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Building Food Safety Across the Supply Chain: Notes from the Food Safety Summit 2018

Posted by Laura Dunn Nelson

May 25 2018
May 25 2018

The Food Safety Summit celebrated its 20th anniversary this year in Chicago, with a focus on food safety in the supply chain. From growers all the way to retailers, a common thread across the “chain” was the importance of employee engagement at all levels to ensure food safety.

Below are some notes from this year’s sessions that provide valuable tips for developing a successful food safety program:

 

Food-Safety-Summit

 

Identifying Your Food Safety Initiatives

When determining your food safety plan’s initiatives, here are some questions to consider:

  • What departments should we be interacting and collaborating with to be successful? 


  • How do we gain commitment at all levels of the organization? 


  • What key factors will make an effective communication plan? 


  • Are there innovative tools and resources available to guide us through these efforts?

 

Rolling Out Your Food Safety Your Program

incorporate food safety initiatives into your company’s core strategic operational plan. This top-down approach is essential for ensuring leadership understands the impact food safety has in protecting people, profits, and brands.

With a bottom-up approach, the most effective plans that were shared built in an incentive program to motivate employees to actively engage. A well-balanced food safety incentive program uses both positive and negative reinforcement to drive desired behaviors. Positive reinforcement could include visual progress trackers and success stories, even gift cards. Some companies batted around the idea of implementing a bonus structure. On the other hand, lowering the bonus structure or getting fewer shifts could work as negative reinforcement. Care must be taken to ensure the incentive program is actually driving the desired employee behaviors.

Bottom line — when everyone is engaged, there is a greater chance of avoiding food safety incidents, outbreaks, or food recalls.

 

"Food Safety Program Metrics"

While it might seem obvious, it’s imperative to come up with a few Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track your food safety program’s progress.

Example recommended metrics include:

  • HACCP deviations

  • Customer complaints 

  • Recalls or withdrawals

  • GMP compliance
  • Audit scores (internal and external)

After establishing a baseline, you can begin to benchmark your food safety program, so future performance can be assessed against past behavior. And because the rules and regulations surrounding food safety are ever-evolving, building in time to assess changes align your food safety goals with compliance requirements is important. Additionally, approaching food safety as a continuous improvement effort, and not just a static program to achieve regulator compliance, is essential in maturing your food safety culture.

 

“Food Safety Doesn’t Stop for the Weekend”

Your food safety plan needs to be firing on all cylinders 24-7. While food safety training is the best way to get all your internal employees on board, what about your customers?

Making sure your suppliers and customers are compliant and fully accountable is critical. Getting agreements in place and validating capabilities and time constraints are practical ways to make sure your suppliers are reliable. When everyone shares a sense of urgency, food safety is more likely to be practiced.

 

“Practice. Practice. Practice.”

Carrying out regular internal audits is an effective way to detect and address any chinks in the armor — before an auditor does. In addition, an Enterprise Risk Assessment can go a long way toward preventing future disasters.

But don’t stop there. Incorporate your vendors and clients into your mock recalls to make sure you have the right points of contact and processes are clearly defined for ensuring effective and efficient communication occurs once a risk is identified.

Did you get a chance to attend the Food Safety Summit? What were some of your favorite takeaways? Share your experiences below! 

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