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Candy factory employee

Challenges and Best Practices in Developing a Strong Food Safety Culture

Candy factory employee

On December 12, The FDA released a systematic review of the scientific literature on food safety culture (FSC), which identified barriers, as well as best practices, for organizations seeking to develop a stronger culture of food safety. The FDA noted that it will use this research to inform its continued efforts in support of food safety culture.

While food safety culture is defined in various ways in the literature, the review identified the most frequently cited definition of FSC as “the aggregation of the prevailing, relatively constant, learned, shared attitudes, values and beliefs contributing to the hygiene behaviors used within a particular food handling environment.” (Griffith, Livesey, and Clayton 2010).

Best practices for promoting FSC include:

  • Promoting FSC as a topmost goal of each member of the organization, not just a goal of a specific group within an organization.
  • Branding your commitment to FSC and promoting it everywhere. This includes displaying food safety messaging in break rooms, hallways, elevators, parking lots, or anywhere employees congregate so employees don’t forget it. In his book Food Safety Culture: Creating a Behavior-Based Food Safety Management System, Frank Yiannas, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response wrote that, “Messaging should be simple, communicate what the desired behavior is, be placed where the desired behavior should occur, and changed often enough to prevent desensitizing.”
  • Building your food safety messages on the concept of “we,” and clearly defining how employees’ job objectives align with food safety.
  • Promoting FSC not only within your organization, but also within your entire supply chain.

Challenges and barriers to a strong and effective FSC include:

Over-reliance on Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS). Because FSMSs do not address the human impact on food safety, they do not guarantee a good FSC. A combination of a well-elaborated FSMS and a favorable food safety climate is ideal.

Prioritization of Cost-saving and Money-earning. A commitment to food safety must take precedence over other objectives and cultures that compete for priority within an organization, including the culture of saving money.

Frequent Staff Turnover. Continuous turnover can be detrimental to key determinants of FSC, such as risk awareness and accountability.

Optimistic Bias. Reviewed studies found that some organizations or employees have an “illusion of invulnerability,” which may hinder effective implementation of food safety behaviors. Without perceiving a susceptibility to food contamination, people often resist a focus on it unless they can see the value.

Download the Food Safety Culture Systematic Literature Review.