenon in the food sector. High staff turnover requires constant training and supervision to ensure employees’ understand the risks and other essential criteria needed for an adequate food safety climate. It also is challenging to ascertain the commitment and accountability of employees with temporary contracts.

Optimistic bias

Though it is said ‘experience is the best teacher, and the worst experiences teach the best lessons,’ it is always better for employees to realize that they are not immune to food contamination before experiencing a vulnerability to food safety. Every member of a food enterprise should know that they cannot afford optimism bias in terms of food safety, and that it is imperative to be prepared—and on the look out for—worst case scenarios.

How Digitalization Can Assist in Developing and Sustaining a Solid Food Safety Culture

Ideally, a commitment to food safety begins with management and permeates through the organization at all levels. Digital tools, particularly those used to manage the supply chain, can help. By establishing a network platform that integrates the online and offline worlds, digitalization connects all facets of the food production and processing chain. Let us break down how digital tools can be implemented throughout the food industry to enhance supply chain processes while nurturing a strong food safety culture.

1. Setting Expectations 

Digital tools allow for the efficient creation, distribution and maintenance of food safety policies, procedures and protocols. By utilizing digital systems, organizations can document and disseminate clear expectations regarding food safety practices. This includes defining standard operating procedures (SOPs), hygiene protocols and compliance guidelines. These digital resources can be easily accessed by employees, ensuring that everyone is aware of the established standards and expectations.

2. Communication & Training 

The next step is to properly communicate the established strategies among the employees and enforce them. This is where learning management systems and digital employee training platforms come in handy, as they engage and educate employees by conveying information and instructions related to various aspects of the organization. These tech-enabled solutions can also play a vital role in authorizing employees to collaborate via more efficient communication channels, address food safety compliance concerns and initiate appropriate corrective and preventive actions when necessary.

These tools allow companies to create training programs that utilize interactive modules, visual content, videos and quizzes to enhance employee learning and retention, while accommodating diverse learning styles such as flexible self-paced or group training. The training courses can be scheduled and assigned to individuals or groups according to the configured training types. Alerts and notifications can be promptly delivered to relevant personnel to inform them about critical updates and send reminders regarding their training courses. They also help companies track and manage training assignments, ensuring that employees complete required training within specified timeframes. Overall, they empower organizations to propagate information efficiently, advance knowledge transfer and ensure compliance with training requirements, thereby fostering a well-informed and competent workforce.

3. Monitoring 

Scheduling features of tech-enabled solutions offer a valuable means to successfully plan and monitor regular inspections, maintenance tasks and quality checks. Digital task assignment empowers employees to be accountable, confirm that responsibilities are clearly communicated, eliminate ambiguities in executing food business operations and track the progress and completion of each process, elevating the overall transparency of the supply chain process.

Notifications can be automatically generated to alert employees about upcoming inspections or any deviations from standard procedures. It is also possible to maintain an audit log, capturing and storing a detailed record of all food industry activities, actions and events. Another component that can be advantageous for monitoring efforts is a change log, which becomes useful for tracking modifications made to procedures, allowing for traceability, accountability and assistance with regulatory compliance efforts.

4. Reporting 

Digital tools typically include robust dashboards that can provide real-time insights into the supply chain. These intuitive interfaces can display data such as key metrics, compliance rates, inspection results, incident reports and corrective actions taken. Moreover, advanced filtering and drill-down capabilities enable users to delve deeper into specific data segments, facilitating in-depth analysis and comprehensive reporting.

Trend analysis tools can be employed to identify patterns and highlight areas that require further attention. They often incorporate predictive analytics and forecasting models, aiding businesses in predicting demand, optimizing inventory management and reducing waste. Furthermore, employee key performance indicators (KPIs) can be accessed through reporting mechanisms, and trend analysis features, which allows management to gauge employee contributions in upholding a food safety culture.

Tech-savvy solutions, such as food safety management software, are gaining significant traction in the market as they help food enterprises streamline their operations, optimize efficiency, promote transparency and accountability, and ensure compliance with food safety and quality regulations. All of which ultimately serve to instill a responsibility for food safety throughout your organization.

