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Implementing a Food Safety Culture


Implementing a Food Safety Culture in your operation sounds like a noble achievement, and is often mentioned as very important to a safe and successful food establishment. But what does the term “Food Safety Culture” really mean?

Developing a food safety culture at work essentially means for employees and management to virtually eat, sleep and breathe food safety in your operation. Everything you do is governed by the desire to lift up food safety and sanitation, every day, every shift, together in a positive way.

Whether you are referring to personal hygiene, food rotation, surface cleaning, preventing cross contamination, or temperature controls, the objective is to develop a mindset in employees and management to practice safe behaviors. Consistent positive behaviors around food safety and sanitation long-term comprise a strong food safety program, and is essentially an expression of the food safety culture in a foodservice operation.

A strong food safety program in your operation can help to:

  • Engage and motivate staff to practice safe behaviors
  • Reduce risk
  • Enhance customer satisfaction
  • Protect your brand

Food safety protocols should be firmly embedded in employee behaviors and followed consistently throughout the workplace, from preparation areas  to facility sanitation.  Raise the food safety culture in your operation through these actions:

  • Modeling proper behaviors by management to engage staff, and for employees to learn and value these practices at work themselves
  • Written procedures in place to ensure correct procedures, including  handwashing, cooling, cooking, labeling, storage
  • Training for all existing and new employees
  • Keep training sessions short, visual and interactive
  • Posters and bi-lingual wall charts to help keep food safety a priority
  • Ongoing evaluations and corrective actions, in a positive way
  • Review inspection reports together to help improve results and staff behaviors

The key to building a food safety culture at work is for management to lead by example, stressing  the importance of  a clean environment and safe food. The goal is to build cooperation and engagement of employees and there are a number of ways that contribute to this. Being open about your restaurant's vision and purpose, and your business' challenges and successes, will build trust and an environment of partnership. Enlist the ideas and energy of staff, to help them feel that their work is meaningful and important, and involve staff in setting goals around food safety practices. Offer frequent positive reinforcement of successes and good behaviors, and display wall charts showing progress and successes achieved. 

Finally, be persistent and strive for continuous improvement in food safety practices, and you will enjoy the successes of a food safety culture in your operation.

By Cindy Rice, FS, CP-FS,MSPH