Tag Archives: public health

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!

Cities Using Social Media to Police Restaurants

The U.S. is catching on, using Yelp to check health inspection scores for eateries in San Francisco, Louisville, Kentucky, and several other communities.

Yelp-barfblogWhile cities like Guelph, Ontario, are being dragged into the age of public disclosure, countries like Singapore have been training and using restaurant patrons as gumshoes for a decade to help public health types identify possible infractions through the use of cell phones (with nifty cameras).

The U.S. is slowly catching on, reports The Bulletin in Oregon, using Yelp to check health inspection scores for eateries in San Francisco, Louisville, Kentucky, and several other communities.

Local governments increasingly are turning to social media to alert the public to health violations and to nudge establishments into cleaning up their acts. A few cities are even mining users’ comments to track foodborne illnesses or predict which establishments are likely to have sanitation problems.

“For consumers, posting inspection information on Yelp is a good thing because they’re able to make better, informed decisions about where to eat,” said Michael Luca, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School who specializes in the economics of online businesses. “It also holds restaurants more accountable about cleanliness.”

In recent years, dozens of city and county health departments have been posting restaurant inspection results on government websites to share with the public. Turning to Yelp or other social media, or using crowd-sourced information to increase public awareness, is the next logical step, some officials say.

“Yelp is a window into the restaurant. The restaurateurs don’t want a bad (health) score on Yelp. They’ll be more attentive about getting the restaurants cleaned up and safer,” said Rajiv Bhatia, former environmental health director for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

“It’s also valuable because it allows the public to see the workings of a government agency, and puts some pressure on the agency to do its job,” said Bhatia, a physician who is now a public health consultant.

The National Restaurant Association, the industry’s trade group, said that while it supports transparency and consumers’ access to information, it worries that because inspection standards differ from city to city, Yelp users might not be familiar with rating terminology and therefore could draw incorrect conclusions.

David Matthews, the association’s general counsel, also said the timing of postings is crucial because restaurants often correct findings and generate different ratings after a re-inspection.

Luther Lowe, Yelp’s director of public policy said putting health scores and inspection results in an accessible place where consumers already are searching for restaurant information makes a lot more sense than “relying on those clunky (health department) dot-gov websites.”

This article originally appeared in barfblog.com

GFSI Position on Mitigating the Public Health Risk of Food Fraud

By Michael Biros
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New Food Fraud mitigation elements will be added to the next revision of the GFSI Guidance Document.

The GFSI board has decided to add two new key elements to the GFSI Guidance Document that address food fraud mitigation according to a recently published white paper. 

The additions to the Guidance Document will require a company to perform a food fraud vulnerability assessment and to have a control plan in place. The vision for the mitigation of food fraud to become an integral part of a company’s food safety management program. 

During a food safety certification audit, conducted against GFSI recognized schemes, the auditor will review the documentation related to the vulnerability assessment process and confirm that a comprehensive control plan has been developed and implemented by the company. 

Food fraud, including the subcategory of economically motivated adulteration, is not the same as food defense. Food defense protects against tampering with intent to harm whereas food fraud concerns the deception of consumers and includes substitution, unapproved enhancements, misbranding, counterfeiting, and stolen goods. The food safety risks associated with food fraud can be more dangerous and challenging to address than traditional food safety risks because the contaminants are unconventional. Some high profile food fraud incidents include the melamine tainted milk crisis, mislabeled recycled cooking oil, and knowingly shipping Salmonella contaminated peanuts. 

The new food fraud mitigation key elements will be included in the next revision of the GFSI Guidance Document (Version 7) to be released in 2016.