Food safety culture

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Food safety culture: a powerful tool

Recalls in Australia and overseas can often be traced back to how people behave, and assumptions made within the food business. The food safety culture of a business is how everyone (owners, managers, employees) thinks and acts in their daily job to make sure that the food they make is safe.

Dairy RegTech uses a food safety culture maturity model to identify strengths and areas for improvement in a business. The model is based on internationally recognised codes and practices, including recommendations of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).

From this basis, a culture maturity model specifically adapted to suit the dairy industry was developed in consultation with global expert Dr Lone Jespersen, Chair of the GFSI Food Safety Culture Working Group.

The aim of the model is to show the relationship between behaviours that can be observed in food manufacturing and how these impact food safety.

The model plots observed behaviours on a maturity scale from less mature to fully mature.

A mature food safety culture changes the conversation from being reactive (e.g. ‘Why did XYZ happen?’) to being proactive (e.g. ‘What’s my responsibility to ensure this food is produced safely?’).

Improving everybody’s understanding and appreciation of food safety, and their responsibility to maintain it, can help businesses avoid adverse incidents and make lasting improvements in their food safety results.

Click here for our food safety culture factsheet, which outlines the business benefits of a mature food safety culture and a summary of the Dairy RegTech assessment process

 

Who is responsible for food safety culture?

Everyone at a business is responsible for food safety culture and it applies to every activity.

For dairy businesses with a mature food safety culture, we see:

  • Senior leaders looking at food safety performance as a key business indicator, in the same way they would look at productivity and profitability
  • Managers and production supervisors dedicating time and effort to ensure their teams understand and have the training, resources and systems required to meet their food safety responsibilities. They also monitor that these responsibilities are being met and engage their teams to look for better ways to ensure the food they produce is safe.
  • Everyone understands they have a part to play and are responsible for ensuring food is safe.

 

How Dairy RegTech will measure food safety culture?

Dairy RegTech uses a food safety culture maturity model to identify strengths and areas for improvement in a business. A mature food safety culture recognises human behaviour within an organisation and the impact that behaviour has on food safety performance.

During a food safety culture assessment, the DFSV food safety culture specialist will assess the following dimensions of culture within a dairy manufacturing business:

  • Values and mission
  • People
  • Adaptability
  • Consistency
  • Risks and hazards awareness

Under each of these dimensions, DFSV will assess systems, activities, resources and traits of a manufacturing site that enable a more mature food safety culture. In DFSV’s food safety culture maturity model, these are called ‘enablers’ and there are two or three under each dimension.

The DFSV food safety culture specialist will assess these enablers to give your manufacturing site a score from one (least mature) to five (most mature).

The scores from the two or three enablers under each dimension are averaged to give a score for the relevant dimension.

The scores for the five dimensions are averaged for one overall food safety culture maturity score on the same scale.

Scores indicate the stage of maturity for a business food safety culture. These stages are Doubt, React, Know, Predict and Internalise. See the table below for more information.

Stage on food safety culture maturity model

What you might see at your site

Example of how people are likely to behave

Stage 1 Doubt

People at the business or site doubt food safety processes and their abilities. They act in response to external pressures or a serious food safety issue.

There is inconsistent support from leaders and insights from collected data is reported sporadically or not at all.

Nobody speaks of food safety issues out of fear.

This comes under the People dimension.

Stage 2 React

People at the business or sites react to invent systems and tools when problems occur and are identified by production staff interpreting data.

Food safety is taken seriously however not in a preventative mode.

Meetings, emails, etc to communicate leadership message are only implemented when there is an issue.

This comes under the Values and mission dimension.

Stage 3 Know

People across the business know about food safety and demonstrate that knowledge.

Food safety risks are well understood through meaningful data and systems. Leaders drive recognition programs.

Leaders and supervisors work with teams to strengthen their attitude towards food safety.

This comes under the Adaptability dimension.

Stage 4 Predict

People across the business are involved in improving practices and procedures to predict food safety risks.

Knowledge and data are used to remove risks and variation from food safety procedures. Communication is aligned with company values and specific practices.

Investments are made in real-time technology tools.

This comes under the Consistency dimension.

Stage 5 Internalise

People across the business internalise the importance of food safety and their role in protecting it. Each team has a deep understanding of current hazards and potential risks, and is encouraged to challenge the existing food safety systems to understand if there are better ways to avoid risks.

Peer observations and dialogue are included in ongoing risk analysis.

This comes under the Risks and hazards awareness dimension.