STOP Foodborne Illness
Food Safety Culture Club

Kellogg and Stop Share Strategies to Strengthen Food Safety Culture

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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STOP Foodborne Illness

With 37 facilities and close to 500 suppliers, Kellogg works with a large and diverse workforce. Over the years, the company has implemented several strategies to teach and reinforce good food safety practices. As a member of the Alliance to Stop Foodborne Illness, the company works with Stop to share what they have learned with fellow food industry professionals. We spoke with Sherry Brice, Chief Supply Chain Officer and former VP of Global Quality and Food Safety at WK Kellogg Company, and Vanessa Coffman, Ph.D., Alliance Program Director at Stop Foodborne Illness, to share their insights on training, rewards and free tools that can help food companies of all sizes enhance their food safety culture.

What are some of the strategies that Kellogg is using to strengthen its food safety culture?

Sherry Brice
Sherry Brice

Brice: Some of the things that Kellogg has implemented over the years—and every year we evolve—include a campaign called “Kellogg Food Safety Own It Every Day.” The campaign is about driving engagement at every level of the organization. We have behaviors that we expect of our employees at the frontline leadership level, the executive level and the management level. We provide training on engagement strategies to better articulate food safety culture, including the things they should recognize and how they should recognize them. We also do virtual reality trainings that help to educate our people. After education and engagement, the third pillar is recognition—recognizing and rewarding people around food safety culture.

Is food safety training part of all employee’s onboarding?

Brice: We do have onboarding for new employees. We also do quarterly and annual trainings, because doing it one time is not enough. You have to repeat, repeat, repeat. We have food safety videos that we have launched in partnership with Stop Foodborne Illness that include real life experiences and stories of people who have dealt with foodborne illness. These help team members internalize the training and personalize it, so they are thinking about the impact their actions have on the customers we serve every day. We use one of the videos for onboarding and also leverage them for our annual training and refresh trainings as well.

How did Stop Foodborne Illness get involved with Kellogg and what kind of resources are available for companies?

Vanessa Coffman, Ph.D.
Vanessa Coffman, Ph.D.

Coffman: Kellogg has been a member of the Alliance to Stop Foodborne Illness since 2021. We rely heavily on Sherry and her team’s insights in multiple work streams, one of which is the ever-growing video series that is posted to our food safety culture toolkit website, and these are all free and publicly available.

We created two customized videos with Kellogg, each featuring one of Stop’s constituent-advocates alongside a Kellogg executive. These remind employees why food safety is so important and emphasize the commitment that Kellogg has made to safe food. We’ve also worked together on gamified learning, leveraging some of the games that Kellogg uses in its training, and those can also be accessed in the toolkit that is free and publicly available.

Since Kellogg joined the Alliance, has that changed your training strategies or your recognition strategies?

Brice: Stop has given us access to their constituents, which really brings to life why food safety is so important at every level of the organization. Engagement with people who have been affected by foodborne illness is crucial to getting to the hearts and minds of employees, and emphasizing the importance what they do every day.

Since joining the Alliance, we have also added virtual reality to our trainings, starting with the most important one which is around sanitation. We created a virtual reality space where new employees—as part of onboarding—put the glasses on and go through our sanitation process. If you do not do the right step, it will not let you go forward. It’s a way to do hands-on training without having to actually be on the line.

The Alliance has been a great partner for Kellogg. It is an investment, but it is money well spent. When you hear the stories of their constituents, you cannot help but think, I never want a situation like that to be on my watch, what can I do to prevent this from happening?

Kellogg is a very large company. How do you ensure this training is happening and that you’re communicating a consistent message throughout the whole organization?

Ready to start improving your food safety culture? Join the Food Safety Culture Design Workshop on October 16, at the 2023 Food Safety Consortium.

Brice: We have a global quality council made up of members from regions around the globe. We all come together on that council to align and make sure we’re all on the same page in terms of what we are going to do to impact the broader organization, and then we disseminate that action out into the regions. This way, we ensure that we have the right ownership, and that everyone is clear on what needs to be done and how we’re going to do it. We also use the council to track and make sure that people are getting access to the videos and completing the training in the time that we have identified.

