A number of articles in this issue include sections on the importance of employee education and communication, with a key focus on continuous education and understanding.
Although I never really doubted the wisdom of this, the true value was, literally, “brought home” to me recently, with much greater impact than I ever had anticipated …
Having written for QA for almost 10 years now, I’ve become pretty much the food safety guru of my extended family—sometimes to their consternation and raised eyebrows.
The impact on my daughter, however, has been quite a bit different. After living with me throughout those years, she has certainly learned through repetition: reading some of the articles in QA, and even attending some plant visits with me; hearing my utterance when a TV food show ignores the fact that a cook uses a utensil picked up off the floor, tastes from a spoon dipped back into a sauce, cuts vegetables with the same knife as was just used on raw meat, etc. (Thankfully, these shows are beginning to get better, with judges sometimes refusing to eat foods prepared in an unsafe manner); and seeing me discard leftovers that sat out too long or were otherwise unsafe.
So, when my daughter and I decided it was time to do a major clean out of the pantry, we went through the items that were purchased and tasted, then, for one reason or another, were never touched again; checked expiration dates to discard items past their safe use; and selected cans and boxes that had not been opened, but were still good, to give to the food pantry.
The surprise to me came when she would get ready to drop an item into the trash, and I’d say, “Whoa, hold up. Why are you getting rid of that one?” With that look in her eyes that all parents know (“Really, Mom?”), she said, “It’s past its date.”
“But,” I said, “It’s a powdered chocolate mix … and I just used it last week.”
“Well, you’re lucky you didn’t get sick. The date on it is 2010.”
Okay, so maybe, even accounting for the fact that some dates reflect quality rather than safety, I had to admit that we should let that one go.
But there were certainly other items that were not quite so far past their dates, that I knew reflected quality, and that I would have kept … at least a little longer. But when you’ve been the guru of food safety, how much can you say? Did I really want to dislodge all that I’d instilled by causing confusion? And (“Really, Mom?”), if we hadn’t eaten it in all that time, were we really going to? I did put my foot down on a couple of items, but overall, I let her do her clean out.
And, suffice it to say, our pantry has never been so up to date!
If this is in any way reflective of the impact of ongoing communication, education, and retraining in the plant, can you (“Really, [insert your name here]?”) afford to not do it?