Food Safety Culture: What Does It Mean and Do You Have the Right One?

Christy Draus, Marketing Manager, Eagle Product Inspection

1 February 2019

While food safety may have been top of mind for a long time in your organization, is it part of a company-wide mindset? Going forward, a food safety culture isn’t just something to be achieved – it’s a must, according to the Issue 8 mandate of the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety that goes into effect this month. To ensure they have the right culture, companies need to begin with assessments of their current food safety culture and then work to ensure broad “ownership” of safety, beginning with senior management.

Is food safety a goal or a way of life at your company?

A recent update to the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety from Issue 7 to Issue 8 reflects the increasing focus on manufacturers’ total embrace of and adherence to a food safety culture. According to the BRC Issue 8 Mandate, food safety culture is now a compulsory requirement, and companies must have an action plan on how their activities impact product safety. Audits and certification to Issue 8 were scheduled to begin on February 1, 2019.

The significant change from Issue 7 to Issue 8 has been attributed to the belief that something was missing in many food safety programs, despite practices that have been put into place over the years. Such tangible and intangible gaps include unspoken rules (“This is always how we’ve done it.”), accepted levels of service or varying approaches to safety based on a certain job or role or pending deadline.

Put another way, instead of thinking of food safety broken down into steps or points in a line, think of it as an uninterrupted line that links every aspect of food production in an unbroken connection.

A vertical structure:

That uninterrupted line can be described as a vertical one: the updated BRC clauses are designed to have you question your current food safety culture to ensure that your organization has a truly vertical food safety culture. Importantly, that vertical culture begins at the top with senior management, who must be engaged to create foods safety plans and programs that are visible, easily communicated across the company and “owned” by employees at every level.

An honest, thorough assessment:

May sound like a big question, but determining the answer to “What does it mean to have a food safety culture?” and “Do you have the right food safety culture?” can be done by assessing the organizational culture as it is now. Next determine how and whether all employees are following that culture, from the receipt of raw materials to the shipment of packaged goods, and from shift to shift, day to day and department to department.

End-to-end measures:

“Is this product safe?” “Is this process safe?” Inspection technologies come into play in a strong food safety culture. X-ray systems and software put into place at various stages of production help assure door-to-door product safety and integrity. Moreover, x-ray systems on the line are a visible reminder of a commitment to food safety and a visual signal of vulnerability and vigilance. Ongoing training and support provided by x-ray experts also underscore the priority of a company’s comprehensive food safety culture.

As they work to define and improve their food safety culture in preparation for audits related to the BRC Standard for Food Safety, manufacturers can measure their efforts with tools like a Food Culture Excellence Assessment Module