logo-National-Restaurant-AssociationA record setting number of attendees for the National Restaurant Association’s Quality Assurance Study Group’s annual session filled the Millennium Conference Room at Loews Philadelphia Hotel this past week for a three-day introspection of the industry’s food safety policies and practices. Day 1 was headlined with a keynote address by Frank Yiannas, Wal-Mart’s vice president of food safety and health and author of the book “Behavior = Food Safety.” He offered attendees tips on how to build and maintain a culture of customer care and cleanliness. His book has quickly become a leading manual on the why and how of culture change in foodservice. Hal King, president and CEO of Public Health Innovations LLC, opened Day 2 of the “Back to Basics” conference with a deep dive into implementing AMC, Active Managerial Control. He stressed the need for real-time data as the driver of timely corrective actions in a retail foodservice operation by the person in charge (PIC). Building on King’s presentation, Gary Ades, president of G&L Consulting Group LLC and formerly of Wal-Mart and Foster Farms, who presented an insightful lesson on how to sell food safety to senior management. Reports from the Food and Drug Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and an outbreak panel provided additional illustrations of the rising risks facing the restaurant industry. A team from the Handwashing For Life Institute opened Day 3 with an update about risk factors affecting all foodservice operators, underscoring the need for better process control for hand washing. hand washing stationConference attendees followed Pamela Ritz, president of Specialty Risk Management Inc., on a tour through the valley of current risk trends. Discussion showed agreement that Quality Assurance, Operations, and Risk Management staff must work together because they are the frontline forces in keeping top management out of jail and companies protected from the threat of high plaintiff awards. Simulated executive committees for chain restaurants delved into the new technologies available to monitor hand-washing compliance, starting with an assessment of the number of hand washes needed per shift to reach their standard of safety. SmartLink (GOJO) soap dispensers aligned with a brand new CloudClean data gathering and reporting system, Tier 1, was demonstrated as one readily available solution. One of its innovations is that it offers restauranteurs a monitoring option that does not require personal identification badges. There was a warm response to the concept of stimulating employee hand washing via reward programs, now that data is easily and cost-effectively available. The session closed with the suggestion foodservice operators follow the hand washing data trail to motivate employee hand washing and change the operational culture. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)