Tag Archives: Frank Yiannas

Frank Yiannas, Walmart

The Future of Food Safety: A Q&A with Walmart’s Frank Yiannas

By Mahni Ghorashi
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Frank Yiannas, Walmart

Continuing on our journey to bring you the successes, best practices, challenges and accomplishments from the very best in this industry, this month I had the pleasure of interviewing Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart. In his role, Frank oversees all food safety, as well as other public health functions, for the world’s largest food retailer, serving more than 200 million customers around the world on a weekly basis.

Frank is a past president of the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) and a past vice-chair of GFSI. He is also an adjunct professor in the Food Safety Program at Michigan State University, and in 2017 was awarded the MSU Outstanding Faculty Award. He’s also the author of two books, Food Safety Culture, Creating a Behavior-based Food Safety Management System, and Food Safety = Behavior, 30 Proven Techniques to Enhance Employee Compliance.

Mahni Ghorashi: What are you most excited about in our industry? What’s changing in a good way in the food safety sector?

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

Frank Yiannas: While there is no doubt that there are numerous new and emerging challenges in food safety, the many advancements being made should give us hope that we can create a safer, more efficient, and sustainable food system.

There is progress being made on many fronts: Whole genome sequencing is becoming more accessible; new tools are being developed for fraud detection; and FSMA is introducing stringent public-health surveillance measures that have dramatic implications for U.S. retailers and suppliers and our import partners.

Most importantly, consumers are now overwhelmingly interested in transparency. People today are further removed from how food is grown, produced and transported than at any other time in human history. Plus, they increasingly mistrust food and food companies due to the food outbreaks and scares we have faced in recent years.

Over the near-term, as we get better at detecting foodborne outbreaks, consumer mistrust will likely intensify; however, it’s clear to me that heightened consumer interest is hugely positive because it adds weight to our industry’s call for more accurate food labeling, more wholesome ingredients and enhanced food traceability. Ultimately, these are the kinds of measures that will improve the food system and enhance consumer trust.

Ghorashi: As you know, food shopping is moving online. It’s happening across the world, and at breakneck speed. What are retailers like Walmart doing to keep up?

Yiannas: That’s a great question. Walmart and other retailers are now developing new packaging materials and temperature control approaches, as well as new ordering methods, high-tech stocking systems and delivery modes.

Food shopping is moving online so quickly that regulatory requirements have not been able to keep up. That means it’s up to us, the retailers and food companies, to work with regulators to create and promote the necessary industry standards, best practices and logistical solutions.

I firmly believe that it is our responsibility as food retailers to advocate for consumers and strive to create a safer and more affordable and sustainable food system. With many more players across the global food chain now shouldering this duty of care, I am very optimistic that our industry is truly improving the lives of people around the world.

Ghorashi: What role is blockchain technology playing in food safety? What are the prospects for the future?

Yiannas: The emergence of blockchain technology and the successful completion of several pilots using it to enhance food traceability has resulted in a larger conversation about the importance of creating a more transparent digital food system.

It has also enabled food system stakeholders to imagine being able to have full end-to-end traceability at the speed of thought. The ongoing U.S.-wide romaine lettuce E.coli outbreak showed us, once again, that our traditional paper-based food tracking system is no longer adequate for the 21st century. An ability to deliver accurate, real-time information about food, how it’s produced, and how it flows from farm to table is a game-changer for food safety.

Blockchain has the potential to shine a light on all actors in the food system. This enhanced transparency will result in greater accountability, and greater accountability will cause the food system to self-regulate and comply with the safe and sustainable practices that we all desire.

Frank Yiannas, Walmart, 2016 Food Safety Consortium

Moving Food Safety Culture Beyond Slogans

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Frank Yiannas, Walmart, 2016 Food Safety Consortium

“If you think about evolution and continuous improvement in food safety, it’s nothing new,” said Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart at the 2016 Food Safety Consortium. In the following video, Yiannas introduces his perspective on how food safety culture has evolved and moved beyond a slogan or buzzword.

Stay tuned for more video clips from Yiannas’ presentation at the Food Safety Consortium.

