safety culture. The outcomes of our measurement systems need to create more positive reactions than negative. Overwhelming negative consequences drive negative
reactions and a disengaged workforce.
Issues with food safety skills and technical training
Would you knowingly allow a surgeon to operate on you or your family when the
surgeon has had only 18 hours of training to be a surgeon? We rely on individuals
in the food industry with as little as 18 hours of training on HACCP to develop our
FSMSs. Even with new FSMA training requirements, only 18–20 hours of training
are needed to get your Preventive Controls Qualified Individual certificate required
for every manufacturing facility selling into the U.S. or manufacturing goods sold in
the U.S. Are 18 hours enough?
Some of us get calls asking if we know of someone who can step into a company’s open food safety and quality manager position, but often the company wants
to spend only a certain figure for their FSMS expert that would attract a graduating
food science college student. Often the response to such an inquiry is “students
don’t know enough,” but rather than increasing the salary budget, companies will
promote someone from inside, frequently with no formal food safety education
or training, into the position. Then, these new hires are sent off for the 18-hour
HACCP course and are suddenly the company’s food safety expert. On the other
hand, the lack of appropriately trained graduates is a real and significant problem,
partly because food science curricula often don’t include enough food safety science
or social science content, and partly because students see other work areas, such as
product development, as more exciting career paths.
We can have the best knowledge at the corporate office, but if we do not have
effective, robust, and continually improved training programs, we will not succeed.
These problems occur in both small and large companies. The small company may
not be able to afford to train employees, even though one issue could shut them
down permanently, and the large companies can afford the food safety professionals, but sometimes the information is kept at corporate and not disseminated down
throughout the processing facilities.
Making Science-Based Improvements
Use the social science toolbox to bring your food safety culture back on track
Acknowledging that we have challenges with connecting the proven principles of
food safety management such as effective and dynamic
what can we do?
We suggest four
areas (Figure 1) from
the social science
toolbox that have
worked in our experience to improve
food safety performance and continually improve the
food safety culture.
Drive food safety
through company and
Science and values define the right
Figure 1. Some tools from social and organizational sciences to help you in your
work to improve food safety performance.
thing to do. Our friend Dave Theno
carried a picture of Lauren Rudolph,
who died at age 6 from the 1993 Jack in
the Box outbreak, in his briefcase. He
would pull it out and ask, “What would
she want me to do?” when faced with
a significant food safety decision. This
made the value of the decision real and
helped guide him to his decision. Does
each of our company values enable us
to put a human face on our decisions?
When we educate or train, do we make
it real and explain “why”? Do we use
or engage the company values when we
make decisions? Are the effects and potential impacts of our programs evaluated against our company values?
Does company management, including food safety management, realize
how to drive the company and food
safety culture away from firefighting and
into a preventive and predictive state?
Can the effects of those preventive and
predictive practices be internalized and
become a key component of the overall
business strategy? The consideration of
these questions when establishing food
safety goals is essential for continually
improving your food safety culture.
Our programs and procedures must
be in concert with company values.
We must interpret and deploy values
on a daily basis and show through our
actions that they are what we stand
for. Leadership is leading by doing and
“walking the talk.” Food safety leaders
must expect value-driven actions and accountability. These words make a lot of
sense on paper, but how often have you
held your supervisor or boss accountable or challenged them regarding a
decision, procedure, or activity that had
food safety implications? Our ability to
hold those above, below, and equal to
us accountable for food-safe actions and
decisions is key to driving the appropriate food safety culture.
As food safety leaders, our management obligation is to use those values
at all levels in the organization to drive
food safety culture.
Engaging the workforce in teams
promotes our ability to increase ac-