to be proactive. Based on the trends seen, root-cause analysis
is conducted to determine what is driving a particular trend.
The solution is then driven from the root-cause analysis. Once
the solution is developed, it is then implemented. Success of
the solution is measured through audits. Lagging indicators
are reviewed and assessed to see if there have been improvements made after the introduction of the proposed solution.
The maturity level of other retailers varies based on their
size. The larger retailers understand the importance of food
safety and have robust programs in place. The small and medium-size retailers do not have robust programs in place and,
in some cases, do not have dedicated resources for food safety.
They may also have limited understanding of food safety and
they do not use data to drive improvements in the food safety
program. Issues are handled on an ad hoc basis as they occur.
FSM: Is your company where it needs to be in terms of prioritiz-ing food safety? If so, how do you maintain that level of commitment? If not, how do you think you should go about getting
Retailer 1: Our customers shop at our stores because they
trust us; in recent times, there have been food incidents, such
as the recent Fipronil issue in eggs or the horse meat scandal
a few years ago, but we were not involved or implicated with
these issues. This is because delivering safe food is our priority
and a core value. We have robust standards for the manufacturers which are always evolving to keep pace with the latest
science and technology developments.
Retailer 2: Yes. Food safety has been a top priority for our
company for well over 20 years and continues to be so today.
There is a lot involved in maintaining that level of commitment. We work hard on it every day. We operate with a continuous improvement mindset at our company. We can always
Retailer 3: Consumer and brand protection remain key priorities for our company; as a result, there is support for food
safety throughout the business. We continuously review further ways to embed food safety through innovation, new communication channels, structures and resources. Gaining and
maintaining top management awareness and support is key to
further improving food safety culture.
Retailer 4: Yes, we are where we need to be in terms of pri-
oritizing food safety. There is commitment at all levels within
the organization. On numerous occasions, various executives
have stated the importance of food safety to business leaders,
shareholders, analysts and associates. Food safety metrics are
incorporated into performance metrics at all levels from the
top down. The level of commitment is maintained by leaders
at the very top, making it clear that there is a corporate-wide
goal of building and maintaining the customer’s trust in our
food offering, and to be successful in doing this, the safety of
the food in the supply chain is critical.
FSM: What are your major challenges in maintaining a solid
food safety culture?
Retailer 1: The challenge we face is a wider industry challenge of accessing good food science skills from graduates
coming into the industry. Not enough students are specializing enough in food technology.
Retailer 2: It’s all about people understanding the “why”
behind what they do when it comes to food safety. Turnover,
young staff, part timers particularly at store level, maintaining
the culture of the company as we expand into new markets.
Complexity of what we offer at store level (extensive prepared
foods selection produced in store, vast array of food items).
New product development.
Retailer 3: The biggest challenge is achieving full support
of senior management as a prerequisite. This ensures that
there is equal prioritization given to food safety matters as for
other business areas. This in turn allows resources to be allocated where required with senior management support. The
alternative bottom-up approach is never as effective and can
result in suboptimal resources and results.
Retailer 4: One of the biggest challenges to maintaining
a solid food safety culture is the amount of turnover at store
level in the retail environment. There is constant coming and
going of staff, as people move on to other roles within the organization or leave the organization. This can put pressure on
maintaining a food safety culture if the food safety program is
not well integrated into the operations. This challenge requires
that there be a strong program in place for food safety performance, training and education, communication, measurement
and reinforcement. Having these in place will help maintain a
food safety culture. n
Food Safety Magazine thanks all the panelists for sharing their
expertise. A special thank-you goes to Lone Jespersen, Ph.D.,
Cultivate, and Gillian Kelleher, Wegmans, for helping coordinate the participants and formulate the questions for this
FOOD SAFETY CULTURE
“This challenge requires that there
be a strong program in place for
food safety performance, training
and education, communication,
measurement and reinforcement.”