4 minute read
Home Run: Elements of a Successful Food Safety Program
Neeta Dash, Senior Product Specialist
Nathaniel Sheetz, Senior Director of Product Management
Juliana Buckley, Quality Assurance Specialist
It was 2016, in one of the greatest game sevens in World Series history when the Chicago Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians with an epic 10th inning performance. It was a game to remember, not only because the Cubs had finally won a pennant after 108 years, but because they came back from a 3-1 deficit, battling it out as a team to rise to the occasion and triumph. While many certainly marveled at this accomplishment, only those on or associated with the team truly knew the work and sacrifice needed to make this feat possible. What occurs behind the scenes is sometimes forgotten when we think of a successful sports team, successful organization or a successful program.
So, what does a successful food safety program have in common with the World Series champs from 2016? A systematic process.
This is the first installment in a series of posts examining the tools and four quadrants that make food safety programs successful.
A successful food safety program
The Cubs’ win was not realized in a day. It was only made possible through layers of hard work and their commitment to implementing a systematic process—one that looked at the various aspects of the business: the farm system, coaching, analytics and the organizational culture. In other words, teamwork and a strategic plan are the backbone of an organization’s success, and in anything we do, there are essential elements that make up a process that results in achieving the end goal.
At its core, food safety is a scientific discipline comprised of numerous elements involving the handling, preparation and storage of food in ways that prevent foodborne illness. Safe food handling is essential to the goal of winning customer loyalty. Both food safety regulations and customer expectations require that food retailers manage their exposure to risk and minimize food safety incidents while sustaining quality and consistency. Luckily, organizations can meet these expectations, maintain compliance and drive brand satisfaction by adopting a systematic and disciplined approach to food safety management.
Specifically, a well-designed food safety program is a strategic system based on a framework of food safety woven into four quadrants:
- Food production
- Food handling on the sales floor
- Sanitation and cleaning
Each quadrant helps to respond to environmental factors, changing regulatory compliance, and biological/chemical/physical hazards. A thorough, targeted approach to handling each area reinforces and builds the blocks for effective food safety management. Let’s explore what each quadrant covers.
Food safety in food production: The first quadrant is concerned with quality and consistency of prepared foods. Key areas of focus involve the development of recipes and process steps, compliance with established recipes/cooking processes, ingredient specifications, the development of critical control points for cook and chill times and temperatures, logs to record safe cook and chill temperatures, the proper maintenance of food coolers, and so forth.
Food safety on the sales floor: The second quadrant addresses food safety once the prepared food is brought to the retail space/sales floor, with a focus on food temperature monitoring and the corresponding records maintenance. This quadrant is also intended to provide guidance for scenarios of non-compliance with established safe food temperatures for the prepared goods on the sales floor.
Cleaning and sanitation for food safety: The third quadrant is focused on promoting hygiene and sanitation with respect to equipment, tools, floors, work surfaces, walls, ceilings, coolers, etc. This quadrant establishes cleaning/sanitation standards across the company and provides a clear overview of expectations with respect to cleaning and sanitation (via established tasks, guides to best practices, recommended frequency for performing each task, etc.).
Creating a food safety culture: The fourth quadrant focuses on associate training and hygiene, particularly by developing clear standards and educating associates to ensure compliance with food safety best practices. Clear training materials and protocols, visual aids, performance metrics and other communication mechanisms facilitate consistent execution.
Leverage the right supporting technology
In addition to having a structured process and discipline, as in sports, organizations need the tools to execute their strategies. Instead of bats and balls, the players in food safety leverage technology as their gear in the game. In recent years, more and more companies have been focused on utilizing technological advances to strengthen their food safety programs. For example, the growing use of data analytics facilitates faster and more efficient responses to prevent foodborne outbreaks from developing. At a high level, food safety applications create a vehicle to deliver training, expertise and guidance to your team. The application will help build the tasks and processes used to implement food safety, cleaning and sanitation practices in operational routines. With the data captured from system interaction, the application will provide you with near real-time program oversight and management—making food safety easier to implement, monitor and manage.
Whether one is looking at a sports organization and the Chicago Cubs’ World Series historic win or a food safety program, victory is attained by developing a disciplined foundation anchored by systematic processes. Methodically leveraging the four quadrants of effective food safety along with the right technology to support these programs will prepare organizations with the structure and tools they need for success.
Stay tuned to subsequent blog posts, which will provide a more in-depth look at each quadrant and discuss setting a system in place with respect to these four quadrants.