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A Culture of Food Safety - Takeaways from the recent GFSI position paper

Updated: Feb 14

Food safety culture is “Shared values, beliefs, and norms that affect mindset and behavior toward food safety across and throughout the organization”

Food Safety Culture Takeaways:


  • Changing culture is hard as we are not changing a formal system.

  • We should understand how the company’s overall values and mission affect the thinking of individuals within their perception groups. Do people understand how their role contributes to the organization’s mission and purpose?

  • A food safety culture is not “a one size fits all” proposition, it should be defined for each member and department in terms and expectations that are relevant and clear to them.

  • Vision and Mission statements need not mention food safety specifically, although their importance should be reflected in the company’s communications, including its website and corporate annual reports.

  • Setting the direction of the organization towards food safety requires a clear understanding of what success looks like and supported by both short-term and long-term milestones. Regular reviews and follow up are compulsory to ensure sustainability.

  • The true meaning of organization’s policies and procedures comes when they are translated into clear behavioral expectations for employees.

  • Messaging your staff about food safety aims to inform, educate, raise awareness or all constituents (full time, temporary employees, contractors, and external partners) so they develop the sense of ownership of their role in ensuring consumer safety and brand protection.

  • Food safety messages shall be tailored according to each targeted group and in multiple forms and changes regularly to keep it fresh, relevant and top-of-mind.

  • Channels to convey food safety messages includes company email, intranet, bulletin boards, team meetings and informal learning events.

  • Online surveys and employees focus groups could be considered among the tools of measuring the communication effectiveness.

  • Regarding food safety culture, every PEOPLE is involved from farm, field and fishing boat to processing, packaging, distribution and the serving of food plus marketing, sales,

  • customer service, in fact the entire food chain, end-to-end.

  • Creating a sense of personal responsibility starts from recruiting, on-boarding, capacity building, educating and empowering employees.

  • Traditional members of a food safety team cannot be solely responsible for an organization’s food safety culture.

  • The maturity of an organization’s food safety culture can be measured by the extent of stakeholders involvement and knowledge about shared food safety goals, assume accountability for their active role in maintaining food safety standards, and work in concert to achieve those objectives.

  • Whistle-blowing “confidential reporting” system is important, but the most crucial is the confidence of employees that their concerns will be treated seriously. Your staff will never give you a second chance if you failed once.

  • Employees has different levels of food safety knowledge and these variations will affect negatively the process reliability. Not only traditional training is required but also there is a need to process in place to routinely evaluate levels of understanding and initiate actions accordingly as using internal champions, coaching, and mentoring.

  • Excluding senior management from food safety training will result in managers lacking a fundamental understanding of food safety risks as well as the need for the resources to maintain compliance with a food safety programme.

  • Selecting competent TRAINER is an integral part of the companies efforts towards enhancing food safety culture programs.

  • Training which are not based on a clear competency matrix and training need analysis for individual rules is a total waste. Systems should focus on helping the individual determine a learning path, identifying the learning experiences that help the individual attain the desired competencies.

  • Behavioral influencer could be a person or a thing that has the capacity to have an effect on food safety protocols, procedures or behaviors that may positively or negatively impact the organizational food safety culture. To better understand the link between employee behaviors, the influencers of those behaviors and appropriate consequences to take based on employee behaviors, the ABC model (Antecedents, Behaviors, and Consequences) can be utilized.

  • An antecedent is something that comes before a behavior and is required for an individual to understand what is expected and how to perform a behaviors e.g. incentive, policy, stated expectations, training, job aids, circumstances, event past experience, that’s why it’s very crucial to address all those previous drivers to enhance your food safety culture programs.

  • Blame culture will deter any efforts to learn from failures and sharing best demonstrated practices.

  • To ensure consistent and effective application of a food safety programme that reinforces a culture of food safety, the following elements are required: Accountability, Performance measurement and Documentation.

  • A strong, company-wide measurement system comprised of organizational, functional and individual metrics, needed to help capturing the underlying mechanisms (artifacts, espoused values and beliefs, and underlying assumptions) that can influence the effectiveness of food safety implementation.

  • Adaptability of enterprises with a strong food safety culture is reflected in its skill in anticipating, preparing for and responding to change and unexpected disruptions to ultimately survive and prosper.

  • Critical components of adaptability include Food Safety Expectations and Current State, Agility and change management.

  • As a company, it is important to keep current on the latest industry intelligence including market incidents, changes to food safety legislation, significant new technology and analytical advances. The culture cannot evolve when focus is limited strictly to meeting minimum regulatory requirements.

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