Have you ever looked at a plate of food and wondered exactly what goes into making it? More than simply growing, nurturing and rearing the individual ingredients, there’s also the crucial task of ensuring that every element travels from farm to fork safely. And that’s where food safety comes in.
Also known as food hygiene, food safety involves overseeing the preparation, handling and storage of food to avoid any contamination or health hazards that could result in food poisoning. Whether it’s at home, at a restaurant, or at a factory, food safety is always of vital importance to ensure produce is safe for human consumption. While it can be challenging, creating a culture of food safety both on an individual and a commercial level is essential in ensuring ongoing health and wellness, and risk prevention.
Why is food safety so important?
Ensuring that food is safe for human consumption is a critical part of health and safety – particularly considering that millions of people are affected by foodborne illnesses every year. Not only does this result in a loss of income for individuals, it results in a decrease in productivity as well, which has a direct effect on the economy. It also places undue stress on overburdened healthcare systems, and can lead to a lack of confidence in the food industry as a whole. With such far-reaching consequences, it becomes clear that food safety doesn’t just impact a few isolated individuals – it affects us all.
Implementing food safety protocols
So how does one go about a creating a culture of food safety within an organisation? Let’s take a look at some of the most effective methods.
1. Lead from the front
Employees always look to their superiors to set the standard, so it’s important to ensure that all those in senior positions are seen to be setting a good example. Cleanliness, safety and food protocols need to be established and adhered to, with leaders demonstrating a strong commitment to all food safety guidelines, and enforcing them regularly as well. If your organisation is viewed as placing a strong emphasis on food hygiene, this way of thinking will filter down to the employees, creating an excellent foundation for a culture of food safety going forward.
2. Offer ongoing training and education
In order for a culture of food safety to be not just introduced but entrenched, employees need to understand exactly why food hygiene protocols are important in the first place. It’s here that ongoing training becomes so crucial – explaining the reasoning behind food safety rules in order to empower employees with the knowledge they need to adhere strictly to food hygiene guidelines. Why does the internal temperature of food need to be taken? Why do raw foods need to be treated differently to pre-cooked foods? Understanding the various ‘whys’ of food safety is hugely valuable, both for your employees and your organisation.
3. Provide the necessary equipment
It’s no good training your staff in food safety if you don’t have the correct equipment available to help them execute what they’ve learned. For this reason it’s important to have the necessary resources on hand to help your employees adhere to food safety protocols, whether this includes kitchen equipment, monitoring equipment, or even protective clothing. Safety first!
4. Conduct regular inspections
Once you’ve trained your staff and ensured that they have the tools and resources they need, you’ll need to conduct regular inspections to determine whether or not your food safety protocols are being adhered to. During these inspections, you’ll need to assess whether guidelines are being followed, whether individual responsibilities are being met and whether the correct controls are in place to ensure complete food safety at all times. If any of the protocols are not being met, this will need to be addressed swiftly, with any non-compliant procedures or behaviours amended immediately.
Further to these steps, food allergy protocols and basic hygiene measures should also be followed to ensure a clean, safe environment, and optimal levels of food hygiene throughout. Staying up-to-date with current food safety news and headlines can also be helpful in knowing what to be aware of, while employing the services of a third party expert can also be valuable in terms of training and compliance.
Creating a culture of food safety can take time at first – introducing new protocols and asking for staff buy-in can be challenging, particularly where new concepts are involved. However while change takes time, changing to a culture of food safety is a necessary step, not just for the health of your business, but for our collective health and safety going forward.