Practical tips on introducing technology to communicate, maintain and raise standards
Sharing best practices was a key focus of the recent Global Food Safety Conference in Tokyo, Japan (5-8 March 2018). Both Land O’Lakes and McDonald’s, who were featured speakers at Diversey’ special session, stressed the need to continually work to improve existing food safety measures with technology. Cindy Jiang – Senior Director of Food and Packaging Safety at McDonald's – described how food safety is the company’s number one priority, with the 65 million customers the company serves each day trusting that the same standards are maintained globally.
Creating a culture around food safety
Food safety culture is about raising awareness and making employees understand why food safety is essential to the business and, more importantly, their customers. However, food safety culture is only created if a company invests time, money and resources, while bringing personnel on board as well. This involves addressing people’s perceptions, beliefs, attitudes, values, practices and behaviors.
Science and technology have opened significant opportunities to improve and ensure food safety. Organizations in the food industry – whether manufacturing, distributing or serving food – have an investment in always making sure the product is safe. If everyone feels responsible for food safety and pays attention to unsafe conditions – taking immediate action to correct them – the fundamentals of a food safety culture are in place.
A visible commitment
For this to be effective, a company’s management need to show visible commitment to food safety by making it their number one priority. Company leaders have to set a good example and demonstrate best practice. Every team should have the same goal and be fully committed to making food safe. But the key is the leadership who effectively communicates these values. It is also important to explain the reasons behind food safety measures within an organization. Frontline employees need to embrace these values entirely and, by understanding the ‘why’ behind their actions, they are much more likely to follow the rules.
Technology gets new staff onboard
Communication is not the only essential element. Teaching a new member of an organization about the importance of food safety is crucial. Staff training and e-learning opportunities should be offered to every new employee as soon as they join the company. McDonald’s finds it particularly useful to work with training videos. The reason behind this is the high turnover of staff in the restaurants, and that videos are easily accessible through online e-learning platforms. Ensuring a functioning food safety culture poses a challenge especially for new and inexperienced kitchen workers or waiters. McDonald's prioritizes videos as a solution, and has developed messaging that is comprehensive and easy to understand.
Technology and training
Providing continuous refresher courses for existing workers is equally important. When new technology or new products are introduced, training staff sufficiently about the new features is key. New tools and technology should be intuitively designed and user-friendly, but that does not make training any less important.
Land O’Lakes highlight cross-generational training as highly effective. Because the younger millennial generation is much more tech-savvy, they help explain technology to the older employees. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the same methods will work for every business. Providing training that meets the exact needs of employees can still be challenging. To ensure this need is met might mean considering outside help from consulting firms.
Maintaining standards with technology
In addition to training and e-learning platforms, having the proper equipment and technology to monitor and analyze standards is a massive help in ensuring food safety. Temperature monitoring is one example, in particular when used for cold chain monitoring from the manufacturer until products are distributed to the warehouse, transported to the retailer, or to a food service outlet. Temperature monitoring systems use sensors to gauge the temperature of food during storage, sending email and text alerts to managers to signal deviations and enable quick corrections.
Cloud-based washing platforms track dishwasher data to not only ensure hygiene compliance but also attain the highest possible operational performance.
Technology in critical manufacturing or kitchen equipment will provide hard data about food safety and help in bringing transparency and in visualizing trends.
Ultimately, technology is helping to reduce human error, monitor business and reduce risks to ensure brand protection. Technology is not the single solution, but it is an enabler of simplified procedures. Thereby user-friendliness is the key to ensure flawless execution as well as a high adoption rate.
Food safety is a journey, not a destination. Food safety cannot be seen as a separate entity but has to be embedded in every process, and to be fully embraced across an organization. On the other hand, technology can automate and facilitate the work, while bringing unprecedented insights and trends. The aim of employing technology is in creating a culture of transparency, making employees feel more engaged and active. All of which positively contributes to the creation and dissemination of an effective food safety culture.
This post was written and contributed by:
Joséphine Arrighi de Casanova
Diversey Consulting Global Marketing Manager