If the food safety culture is not visible within a company, a dire situation can arise during audits by government or certification institutions, resulting in a significant deviation. Since brokers and logistics companies do not produce goods, it is especially challenging for them to define and improve the food safety culture. Nevertheless, they can easily implement the desired culture in the following four steps.
Establish the current situation, possibly using a survey
Define an objective that involves “increasing the food safety culture”
Develop this objective into an action plan
Discuss the results in the management review and adjust if necessary
Devise a plan-do-check-act methodology for the four points above so that you have a sound “plan.”
It is often the case that the quality department draws up the plan and associated objectives and then submits them to management. However, this is not the correct way to proceed. Management must be demonstrably involved in the entire process. Therefore, management must be stimulated to participate in the thought process and to work with it. The quality department can support the management in this and indicate the right direction. Based on the examples below is explained how this support can take place:
Have management formulate an objective that highlights the terms ‘raise’ and ‘food safety culture’.
For example, ‘Increase food safety culture by providing relevant and up-to-date training’ or ‘Increase food safety culture and awareness by arranging for our QA department to attend a minimum of two current seminars on food safety’.
Now that you have formulated an objective in which the step emerges (PLAN). The means in these examples is by attending one or more training programs.
Based on the objectives in the first step, the organization’s training program is now created and/or adjusted (again: PLAN). Provide a specific program with a timetable. In a short internal memo to staff members, you can formulate the goal of the training. In other words: let the term food safety culture be clearly stated in this memo. When the actual training takes place, you have the ‘DO’ up and running. The actual elaboration and the information regarding the training itself form evidence that can be used during the audit. This way you can easily give insight into the content and enable the auditor to form an opinion about the level.
Within the management review, make a specific assessment of the food safety culture in which you clearly describe what actions have been taken and what the contribution was to improving the culture. With this, you have the ‘CHECK’ in place. If additional improvements are necessary, include them in the improvement plan and close the circle with the ‘ACT’ step. Be sure to describe this topic in sufficient detail in the management review. A sentence such as ‘the food safety culture has been successfully increased by implementing the training program’ is insufficient. Describe why it was successful. What effect it had and what processes, for example, have improved. In short: describe the actual effect. Were there none? Or was it disappointing? Describe this as well. After all, not every training is equally successful!
In the above examples, a combination of the various components in the QA plan were explored to give content to ‘increasing the food safety culture’. It is not mandatory to have a separate A4 sheet with a plan, although it is, of course, allowed. Some companies draft a new procedure or work instruction. Others emphasize the subject of food safety using newsletters, toolbox meetings, or meetings. It is up to the management to consider an appropriate interpretation.