Friday, July 24, 2015

Outside the Lab: Improving Food Safety in Your Organization

Safety is on the minds of Americans every day. When you get into your car, you buckle up. When you go to the lake, you lather on sunscreen. The same expectation of safety is extended to food. Each year, millions of dollars are spent on food safety initiatives. Yet, despite efforts, extensive outbreaks of foodborne illness continue to exist. It leads many to ask: What’s the problem? Is the testing conducted inadequate? Do we need MORE testing? Unfortunately, we may be asking the wrong questions.

Look to the People
Maybe the solution to food safety issues comes down to tackling the basic fundamentals of human error and decision making. Employees working while sick, poor personal hygiene, and the inadequate cleaning and sanitization of equipment are the three biggest contributors to foodborne illness outbreaks. How can we change this?  The common thread in these situations is people. Fortunately, individual behaviors and poor choices can be improved through education, training, and behavior modification. No matter how much testing is conducted, without proper training, tainted food will still make its way into to the market.

Create Solutions with a Culture of Commitment
Everything flows from the top down in an organization. Creating a culture of commitment is a great step in improving food safety. Management must define standards, expectations, goals, and consequences for nonconformity. Clear GMP’s & SSOP’s must be outlined and instilled through rigorous training. To quote Confucius: “What I hear I forget, what I see I remember, but what I do I understand.” Employees must do to understand. Signs and posters showing how to wash equipment is not nearly as effective as showing staff how to do it and then having them repeat the process.

Set Better Standards
Setting better standards for excellence is another food safety solution. Many times a passing grade is 80-90%. Proper handwashing and equipment sanitation with less than 100% efficiency will not produce the results you want. Just because something was cleaned 100% yesterday does not mean it can be cleaned less than 100% today.

Food safety must start on the front lines. By focusing on providing our front line workers adequate tools and training to get the job done, instead of more tests and standards, food safety is better achieved. Best practices do not only refer to how something is done, but how we will best educate and train the heart and soul of our companies, our employees.

Learn more about food laws and staying safe by attending MMTC’s EXPLORE: Food Tools of the Trade Event on Tuesday, August 11, 2015. Learn more about MMTC's food safety, quality and efficiency solutions here.


Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.

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