Frank Yiannas, Walmart, Food Safety Consortium

Make Food Safety Culture the Social Norm

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

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

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

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

 

Frank Yiannas, VP of Food Safety, Walmart

Use Homophily to Deliver Food Safety Message

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

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

 

Rick Biros and Frank Yiannas, Food Safety Consortium

Apply Behavioral Science Techniques to Food Safety

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Rick Biros and Frank Yiannas, Food Safety Consortium

The human behavior that surrounds us contagious. Read the article about Frank Yiannas’ presentation, Catch the Food Safety Culture Bug. In keeping with this theme, Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart, reviews behavioral science techniques that can be applied to a food safety management system. In part I of this video series from the 2015 Food Safety Consortium, Yiannas reviews the principles of consistency and commitment.

 

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

An Inspiring Evening

By Deirdre Schlunegger
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Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness

November 17 was an inspiring evening at the Food Safety Consortium! Thanks to the generosity of Food Safety Tech and Chemstar, a number of friends were able to join STOP Foodborne Illness in celebrating two of its Food Safety Heroes.

We honored Nancy Donley, former STOP spokesperson with the Legacy Tribute award. Since the death of her son Alex, in 1993, Nancy has selflessly advocated for stronger food safety policies and practices. Our other esteemed guest was Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety for Walmart, a man known for passionately escalating the notion of a “food safety culture.” Frank received STOP’s Industry Advocate Hero award.

 

Another highly regarded guest, FDA Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor, shared his reflections on the magnitude of the evening. Please take a moment to read Taylor’s eloquent and thoughtful words regarding this milestone celebration.

Frank Yiannas, VP of Food Safety, Walmart

Catch the Food Safety Culture Bug: How to Influence Others

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

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

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

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

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

All images by amyBcreative photography

Michael Taylor FDA

FDA to Weigh In on FSMA Enforcement at Food Safety Consortium

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Michael Taylor FDA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creating a Food Safety Culture

By Deirdre Schlunegger
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Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness

Thanks to Walmart, I recently had the good fortune to attend a course titled “Creating a Food Safety Culture” at Michigan State University. Presented by Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety for Walmart, the course was an invigorating gathering of food safety professionals and included striking conversations about culture, food safety, and behavior-based modalities. Frank even mentioned this blog in class, saying, “I am in” in reference to the Food Safety Culture Club. We found time for some fun in the evenings, which included a night out with “Sparty” the MSU mascot and a dinner at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum on Campus. What a great time!

After introductions, Frank started the two-day class with a definition of culture. He presented it as defined by the Social & Behavioral Foundations of Public Health: “Culture is shared patterns of thought and behavior that characterize a social group, which are learned through socialization processes and persist through time.”

This launched a delivery and discussion of attributes of a food safety culture, diving deeper into each attribute. We learned about the Science of Influence and discussed a proposed divergence between the terms “accountability” and “responsibility”. Frank framed the presentation by contrasting Traditional verses Behavior-Based Food Safety Management. We thought about how the world, the food supply and food safety is changing. In the view of STOP Foodborne Illness, one thing remains the same: Food Safety only exists because humans can and have become ill from eating, which instigates a string of consequences, none of which are positive. And only humans can make a difference—OK, well, with the help of technology.

Frank shared the slide from the STOP Foodborne Illness website that portrays the faces of those who have perished, those with life-long consequences, and the survivors of foodborne illness. From the perspective of STOP Foodborne Illness, the most important food safety attribute is human life, and it must lead, be at the forefront, and be integrated into each and every attribute, goal and measurement so that the consequence is not serious illness or the loss of life.

Image courtesy of STOP Foodborne Illness
Image courtesy of STOP Foodborne Illness

Frank shared the quote from the 2003 Investigation Board of the Space Shuttle Columbia (the incident when the shuttle Columbia broke up upon returning to Earth, killing seven astronauts on board. The board cited cultural traits and organizational barriers that prevented effective communication and thus affected safety). “In our view, the NASA organizational culture had as much to do with this accident as the foam.” This certainly is relevant in food safety environments, and there is much to be learned.

This is just a snippet of the course—there is so much more to share, and just not enough room here. Hats off to Frank, to my colleagues, to Michigan State University, and to Walmart. I came home with many thoughts, ideas and planned actions to share with the staff, board and constituents of STOP Foodborne Illness. Let’s keep the conversation going and grow membership in the club!