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A look at the GFSI position paper of building a food safety culture – Part 2

So much of what we do in South Africa regarding food safety management systems has its roots in the GFSI benchmarking requirements and benchmarked standards. It, therefore, stands to reason that we should at least consult them when it comes to our food safety culture efforts.

Late in 2018, the GFSI published its position paper on food safety culture. This 3-year project was undertaken by a technical working group of 35 leading food safety experts from around the world. Of course, we should consider their opinions.

This week we look at the dimensions or constructs of food safety culture as identified by the GFSI.

The vision and mission of an organisation are normally high-level documents. They should be prepared by the senior management team (NOT the food safety team) as they set the direction for the company. We must acknowledge that the main mission of any company is to make a profit. Why we exist and what we want to contribute to society normally accompany this mission. The mission and vision should ideally address the fact that we are a food company and as such nourish the community. Along with this comes the moral and legal obligation to keep them safe.

Perhaps we don’t have to state this fact – personally, I think we should, but in a positive food safety culture, this will be evident.

What is important to align the purpose and values of the company? Having recently worked with a company that had clearly defined values, it was interesting to see how these values were not applied to food safety. It was also interesting to note how the values, when not practiced correctly, impacted food safety performance.

My purpose in the organisation may be clear but my food safety purpose is not always as clear. I may be the buyer. My purpose is to ensure I procure raw materials and keep the input costs as low as possible to allow for the greatest gross profit margins. While this sounds reasonable, we need to consider this along with food safety aspects – buying from the cheapest suppliers may not be the best food-safe route. We can introduce additional hazards, become more vulnerable to food fraud and supply chain disruptions. Don’t for one minute think that this is obvious to the buyer. Hence the need for setting clearly defined food safety expectations at each level of the organisation. Linking these to key performance indicators makes it part of how we run the business and not just an add-on.

Next week – we chat about the people construct.