Food safety issues have been taking up front pages in 2015 and sadly not for a good reason.
Recent E. coli outbreak traced to a well-known modern Mexican fast casual chain infected more than 50 people and led the company to shut down several restaurants. The outbreak was also a PR disaster for the company and damaged its reputation as a reliable provider of safe meals.
A 108 year old Texas based ice cream company announced its first ever recall of all products due to the Listeria contamination, resulting in close to $200M in losses.
Recalls and high-visibility cases like these dominate the news. Yet food safety issues haven’t been fully addressed and the progress has been slow.
An interesting fact: the modern carbon pencil was invented by Nicholas-Jacques Conte, a scientist serving in the army of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1795. What is more interesting is that paper and pencil recording remains to be a tool of choice for food safety management systems in the 21 century.
Quality assurance managers everywhere will agree that there is just simply too much paper to manage in the food processing and preparation operations making operations inefficient and resulting in costly mistakes. Temperature logs, traceability information, daily checklists, cleaning schedules, training- all still mostly recorded with pencil and the clipboard.
Even when modern technology advances have revolutionized almost every aspect of our lives, one of the most important and vital aspects, monitoring and ensuring the safety of food we consume has not advanced beyond paper and pencil, thus making it error prone and inefficient.
How can this situation be improved?
The beauty of the digital technology is its capacity to seamlessly pair tasks with complementary information. On-the-job training is an excellent illustration- digital food safety HACCP systems for example can offer video and interactive online training embedded in the HACCP checklists so that employees can brush up on information as they perform their daily tasks. Empowering staff with knowledge is an important step in increasing food safety culture through understanding why cleaning and sanitation is essential.
Importantly, many employees are not only accustomed but also expect user-friendly mobile technologies to aid in their daily work tasks. As the workforce grows younger, employees expect information they need to be at their fingertips and on-demand. Therefore, employing digital mobile technologies for staff learning is a necessity and not a luxury anymore.
Another example of how technology can improve your food safety culture is access to data. With the help of the modern digital systems not only your teams can learn more effectively but your managers can access operational data 24/7 on secure digital cloud storage. Up to date, easy to access systems enable managers to take a proactive approach to coaching and corrective actions. Risk based customizations such as alerts via texts or emails further enable active oversight and teamwork. Preventing serious mistakes that can lead to costly consequences such as recalls has become much easier, not to mention cheaper.
Anyone who received an overwhelming spreadsheet with hundreds of data points can relate to the importance of easy to read and act on reports. Most QA managers simply don’t have the time to do the complicated data analysis- they wish to know what is happening in their organizations now and have 24/7 access to an updated information. New digital food safety systems can make this wish a reality. Dashboard style reporting that is based on risk based approach to Food Safety and KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) that are operation- critical enable managers to take proactive approach to managing their operations. Why waste hours at the end of every week or month sifting through binders full of paper, when software lets you generate insights with the click of a button?
Today, technological advances must be a critical part of any modern food company’s operations as they allow your managers to grow and improve food safety culture, increase efficiencies and minimize risks. And paper and pencil can rest happily knowing that there is a better tool available to keep an eye on safety of food everywhere.
Contributed by Katie Das, Marketing Manager, Sealed Air Diversey Consulting