Food safety culture needs thorough understanding

Food safety culture needs thorough understanding


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Food safety requires some in-depth thinking and implementation.

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A STRONG food safety culture will prevent further outbreaks, Dr Pieternel Luning, visiting from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. 

However, it is unlikely we will ever reach zero.

The following content is an extract from Dr Luning’s webinar on Thursday, November 15, 2018 by the University of Sydney, ARC Training Centre for Food Safety in the Fresh Produce Industry, and the Fresh Produce Safety Centre Australia & New Zealand.

Food safety culture is the product of shared values, beliefs and norms that affect mindset and behaviour towards food safety across an organisation.

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The way people react and communicate issues to their managers, those managers to their senior management, and how well it is taken up – that demonstrates a good food safety culture or a poor one.

Food safety culture is not prescriptive, however, the first step requires businesses to assess their food safety culture. 

There are some tools available – see attached presentation – that provide ideas on whether the issues and challenges are in the people (attitude, mindset) or if there can be improvements to the circumstances that facilitate people doing their job.

Jessica Purbrick-Herbst, executive officer, Fresh Produce Safety Centre Australia & New Zealand

Jessica Purbrick-Herbst, executive officer, Fresh Produce Safety Centre Australia & New Zealand

Once these challenges have been identified, management and practitioners can think about interventions.

Interventions require change and most people do not like change. 

By thinking strategically about the change requirements (reason for the change) and implementing gradual changes while involving the people in the business, the change is more likely to occur and stick.

There are similarities between food safety and worker health and safety (WHS). Studies in WHS have demonstrated evidence between safety culture, safety behaviour and an organisation’s safety performance. 

One of the differences between safety and food safety culture is that in WHS you can immediately see the impact of failures, because you may hurt yourself, or maybe hurt others, whereas, in food safety culture, the impact is further away and often days and months in the future.

You may not wash your hands, maybe you have a cold, and you can contaminate fresh produce with norovirus and you will never see what happened. 

You can’t see the contamination, and you rarely see the consequences.

Food Safety Culture Top Tips

1.Take an assessment of your current food safety culture – what’s happening, what isn’t

  • Employee characteristics (food safety attitudes & values, food risk perceptions)
  • Organisational characteristics (leadership, commitment, communication style, food safety/hygiene procedures)
  • Food safety management system (design & operation)
  • Facilitative technological resources (protective clothing, food safety/hygiene tools)

2. Look at what you can actually see within an organisation

  • Values on display
  • Hygiene facilities
  • Understanding of procedures

3. People, process, purpose, practicality – think about these four areas when creating the right food safety culture in your organisation.

Future Research

ARE you interested in being involved with future research on food safety culture by The University of Sydney or Wageningen University? Contact FPSC here. Let us know.

Thank you to all who attended the webinar last week and apologies for the technical issues with the recording. 

If you have any further questions about food safety culture, or themes for our next webinar, please get in touch.

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