5 Questions with Paul Barnhill

Sponsored Content - ASK THE EXPERTS: Employee Hygiene

Poor personal hygiene is a leading cause of foodborne illnesses. Food manufacturing leaders must prioritize creating a food safety culture in order to protect their brand and their consumers. Below, Meritech COO Paul Barnhill focuses on the role leadership plays when creating a food safety culture.

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October 4, 2019

1 Why is a food safety culture so important?

Finished products are exposed to hundreds of pairs of hands throughout the production process. In order to ensure products are safe and high quality, each person throughout the supply chain needs to understand the importance of hand hygiene and footwear sanitation as it relates to a potential foodborne outbreak. Food safety practices are reliant upon human behavior which is most effectively influenced by culture.

2What are the risks of not prioritizing a food safety culture?

You’ve trained on SOPs or incorporated hygiene technologies into your facility, but without a focus on food safety culture, these efforts are occurring in silos. Failing to continually reinforce the importance of hand hygiene and footwear sanitation results in circumvention of SOP compliance and inhibits innovation within food safety. Even if your program is working today, without an ongoing focus around food safety culture, you will inevitably fall behind.

3 How can food processing leaders create lasting human behavior change?

Leadership must help each person in their organization fully understand why food safety matters. Employees need to be able to make an emotional connection from their actions to the health and safety of others. Ongoing visual representations are one way to keep food safety culture top of mind, and incorporating automated hygiene technologies is a simple way to remove the human variability from hygiene events.

4 What steps should leadership take to create a food safety culture?

It is critical to fully understand your people, place, and product. In order to successfully implement any sort of program, you must have a clear idea of what the day in the life of your employees looks like. Include third-party subject-matter experts to advise on the solutions that represent the importance of hand hygiene and footwear sanitation. Management must lead by example, holding people accountable and consistently training on the procedures that support the food safety culture.

5 Why is top-down ownership such a critical component in creating a culture of food safety?

Without top-down ownership, whether its securing an adequate budget, encouraging behavioral changes, or empowering employees to advocate for the importance of hand hygiene, leaders will struggle through challenge after challenge in aligning the organization to make food safety its top priority.