Does your facility have a culture of food safety?
Does every employee understand what food safety is, why it’s important and how the way they do their job can affect food safety?
Food safety is considered by many to be the foundation of product quality, and is not the responsibility of any one individual. In many ways this can be looked at in the same way as your employee safety programs. Not only do the programs need to be in place, but also employees need to be trained on these programs and they should be encouraged to watch—and where needed—help their co-workers to follow the rules and guidelines of the OSHA safety programs.
The same is true for food safety. Establish your food safety programs and good manufacturing programs, train your employees on them and encourage them to help observe and make sure that everyone is working to the same plan. This needs to include employees from all departments, not just production and sanitation, because food safety rules need to apply to everyone. If production employees are required to wear hair and beard nets, then all management and other visitors need to abide by these rules as well.
When it comes to explaining the importance of food safety and following GMPs to production and sanitation employees, I have found it helpful to make the connection between the product being produced and their families. Show the team members the product that you are producing and ask them if they eat this product or feed it to their families. Then explain that even if they don’t eat it themselves, somebody just like them is probably eating it. From here I move on to ask them if they would want to eat a product knowing that it was produced in a way that might cause the product to be contaminated so that it could make them or their family sick.
Making the connection between how they work and the health of their family and friends seems to help. This explanation raises awareness that what they are producing is not just a product but also something that they—or their families—will eat, and helps emphasize the importance of following the food safety GMPs.
Elis Owens, Ph.D., Director, Technical Services, Birko, can be reached at EOwens@birkocorp.com, 303-289-1090.