We created a toolbox tool that is crafted and geared toward Kellogg employees based on the region they’re in, and the council helps to disseminate that and then track that the work is being completed. We also incorporate this into our audit to make sure that people are internalizing the information and getting something out of it.

You mentioned training on engagement strategies, is that through role playing?

Brice: Yes, it really is about how to drive good behaviors, ownership, escalation and empowerment. If you’re a technician and you have to give feedback to a manager, that can really be intimidating, so we want to make sure we’re arming employees with the right tools. We do this in our training by simulating how to have these crucial conversations. If I go into a plant and I’m not following protocol, somebody is going to give me feedback, and I hope that they give it to me in the right way. We want to arm people with the knowledge on how to do that so that they’re comfortable giving that feedback no matter who they are.

Does Kellogg work with its suppliers to help train them as well?

Brice: We do work with our supply base and also our co-manufacturers (co-mans). Our co-mans get a lot of the same training that our plants get. We have an “owner” from the supplier management team that oversees each of the suppliers and that owner manages what training the supplier needs, depending on where that supplier is in their journey. We provide them with the toolbox from Stop, so they can leverage those resources. and we have found that very helpful because if that supplier has a great food safety culture that means we’re going to great materials. Likewise, if our co-mans have a great food safety culture then we feel more comfortable with what they’re producing for us.

In addition to the videos, what are some of the other ways that the Alliance to Stop Foodborne Illness partners with companies?

Coffman: The Alliance was formed in 2018, and we have worked with companies across the food system from farm to fork. We utilize the power of Stop Foodborne Illness constituents and their stories of foodborne Illness. These are people who survived a harrowing experience or the loved ones of those who did not. They will go onsite, take part in town halls, write down their stories and share them on our website, and they have also participated in the videos. We make customized videos for companies like Kellogg, and we’ve been able to leverage that content to create shorter videos that are more generic for the toolkit website.

We also work with companies to develop other materials. As Sherry mentioned, we have some gamified learning. People can download those games and tweak them to their own needs, and some of those have been provided by Kellogg. We’ve also been able to create communication plans based on the nearly 20 Alliance members’ experiences and food safety culture journeys, and we share those plans with the small and medium-sized companies at no cost.

Sherry mentioned recognition of employees, what are good ways to publicly recognize good work in protecting food safety?

Coffman: Like many aspects of food safety culture, it is going to be company dependent. You do want to solicit input from your employees before implementing a rewards program. For example, some people love employee of the month recognition, while others would rather not be publicly recognized. They would prefer a gift card or time off. If you go to our YouTube channel, you can watch some of our past webinars, including one on rewarding and recognition.

Brice: We implemented an “Achievers” platform. Through the platform, we give points to employees and those points can be used to purchase items. We also do on the spot recognition and recognition dinners. It depends on the situation and the person, but “Achievers” is our main recognition platform because we have found that our employees like this. They can trade their points in for a gift card, a T-shirt, a vacuum cleaner—there are many different things on the platform.

It is often said that every company has a food safety culture whether positive or negative, how do you go about assessing where you’re at to understand what you need to implement?

Brice: You can do this through surveys and small group sessions. Asking open-ended questions so people can provide content that helps you understand truly where you’re at and listening are important. Anonymous surveys maybe the best place to start because people may not be very open to speaking up during a small groups. The surveys help you understand where you’re at and what areas do you need to focus on first. Stepping back and looking at what’s happening every day in the company will also give you an understanding of where your company is. How do people feel about stopping a line if they see an issue? Are they comfortable speaking up?

Coffman: Assessment isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. It has to be carefully thought out and will vary from company to company and even from location to location within the same company. I would like to add that assessment without action is fruitless. If you put forth the time and effort to collect and analyze data, you must take action.

Once you’ve done your assessment and are ready to improve your food safety culture, what are some of the steps you can take to get started?

