IFST’s Food Safety Group is hosting an event ahead of World Food Safety Day to highlight the importance of a food safety culture.

The event on June 6 will feature presentations from Sterling Crew, chair of IFST Food Safety Group and managing director at SQS Ltd, and Denis Treacy, chief technical officer at Culture Compass Ltd, who between them have more than 60 years’ worth of experience in the food supply chain.

The pair will review current best practice and share their experience on the challenges of delivering a positive food safety culture. The test for businesses is to get a food safety culture into their operations so a good practice is second nature and embraced from the boardroom to the shop floor.

The Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) is a U.K. group for people involved in food science and technology.

Denis Treacy

Treacy told Food Safety News that the behavioral culture of an organization falls into four key categories.

“These are reactive, supervised, independent and interdependent, each representing a different maturity level and set of capabilities and competencies of both the management team and the operators,” he said.

“Food safety can be written into the policies, procedures, and duties of an organization and be part of processes, but success depends upon the maturity of the culture, which in-turn is depended upon the behaviors of the leadership team and the competence of the workforce to apply the policies and procedures.”

Food safety, or any behavior dependent deliverable, can be measured by failures such as complaints, non-conformances or incidents of contamination, said Treacy.

“Targets will normally be set to reduce such instances, and this will – if driven hard – have a measure of success. Without cultural maturity, it may also drive the re-evaluation of these failure measures, so improvements are seen by re-defining or even removing numbers by means other than the improvement of standards,” he said.

“To drive a cultural change, you have to measure positives and negative indicators, but only target the positives, so they perpetuate a positive and inquisitive culture, not driven by failure and blame. Positive measure example is the identification and removal of unsafe conditions that could give rise – if unattended – to a failure.”

Measuring and keeping a food safety culture

Treacy said it will be “difficult” to stop food safety culture becoming a buzzword that everyone says but not all do.

“Particularly as we include what the world believes cultural measures to be in certifications such as BRC version 8. The success of any behaviorally dependent deliverable is to ensure it is embedded in the uncompromising values of the business and is non-negotiable.”

Food safety culture has been included in the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 8.

One challenge is preventing any decline in standards once companies do have a food safety culture, like what can happen once certification is achieved.

“Unfortunately this will be the case, unless businesses are mindful that certification could serve to provide a completely false sense of security, particularly where quality assurance and food safety teams in businesses are now so focused on accreditation standards and success in audits, they have actually lost the ability to evaluate risk for themselves,” said Treacy.

The session will review the current best practice and look to the future as well as including a workshop to be interactive.

The first-ever World Food Safety Day (WFSD) will be marked on June 7, 2019, under the theme “Food Safety, everyone’s business”.

Crew said the behavior is an important part of creating a positive food safety culture.

“I believe that only by understanding and changing a food handler’s behavior, will we be able to embed food safety into an organization’s culture and drive improvement. It will be great to get a view of food safety culture from the group.”

The event costs £10 for IFST members and £46 (including one year of IFST membership) for non-members. To book a place in London click this link

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