intended as an exact measurement, I trust each of the leaders
we spoke with for their in-depth understanding and experience
in their particular sector. All leaders mentioned that there is
significant variation across the organizations in their sector.
This progressive maturity from primary producer to retailer
could be an indication of an organization’s distance to the
end-consumer, that is, the shorter the distance to the consumer, the more mature is the food safety culture. Food safety
is relatively new to primary producers and distributors, and
those hard-learned lessons from, for example, processing and
foodservice, should be shared and adopted at a quicker pace
to avoid repeat failure in other sectors.
Why not? If this is correct, what can retailers do to support
primary producers and distributors to change this, aside from
a traditional audit? Can retailers partner with organizations
like STOP Foodborne Illness to create educational materials
for other sectors that connect consumers to food safety? We
need to help tell the story and make the story available for use
in a particular sector’s and company’s education and training
Achieving Full Senior Leadership Ownership
Leaders come and go in companies, and it is an ongoing
challenge for food safety professionals to educate and engage
senior leaders to take ownership of food safety. A distribution
leader said that there have not been many recalls connected
to the distribution of food, so how do you create a reason
for leaders to change or acknowledge their ownership of food
safety? This is a complex question to answer; perhaps one way
to answer it is by helping food safety professionals speak the
‘leadership’ language. We must learn to probe for what drives
senior leadership priorities and how to incorporate food safety
messages into these priorities. We should not assume that
leaders know how to speak “food safety,” and we should therefore help them with simple messages and connecting food
safety risks and costs of mitigation to business success.
Why not? Engaged organizations like the National Association of Corporate Directors help us better understand what
drives C-suite behaviors and how to use this knowledge for
ongoing and consistent engagement in food safety strategies,
measures and professional development.
Food Safety Professionals
Across the sectors, leaders spoke of the need for more competent food safety professionals. There are simply not enough
people doing this important work, and it hurts the depth
and consistency of food safety performance. As food safety
professionals, we are tasked to blend complex science with
the psychology of driving engagement and change within our
organizations; this exciting space must be better communicated to young people seeking to find their passion. Through
organizations like IAFP, new college graduates have the opportunity to put their mark on the future of the food industry,
and we must use organizations like this to market and attract
more talent into the food safety professions.
Why not? We should partner with marketing firms, universities and associations to create awareness campaigns to attract
more talent to the food safety space. We must tell the stories
of our colleagues who have chosen to become food safety professionals—the why and how.
All leaders across the food supply chain mentioned the
impact of employee turnover and the struggle with consistent
food safety performance as colleagues leave for new opportunities. I am not sure this will change, and we therefore have
to look at what systems we can put in place to minimize this
impact. As food safety professionals, we are sometimes guilty
of making procedures or one-point lessons (OPLs) complicated and hard to understand. One retailer spoke of ‘making
food safety simple,’ and I believe this to be one of our opportunities: to ensure that all employees know exactly what is
expected for the specific tasks for which they are responsible.
One foodservice leader said that food safety must be built into
every role in the company, but it must be made simple.
Why not? Can we show what is expected for a food safety
task in three photos or less? In 30 seconds of video or less?
Consistent Food Safety Learning for All
Across the sectors, leaders called for better education and
training at all levels. The Campden BRI training survey suggests that as an industry, we have not really improved our
commitment to effective education and training. It is still
hard to find the time for training and education; arguments
still persist about their value. As food safety professionals, we
must let go of the detailed, 70-page PowerPoint and seek help
from our marketing colleagues to find critical learning points
and how to best reach individual learners. Some commercial
systems are great for a 5-minute training session, on the floor/
in the store, and provide a means for consistent delivery and
follow up. But systems like these only work if the message is
simple and consistently delivered, independent of the ‘trainer.’
Why not? We should develop OPLs, coach leaders in other
functions to deliver these and follow up with behavioral observations to check for effectiveness.
Our sector leaders shared a wide range of their personal
favorites. Some of these might seem simple but are great reminders to get back to basics and remember these in times of
change, when running extra fast or starting a new role.
• Build partnerships
• Connect food safety to business performance
• Define food safety as a core value
• Provide training ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’