FDA’s “Smarter Era” Blueprint: A New Culture of Food Safety
By Diane Wetherington
Founder and Executive Chairman
September 14, 2020
Culture encompasses the knowledge, beliefs, laws, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals in certain groups or societies.
When the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released its “Era of Smarter Food Safety” blueprint, among the core elements was a new culture of food safety. FDA defined this element as “a focus on fostering the growth of and strengthening the food safety culture on farms and in food facilities all over the world.” But what does this mean for an individual company – how is culture manifested within an operation?
There is wide-spread agreement that culture must be a top down approach. But management must work to establish a culture where everyone understands their responsibility within the food safety continuum and where each employee is confident to identify an issue and when a correction or solution is needed.
FDA states: “We will not make dramatic improvements in reducing the burden of foodborne disease without doing more to influence and change human behavior, addressing how employees think about food safety and how they demonstrate a commitment to this goal in how they do their job.”
While each employee needs to be clear on their role, management should also ensure the food safety team feels valued. “It is easy for food safety personnel to feel unrewarded,” says Diane Wetherington, iFoodDS Executive Chair of the Board. “Often the team’s main interaction with management is to discuss a problem or concern. To maintain a healthy culture, it is incumbent on management to remind their food safety personnel how much they are valued through words and compensation.”
Companies must verify food safety practices are being followed to ensure you are really doing what you say you are. Verification is where technology and digitization can substantially help with improving culture within a company. Through data digitization on iFoodDS’s cloud-based software systems, food safety practices are input continually throughout the day which can enhance a company’s culture by advancing continuous improvement and in real time. Some benefits of digitization on culture:
- All managers and employees can access up-to-the-minute, real time food safety information from their phones or tablets to measure performance as well as immediately address any problems.
- Performance measures can help Identify employees who might need additional training or where cross-training is needed so food safety systems don’t suffer if someone is absent.
- Over time, managers and employees can see and examine trends (both positive and negative) resulting in beneficial changes to internal metrics.
While some say it is difficult to “regulate” culture, you can demonstrate culture each and every day through the use of digitized data systems which illustrate your company’s ongoing commitment to food safety and by showing the evolution of your metrics over time. Or, to use FDA’s language, digitized data can help companies demonstrate “the growth of and strengthening of the food safety culture.”
According to the FDA, the New Era of Smarter Food Safety is a new approach to food safety which leverages technology and other tools to create a safer and more digital, traceable food system. The New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint is centered around four core elements: Tech-enabled Traceability; Smarter Tools and Approaches for Prevention and Outbreak Response; New Business Models and Retail Modernization; and, Food Safety Culture. iFoodDS’ new blog series focuses on these four core elements to help companies minimize the burden of complying with FDA’s Smarter Era blueprint.
For a personal consultation on your company’s data digitization needs, please contact sales@iFoodDS.com or call 206.219.3703 to learn more about iFoodDS’ food supply chain safety and quality solutions.