Food safety culture: How are you getting on with meeting BRCGS requirements?
We are all well aware of the multiple issues, many involving the meat industry, that resulted in food safety and quality culture being forced up the agenda. It’s a positive step forward that food safety and quality culture is now a requirement in many certification standards and customer codes of practice and is certainly not a topic exclusive to BRCGS. However, inserting a few lines into a standard and the reality of bringing this to life and practically implementing it are two very different things (with the latter being by far the greater challenge!). I’m sure most of you are making good progress and probably facing several challenges along the way!
There are many ways of tackling culture, including some off the shelf solutions. However, a word of caution here, if you are planning to use an ‘off the shelf’ solution you need to have done this in good time before your BRCGS audit as you will be required to show you have reviewed the effectiveness of completed activities.
How do you go about establishing and improving a food safety and quality culture?
Here are my thoughts in a simple 5 step process:
Define what good looks like for a positive food safety culture
Make this specific to your site. Align it with your existing company values and vision. How do you expect people to behave in a positive food safety culture? What would they be routinely doing or not doing? For example, being keen to contribute to effective root cause analysis investigations and not walking past things they know are wrong.
Measure where you are currently
What is your starting point? What are you already good at as a site and where are your opportunities for improvement? Identify your main gaps. Ask different members of staff, different levels and departments within your operation about how they see the culture on-site. This is where you could utilise a staff questionnaire, ensuring you gain all the value by thoroughly analysing the data gathered.
Create an action plan of how to fill the gaps and establish/improve your culture
Start with the quick wins to help generate some momentum. Avoid being too ambitious as this may lead to nothing actually sticking long term. Try to be both persistent and consistent with your culture message and actions. Avoid changing the goalposts, this is why it’s so vital to have your senior leadership team on board.
Assess the impact of the actions you have implemented
Define some relevant KPIs and other metrics that can help you measure culture. It’s likely that you will already have some relevant KPIs in place such as complaints, non-conformance trackers, GMP audit scores etc. Ensure these KPIs are clearly referenced as culture metrics and are discussed on a frequent basis. Feedback the trends and data to your teams – simple ideas like ‘table talkers’ (table menu displays) can be very effective in maintaining staff engagement.
Review you plan and your progress against it
A positive food safety culture takes time to embed and so your action plan needs a long term focus. Culture isn’t something we repeat every year! Review your progress against your plan each year and in response to any significant changes such as significant trends in KPIs, deliberate sabotage or a change of ownership
Want to find out more about our Food Safety & Quality Culture courses?
Food Safety & Quality Culture for BRCGS
- In-House Courses for up to 12 delegates – find out more