Coffman: We have a page on our toolkit website dedicated to this, and it leverages learning from our 20 Alliance members from across the industry, looking at both the successes and the bumps they’ve encountered. It is going to look different for each company so I encourage everyone to go to the toolkit website and look at the Plan Your Journey tab.

Brice: The best plan includes people from all areas of the organization. You don’t want just the manufacturing base or the managers, you need to understand why people have the behaviors they have today and what needs to change. If all employees or departments feel that they have ownership in the plan, then the plan will come to fruition faster, and you’ll also create food safety champions along the way.




STOP Foodborne Illness

FDA and Stop Foodborne Illness to Co-Host Webinar on Facing Food Safety Challenges

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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STOP Foodborne Illness

The FDA and Stop Foodborne Illness are hosting the eighth webinar in the ongoing series of webinars exploring food safety culture on September 13, 2023, from 12pm to 1:00pm ET. “Facing Food Safety Challenges through Culture and Persistence” will focus on the importance of a strong food safety culture and how it can help organizations address food safety challenges they may face.

Guest speakers include:

  • Kerry Bridges, Vice President of Food Safety, Chipotle Mexican Grill
  • Al Almanza, Global Head of Food Safety and Quality Assurance, JBS Foods
  • Lone Jespersen, Principal and Founder, Cultivate SA
  • Conrad Choiniere, PhD, Director, Office of Analytics and Outreach, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA

Those interested in attending the free webinar can register here.

To learn more about the webinar series and listen to recordings of past webinars, visit Collaborating on Culture in the New Era of Smarter Food Safety.


Laura Morrison
Food Safety Culture Club

The Intersection of Food Safety Culture, People Strategy and Technology

By Laura Morrison
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Laura Morrison

It takes a village to keep our employees, guests, and communities safe. Creating an organizational culture centered around food safety begins with creating a system of shared values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors at the top level. It also requires commitment from top leadership.

Food safety culture involves creating an environment where food safety is a top priority and all team members—from leadership to front and back of the house employees—are committed to ensuring that the food provided to guests is safe.

Optimizing your food safety culture through the intersection of technology, human resources and people strategy is critical to gaining a competitive advantage. When developing or re-imagining a food safety culture, it’s important to create a people strategy for your organization that is focused on recruiting and developing individuals with drive and passion who already have or have the willingness to gain knowledge, skills and experience of food safety practices. Additionally, providing ongoing training and education to ensure that employees are aware of the latest food safety practices and regulations should be an integral part of workforce development.

Developing a strong food safety culture requires a multi-prong approach that includes:

  1. People strategy. This is the way a business or organization manages its workforce. In the food industry, this can include hiring, training employees, and developing employee engagement and compensation programs. A well-though-out people strategy can help organizations attract, recruit, and retain top talent, build a strong company culture, and improve overall business performance.
  2. Technology helps to support the people strategy by streamlining processes, reducing manual labor, and improving employee engagement. Food businesses using tools such as automated scheduling, workforce management tools, digital training, and development tools to upskill employees can improve efficiency, reduce labor costs, and provide their team members with the knowledge and resources needed to excel in their individual roles. Leveraging technology to support food safety and the overall people strategy can improve efficiency, reduce costs and enhance the experience of customers by delivering high-quality service and products.
  3. An organization’s human resources strategy plays a critical role in developing and maintaining the food safety culture. Owners, operators and HR professionals should work closely together to develop policies and procedures to promote food safety that include training programs, performance metrics, accountability procedures and incentive systems to reward safe practices.
  4. Maintaining a food safety culture built around accountability and open and clear channels of communication and encouragement, allows employees to report food safety concerns without fear of retaliation. In this environment employees feel more comfortable both raising concerns and trusting that their concerns will be taken seriously and addressed promptly.

Businesses that prioritize food safety culture, people strategy, human resources and technology can create a competitive advantage in the food industry.

