5 Questions with Jeremiah Szabo, Safe Food Alliance

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October 13, 2020

Wherever your company is on its food safety journey, it pays to start talking about your company’s Food Safety Culture and setting goals to improve it. Jeremiah Szabo, VP of Professional Services for Safe Food Alliance, explains what the topic of Food Safety Culture is all about.

1 What is Food Safety Culture?

When some hear the term “Food Safety Culture”, they may think that because their company scores the highest rating on food safety audits, excellent customer reviews, and maintains low customer complaints, this is something that “just happens”. Food Safety Culture spans the divide from traditional food science into behavioral science, which studies why people and groups of people behave a certain way based on their shared values and beliefs.

2 What are the GFSI Food Safety Culture requirements?

In 2015, the GFSI Technical Working Group decided to focus on developing Food Safety Culture guidance for industry, which culminated with the publication of the GFSI position paper called “A Culture of Food Safety” in 2018. Since, GFSI benchmarked standards have been striving to address this topic. For example, the Management Commitment section of the BRCGS standard already has a clause dedicated to Food Safety Culture, and other standards such as SQF will soon release a new edition to include a direct Food Safety Culture call out.

3 What does Food Safety Culture look like day-to-day?

It is important to understand that that the term “Culture” is not good or bad, but rather how individuals and groups of individuals do things within your company. To improve how things are done, we must change behavior for the better utilizing a variety of tools such as training, peer pressure, ethical, logical, and emotional appeal, job aides, and much more. This is a process which takes consistency and time. As the saying goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day!”

4 What role does training play?

Training plays a key role in in changing the mindset of employees and the group. With training to improve culture we must move the needle from a procedural only focus and more towards a systematic knowledge focus, the “Why” we do things, not just “How” to do things. Training must be front, center, and continuous. The way we train is also important because employees respond to different styles of training. For this reason, it’s important to mix in external training to supplement your internal training, utilizing experts and relatable trainers to further the education process and expand food safety topical knowledge with a focus leading back to the “Why”.