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Food Safety Management: the importance of the human factor

By: Institutional Cleaning | July 26, 2021 | Reading time: 3 minutes

The COVID-19 Lessons for the Food Safety Equation

World Food Safety Day

Whether it's about a micro-organism transmitted via food, direct contact, droplets, a vector or the airborne route, the basic lessons for infection prevention & for food safety are pretty much the same. It's all about assessing the risks, conducting effective behaviors and making all necessary corrections based on solid & reliable data. Just as a circle has no end, this cycle should be repeated again and again for continuous improvement.

Covid-19 infection prevention preparation supported by your Food Safety Management System

The recent pandemic has heightened awareness and implementation of good hygiene practices which are also critical to food safety. 

Starting from the introduction of Good Hygiene Practices (GHP) and establishment of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system (CAC, 2003), the Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) have become increasingly critical. There are several common elements found within the approach of the British Retail Consortium (BRC, 2018), International Featured Standards (IFS, 2017), and Safe Quality Food (SQF, 2019which are critical to food safety. One such program is the Prerequisite Program (PRP) which is the basis of every FSMS and HACCP system. A hazard-based approach is vital to identify, control and decrease food safety risks in all food supply chains.

Just like in a pandemic, a risk-based approach is a fundamental pillar to mitigate food safety crisis risk and to strengthen the resilience of your company

A recent study (Covid-19 pandemic effects on food safety - Multi-country survey study ? April 2021) demonstrates the effectiveness of food safety system implementation during the Covid-19 pandemic citing FSMS maturity as the main trigger. This multi-country survey coordinated by the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Belgrade was conducted in 16 countries involving 825 food companies. Based on the results of this survey, the level of maturity of the food safety system in place was identified as the decisive factor in classifying company responses to the pandemic challenges. It has been confirmed that companies with an advanced FSMS who are armed with dynamic risk management and a vigorous food safety culture have implemented more rigorous Covid-19 preventive measures within their operating facilities. 

Preparing for Mr. Murphy: The importance of adaptability and awareness

This study revealed that staff awareness is recognized as the most influential attribute in implementing Covid-19 infection prevention practices. This firmly aligns with Diversey Consulting's? belief, that Food Safety culture and the human factor are prerequisites for effective Food Safety management.

Food Safety Culture can be defined as; shared values, beliefs and norms that affect mindset and behavior toward food safety in, across and throughout an organization.? It is the product of employee attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that determine the commitment to and robustness of an organization's food safety management. 

Simply put: safe behavior makes safe food. Establishing a food safety culture where each and every person not only knows the potential risk and their role but understands that they are part of the complete food safety equation.

While a strong food safety culture will include concrete expectations, it is also an entity that should be evolving constantly.  Anyone that has worked in the food industry surely has encountered ?Murphy's law?, the epigram that is typically stated as: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong".

And in order to avoid a visit from Mr. Murphy, adaptability is another key pillar in a strong Food Safety Management system. The key factors for a roadmap in changing culture are to maintain strong communication and to create buy-in: up, down, and horizontally. Proper communication will help ensure that the program is properly implemented and that every person in the company not only understands their role but realizes that they are an integral part of the overall food safety equation.

Just as in a pandemic, the people's level of knowledge and their personal conduct make all the difference in the food safety world.

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Diversey – A Solenis Company

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