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Supply Chain Management - Assessing Food Safety Culture

By: Forward Food Solutions Team

Date Published: 2/9/22


In the era of supply chain disruptions, having a strong supplier approval program is very important. Beyond the traditional supply chain activities such as researching a supplier, analyzing food safety/HACCP plans and other food safety program information, how is it possible to dive deeper? Assessing Food Safety Culture is a great next step to taking supply chain management to the next level.


Why Food Safety Culture?

Food Safety Culture is not just a buzz word. It is the attitude and the value system that ranks best practices in food safety at the top of a company’s priority list. A robust Food Safety Culture flows from top management down and is a great way to gain an understanding of what is happening within the organization at all levels.


According to Frank Yiannas, “….we do not believe we will make dramatic improvements in reducing the burden of food borne disease without addressing how employees think about food safety and how they demonstrate a commitment to this goal in how they do their job.” https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/news/fdae28099s-perspective-on-food-safety-and-availability-during-and-beyond-covid-19/

How Do I Know Where My Supplier Falls When it comes to Food Safety Culture? It may seem a daunting prospect digging into another companies’ Food Safety Culture, but there are steps manufacturers can take that will shine a closer light on what is going on behind closed doors. Let’s look at some of those elements now.

1. Food Safety Management Review Meetings


a. Are these meetings occurring? How often?

Meetings should be held regularly, preferably on a monthly basis. If the meetings happen only sporadically or no one attends them - this is a red flag.

b. Who attends the meetings?

Representation should include different perspectives from upper management to the facility floor. Input from all levels of the organization is very important.

c. Are there people in attendance who can affect change in the facility?

When the decision makers are committed to these meetings, it models the values of the company and helps pave the way to success. It is critical that an executive is in attendance to ensure resources are allocated to areas where improvements are needed, whether this is time, money, equipment, etc.

d. What is discussed at the meetings?  

Analyze the agenda and minutes: are the same problems coming up or are issues being addressed? Is there an air of continuous improvement or does it look like problems are being handled in a more reactionary way?

2. Communication and Involvement of Employees in the facility in Food Safety


a. How does the company solicit feedback for process improvements or quality improvements? Also, does the company recognize its employees who go the extra mile in the interest of food safety?

Ask about employee feedback opportunities, employee incentives, and how frequently employees are informed of the quality and food safety status of the company. This information can provide insight as to how communication flows about quality and food safety within the organization. In short, is it a one-way street or a two-way street?


b. Do they actively encourage involvement from personnel on the facility floor?  

Often the people directly working with the products have keen insights into process steps and improvements that can be made to enhance risk management activities. Involving personnel from the facility floor in Food Safety matters can also send the message to staff that food safety is important to the company from top management to the facility floor. There are many ways this can be accomplished so asking a direct question specific to this topic may be the fastest way to a productive answer.


c. How does the company handle food safety education of employees? 

Are employees trained at hire and is there continuing education on topics related to food safety, like hygiene for example. Again, this communicates that the company expects employees at all levels to take food safety seriously. Reviewing training policies, schedules, and records will provide a snapshot of a supplier’s attitudes and will assist in determining if this is a priority for your supplier. Remember to assess frequency, topics covered, personnel required in training, and completion according to plan.


Remember…

Assessing suppliers’ food safety culture is only one step in evaluating suppliers. Forward Food Solutions will continue to look closely at Supply Chain work in upcoming posts so please look for our email and visit www.forwardfooodsolutions.com. Each food processing facility, food product, and supply chain is unique and will have risks inherent to the individual characteristics of the product, process, facility, and origin. It is important to have well trained professionals assisting in the assessment. If you need help, contact us to learn more.

Keywords:

Forward Food Solutions, Food Safety Consulting, Food Safety Culture, Process Improvements, Quality Improvements, Customer Complaints, Audits

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