Additional Resources: 

Hetler, A. (2022). The future of the food industry: Food tech explained. https://www.techtarget.com/whatis/feature/The-future-of-the-food-industry-Food-tech-explained

Febes, C. (2020). A Well-Rounded Restaurant Staffing Strategy Includes New Technology. Forbes

Mulligan, S. (2018). HR 2025:  7 Critical Strategies to Prepare for the Future of HR Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM)

2019 FSC Audience
From the Editor’s Desk

Earn Up to 26 CE credits at the 2023 Food Safety Consortium

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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2019 FSC Audience

Food safety and quality professionals attending the 2023 Food Safety Consortium can gain up to 20 NEHA-recognized continuing education (CE) credits, while taking advantage of two days of high-level panel discussions and professional networking, “boots on the ground” education on the mitigation, regulation and control of key Food Safety Hazards, and their choice from four pre-conference workshops.

The Consortium will take place October 16-18 at the Hilton Parsippany in Parsippany, New Jersey, and feature leading industry professionals as well as high-level members of the FDA and USDA. Session highlights include:

  • Anti-Food Fraud Tactics for the Entire Supply Chain
  • Regulatory Audits
  • Food Safety Culture: Creating a “Speak Up” Culture
  • The Rise of Previously Unforeseen Hazards
  • FSMA 204: The Final Rule – Looking Ahead
  • Audited and Validated Allergen Control Plans
  • Recall Trends and Predictions
  • And more

View the full agenda and speakers

This year’s Food Safety Consortium is co-located with the Food Defense Consortium and Cannabis Quality Conference. The Consortium’s two-day program is recognized by NEHA (National Environmental Health Association) for 12.0 Continuing Education (CE) Hours. If you participate in one of the Pre-Conference Workshops or Trainings and attend the conference (a total of three days), you can gain 20 NEHA CE Hours (or up to 26 with the auditor training program).

Pre-Conference Workshops (held on Monday, October 16) include:

Food Safety Culture Design Workshop, presented by the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention in collaboration with Sage Media, will guide food industry professionals through the necessary steps to create an actionable food safety culture strategy.

CP-FS Credential Review Course. The Certified Professional – Food Safety (CP-FS) credential is the gold standard for those working in retail food safety, including cannabis edibles. Earning your CP-FS demonstrates your commitment to the health and well-being of your customers and shows the public you take their safety seriously.

Interested in becoming a food safety auditor or building your auditing skills? View the complimentary webinar, “What Does it Take to Become a Food Safety Auditor?” to learn more about this program.

Food Safety Auditor Training. This four-part series is designed to provide the knowledge, behaviors and technical skills attributed to a competent food safety auditor. The series includes three virtual 2-hour presentations conducted by a live instructor. These sessions are recorded and available for additional self-paced study for less experienced participants, while experienced auditors can refresh their understanding of auditing fundamentals before advancing to the more complex skills and critical thinking behaviors needed to audit high risk products. The course culminates with a full day of in-person instruction (Monday, Oct. 16) on advanced topics such as potential conflicts of interest, enhanced conflict resolution techniques and providing tips in advanced written communication skills to support the delivery of comprehensive audit reports.

The Seed to Sale Safety Workshop. Led by four veterans of cannabis quality and safety, this pre-conference workshop offers participants an interactive and engaging opportunity to learn about the novel seed-to-sale safety considerations associated with cannabis edibles. Participants will achieve an understanding of cannabis hazard analysis, learn the principles of cannabis edible GMPs, apply food safety best practices, identify risks in marketing and labeling and apply the fundamentals of state and federal regulatory compliance.

Register now for the 2023 Food Safety Consortium

Tami Dumond
Women in Food Safety

I Enjoy Being Afraid

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Tami Dumond

Those who work in the food safety and quality industry may know Tami Dumond, microbiologist and Director of Quality Assurance at Omeat, by her oft-changing vibrant hair color. Her career has been equally varied. Dumond has worked as a scrub nurse, QA lab manager and owner, motorcycling instructor and food quality manager and director.

Tami spoke at a recent meeting of the Women in Food Safety about the path that brought her to her current leadership position at Omeat, a tissue engineering company scaling cellular ground beef, and the value of varied work experiences.

