Taking Food Safety Home for the Holidays

Nov 21, 2023

Taking Food Safety Home for the Holidays FSQC Blog cover banner featuring autumn leaves, holiday holly and bow, and a table laden with holiday foods

The holidays are quickly approaching, and life is busy, but we are staying laser-focused on food safety – at work and at home. “Food safety culture” and “food safe environment” are terms that are typically only associated with commercial food production. Today we’re going to break the mold and change that! Food safe environment and food safety culture are not just professional terms only to be used in manufacturing and retail. Food safety culture and food safe environment are just as important at home as they are in manufacturing facilities and restaurants. So how does a company send food safety home with customers and employees, you ask? Let’s dive in!

Sending Food Safety Home with Your Customers

You may be surprised to find sending food safety home with your customers happens in many ways. First, by ensuring effective food safety during production and confirming the product being released is safe for consumption. In short, you’re sending food safety home for the holidays by providing the customer a safe product.

Second, by clearly labelling the product to include any appropriate warnings and cooking instructions when necessary. Appropriate warnings can include choking hazard (think hard candy), allergen advisory statements, and proper storage requirements. Cooking instructions often include the time and temperature that an item should be cooked at and may also include things like internal temperature when the product contains raw ingredients, such as meat or eggs. So how do you ensure that you are producing a safe product? Read on.

Defining A Food Safe Environment and Food Safety Culture

Delivering a safe product begins with building a food safe environment and food safety culture within the organization. These are interrelated terms and practices that influence each other. You can’t have one without the other because an effective food safety management system requires both. When executed properly, the environment and culture will build upon each other to create and manage an effective food safety system and produce safe food. Let’s get to the definitions of these two popular terms.

Food Safe Environment:
FSQC founder and president, Arlen Keller, lays out the definition of Food Safe Environment for us stating,

“A food safe environment is a controlled environment with practices in place to eliminate the risk of any biological, chemical, or physical hazards or reduce them to a safe level.”

Food Safety Culture:

GFSI defines Food Safety Culture as

“Shared values, beliefs, and norms that affect mindset and behavior toward food safety in, across, and throughout an organization.”

Here’s where we see the interconnectedness of these two popular food industry terms. Food safety culture is the mindset and behaviors that drive the practices within and throughout an organization to create a food safe environment.

Building and Maintaining Food Safety at the Workplace

We’ve defined food safety culture and food safe environment, now let’s talk about how you can ensure your organization is building and maintaining food safety culture and food safe environment.

A large part of fostering food safety through environment and culture is ensuring that resources have been effectively allocated throughout the organization. This enables different sectors of the organization to focus on building a strong food safety system.

Pre-Requisite Programs (PRPs) are fundamental programs and practices that create an environment to manufacture safe food. PRPs are industry accepted standard practices to protect food safety and a necessary part of a complete HACCP plan. Some PRPs become a regulatory requirement when they are codified into regulations. PRPs include GMPs and can also include a broad range of additional basic programs and practices. Those additions can include Allergen Control, Calibration, Chemical Control, Cleaning and Sanitation Programs, Maintenance, Personnel Practices, Pest Control, Supplier Approval, Training, Waste Management, and much more.

Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs or GMPs) are a regulatory requirement codified in the FDA’s 21 CFR 117 for most foods. GMPs define the minimum programs and practices required by regulation to manufacture safe food. cGMPs include Personnel, Plant & Grounds, Sanitary Operations, Sanitary Facilities & Controls, Equipment & Utensils, Processes & Controls, Warehousing & Distribution, By-products for Animal Food, and Defect Action Levels.

Keep your employees trained! This is one of the best builders of a food safe environment and food safety culture. This is not a one and done type of deal though. Keeping employees up to date on industry standards and regulatory requirements means putting personnel through regular training. This will keep employees informed of current industry standard and regulatory codes, requirements, and practices and help drive home the importance of food safety.

Proper and effective communication and accountability go a long way toward implementing what’s been learned in training. Clearly and openly communicate expectations and requirements to personnel. Create open avenues of communication for personnel to reach supervisors and management, and vice versa. Communication should flow in all directions.

Open communication within an organization also fosters accountability. Accountability is keeping to a set or specific standard. Communication creates, or more accurately upholds, accountability by creating open avenues to address issues or highlight successes. Personnel will be more conscientious of the job being done and the practices in place when there is clear communication and accountability. Communication and accountability offer checks and balances within the organization.

You’ve got all your systems in place and your food safe environment and food safety culture are thriving. So how do you send food safety home with personnel and employees?

Taking Food Safety Home for the Holidays is for Everyone

Maintaining food safety at the workplace and sending it home with customers should be at the forefront of every food company, but it shouldn’t end there – it should be taken home by your personnel too! Do you or your personnel take the safe food handling practices learned at the organization home to family and friends? If not, there’s no better time to start than right now. For personnel and consumers alike, the FDA’s guideline entitled Safe Food Handling is a great way to help educate everyone on safe food practices, even at home. The FDA guideline is also a great tool for checking the practices and habits that you have at home.

The four main points of Safe Food Handling by the FDA are:

  1. Clean Wash hands and surfaces often
  2. Separate Separate raw meats from other foods
  3. Cook Cook to the right temperature
  4. Chill Refrigerate foods promptly

When at home, it’s easy to overlook the importance of these four food safety practices. You have habits and norms when at home, and just because you work in food manufacturing doesn’t necessarily mean that you practice safe food protocol at home, although we hope you do! Evaluate the Safe Food Handling guideline and compare it to what you do when preparing and handling food at home. Are you in line with the FDA’s guideline and practicing proper food safety? If the answer is no, then begin changing your habits at home to make a food safe environment. If you’re already on-par with these four basic rules for safe food handling, that’s great! No matter your answer, it’s time to start sharing what you know with who you know so everyone can be taking food safety home for the holidays.

Sharing Food Safety

  • Start by checking out the FDA’s Safe Food Handling Guideline and share it with your team members, your consumers & customers, and your family & friends.
  • Contact us to connect with a Food Safety Consultant and get expert help to maximize your Food Safety Culture and Food Safe Environment.
  • Train your team on GMPs, PRPs, or Food Safety Culture! Contact us to schedule a training session.
  • Don’t forget, you can also check out our Upcoming Events and sign-up for training today!

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