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How Do You Measure Food Safety Culture?

By Holly Mockus   |   

Photo: Stellar Food For Thought

If you’ve had the time to digest the FSMA final rules that have been published by the US. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you most likely noted the part about measuring Food Safety Culture when the FDA investigators are conducting an audit. (Note, they are not called inspectors anymore – they are now investigators).  We are also seeing SQF, BRC and other GFSI audit schemes ramping up discussions around measuring culture. 

What do auditors look for?

If you talk with an auditor, you may hear that ‘culture’ is evident as soon as they enter a facility. They look at everything from the look of the lobby and guest areas, to the condition of the manufacturing floor, to the behaviors of the front line workers, and the condition of plant records. The feel of the culture is evident –   however putting a concrete measurement is not always so easy.

 

How do you measure food safety culture?

Food companies can measure the culture and management commitment of a facility with on the floor observations – either by using a template or by using observations customized and written by plant personnel. These observations encourage employee to supervisor, or employee to internal auditor interaction. Be sure the observations incorporate a series of questions on categories determined by GFSI. 

 

What are some best practices?

It’s a best practice to record responses in real time and be sure to document everything. The documented data can be sliced, diced, and enumerated to determine gaps and resources needed for continuous improvement. 

Focus on the positive when providing your employees constructive criticism. Be sure to build them up through coaching. Make a point to record the things that employees do correctly, but gently refocus and redirect those who are missing the main message.

 

What are some resources I can use to help?

Alchemy’s IAFP Food Safety Innovation Award winning, Coach is a great tool to help automate observations and internal audits. Last year, Alchemy published nine observations for SQF Module 2 Level 2 – and joining this library are 22 observations for BRC! 

Not SQF or BRC certified?  That’s okay – you can edit these observations to reflect any other GFSI scheme or customer specific requirements as needed.


Learn more about Alchemy Coach. 
 

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About the Author

With over 30 years of experience in the food industry at companies like ConAgra, Kellogg, and Sara Lee, Holly has recently joined the Alchemy Systems team where she currently helps the firm to create world class workforce development solutions for large, complex operations within the food industry.

Holly has held positions in food safety, quality assurance, sanitation, and plant regulatory affairs. She has authored several chapters related to the importance of record keeping and documentation in the food industry. She was honored to become the 2013 recipient of the Safe Quality Food Institute's Outstanding Achievement Award, and is passionate about the importance of training in the food industry including the cultivation of successful safety cultures.

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