I Like To Party

After graduating high school, Dumond entered a one-year hands-on certification program to become a scrub nurse. “It taught me a lot about showing up and the importance of processes and protocols,” she said. “Almost everything I do in food safety and quality brings me back to things I learned in surgery.”

She chose the program because it allowed her to pursue her interest in science without going to college. “I am dyslexic and I didn’t want to go to school anymore,” said Dumond. “I liked school, but it was very hard for me.”

When she became a single mom, she decided to go back to school to earn a Bachelor’s degree, and got a part-time a job at an external quality control laboratory that worked with several food companies, eventually becoming co-owner of the lab. “I learned I was good at managing things,” said Dumond. “I’m a partier and I want to invite everyone to the party. I solidify my teams by including everyone and making sure they always have fun during training.”

Different People Learn in Different Ways

When the economic recession of 2008-2010 hit, rather than cut staff or pay at her lab, she chose to take on the second job as a motorcycling instructor to help make ends meet. “The students would read what they’re supposed to do, hear what they’re supposed to do, watch the instructor and then we watch them,” said Dumond. “That repetition and format of learning—if you didn’t get it verbally, you got it visually—reminded me that different people learn in different ways, so you need to offer information in multiple formats.”

During this time she also joined a local Roller Derby team, “The Soy City Rollers,” as MRSA Nary (mercenary), an experience that brought into focus the joy of being part of a team and, again, the importance of having plans and protocols. “Teams that play well have a playbook,” she said. “If you don’t have a process in place, pull out a whiteboard and write one right away, and do it with your team.”

Time for a Change

After 20 years at the lab and 11 years teaching motorcycling, Dumond—now a microbiologist—decided it was time for a change. She moved to Austin, Texas, with an eye on entering the field of food safety. “I wanted to be more involved in the food industry, because that is where a lot of innovation was taking place,” she said.

She got a job as food quality manager at ATX Specialty Foods, before moving to Omeat. Her goal as Director of Quality Assurance is to empower her team and bring a culture of food safety to the entire organization by making it as easy as possible for people to do the right thing. “I try to empower my teammates and create trust so they know they can come up and talk to me anytime,” she said. “I involve the entire team in training and when anything new is happening. I have made everyone aware of the importance of everything that goes on in the lab. Maintenance team members come to our PCR training so they can better understand the equipment.”

She values the relationships she has built with her teammates throughout her career and stays in contact with many past colleagues and employees. “Even if you leave a company, you don’t leave the people you worked with,” she said. “You never want to burn bridges.”

Sharing Knowledge

Today, Dumond describes herself as a quality scientist who specializes in biological business modeling. In addition to her role at Omeat, she is the founder of Qronika Consulting, which focuses on food safety training and industrial biome investigations. The company is named after a video game character. “Qronika is a titaness of good and evil, who knows you must balance good and bad to move through life,” said Dumond.

In her free time, she volunteers with Texas Food Bank and Food Rescue, as it provides the opportunity to support her community and experience different approaches to how people work with food.

Looking back on her career, she credits her success to always meeting challenges with action. “You have to show up and make the best of the situation,” she said. “And we, as a food industry, need to start paying attention to cellular Ag, and being more high-level in the biological sciences of food safety and quality.”

During the meeting, Tami shared her “Words to Live By”:

I Like to Break Things. If you break things, they can be fixed. If something is wrong, then we’ve got to dismantle it and rework it.

I am Petty. Every quality professional is petty. We worry about the small things.

I Take Things Personally. My life and my career is personal to me

I Party a Lot. I am an entertainer. I am an artist. I try my best to make everyone comfortable in a conversation. With me, you’re going to have a good time and I’m going to figure how to get what I need to get from you in order to make your job better.

I’m a Time Traveler. Everything I’ve done since that first job as a scrub nurse at 18 has brought me back to what I learned when I was 18.

I Steal Things. If a teammate has a good idea, it’s going upfront and I want it. We’re always downloading stuff, incorporating it and making it our own. Don’t waste opportunities or other people’s knowledge.

I Enjoy Being Afraid. Fear means there is an unknown. When we’re afraid, if we can understand that it’s a fear of the unknown then we can learn and become less fearful.