To see a larger version of the food safety culture maturity model that DFSV uses in Dairy RegTech, click the image below.

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Dairy RegTech food safety culture assessment

Assessing food safety culture provides information about the level of commitment a business has to food safety, and how it promotes behaviours which improve food safety. Dairy RegTech enables licensees to understand what they do well to encourage food safety behaviours and where they can improve. Through Dairy RegTech, they will also be able to see how their food safety score compares to the industry benchmark.

Internationally, most food businesses assessed fall in the middle of this scale. DFSV also saw this in the 2019 Dairy RegTech pilot. By understanding where they are, and having aspirational goals and a pathway forward, manufacturers in Dairy RegTech can empower their staff and improve food safety.

DFSV will conduct three activities to assess a manufacturing site’s food safety culture:

Activity

What’s involved?

Who’s involved?

Where does it happen?

Employee survey

Employees answer questions about food safety at the manufacturing site through online provider, Qualtrics, renowned for is security

All employees

Online

Focus group discussion/s

A DFSV food safety culture specialist will lead a discussion about food safety at the manufacturing site with one or multiple groups of production staff.

The number of focus groups held depends on the size of the manufacturing site with bigger sites requiring more focus groups

Production staff

On-site

Leader interview/s

A DFSV food safety culture specialist will interview the manufacturing sites leader or members of the leadership team.

The number of interviews held depends on the size of the manufacturing site with bigger sites requiring more interviews.

Manufacturing site leader/s

On-site


DFSV will combine the results to calculate scores for the manufacturing site’s food safety culture.

The manufacturing licensee will receive a report that will include:

  • An overall maturity score of the food safety culture
  • Scores for each food safety culture dimension
  • Scores for each food safety culture enabler 

This report will allow licensees to identify gaps and prioritise actions in a strategy or plan for continuous improvement.

Under Dairy RegTech, licensees will be able to spend time talking about their current food safety culture maturity and plans for progress with a DFSV food safety culture specialist. DFSV plans to monitor any trends among licensees who have transitioned to Dairy RegTech and publish generalised support material as required.

Manufacturers who have transitioned to Dairy RegTech will have the opportunity to have their food safety culture reassessed. The interval between assessments will be agreed between the manufacturer and DFSV.

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Click here to learn about Holy Goat Cheese's experience with Dairy RegTech

 

Licensees will have an independent and deeper understanding of the food safety culture of their manufacturing site. As well as an overall score, which they will be able to compare against industry benchmarks, they will also receive a breakdown of their scores across the different dimensions of food safety culture. This will enable licensees to identify gaps and prioritise actions in a strategy or plan for continuous improvement.

Through Dairy RegTech, DFSV is supporting licensees to improve their food safety culture by:

  • Assessing the food safety culture (because as the saying goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure)
  • Having a DFSV food safety culture specialist speak with licensees about their current food safety culture maturity and plans for progress
  • Have the opportunity for their food safety culture to be reassessed at an interval appropriate for the manufacturing site
  • Monitor for any trends among licensees who’ve transitioned to Dairy RegTech and publish generalised support material as required

What is food safety culture?

Food safety incidents in Australia and overseas can often be traced back to how people behave, and assumptions made within the food business. The food safety culture of a business is how everyone (owners, managers, employees) thinks and acts in their daily job to make sure that the food they make is safe.

Who is responsible for food safety culture?

Everyone in the business is responsible for food safety culture and it applies to every activity.

Why is DFSV assessing food safety culture as part of Dairy RegTech?

DFSV wanted to adopt a different approach to its compliance services that would encourage deeper engagement with its licensees and provide additional information to them, to enable them to improve behaviours related to food safety. The Victorian dairy industry has a strong food safety track record, but by working with licensees to better understand and improve food safety culture, DFSV aims to improve performance and reduce major food safety incidents and recalls.

How long will it take to assess the food safety culture of my business? And how often do I need to have it reassessed?

The Dairy RegTech team will work with licensees to conduct the three activities to assess food safety culture: a survey of all employees, focus group discussions, and leader interviews. These activities will happen over a three to four-month period.

Once the assessment is complete, the report generated will include a score for the overall food safety culture maturity of the site, as well as a score breakdown of each dimension and enabler along with some insights specific to the site. Licensees can expect to receive the report within 10 business days.

Manufacturers who have transitioned to Dairy RegTech will have the opportunity to have their food safety culture reassessed. The interval between assessments will be agreed between the manufacturer and DFSV.