People at the core of food safety risks

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

People are the root cause of food safety issues, according to BSI
People are the root cause of food safety issues, according to BSI

Related tags Food safety Standards

People rather than failures of machinery or technology are the common factor in food safety incidents, quality failures and recalls, according to BSI.

New global guidance from the standards body – developed through consensus with industry giants such as Walmart, PepsiCo and Kerry Foods – also identified people as the key to avoiding recurrence of food safety issues.

BSI called on manufacturers to develop a food safety culture that prioritises people and supports collaborations in manufacturing facilities. Cultivating this culture can help improve quality, minimise the risks of contamination or recalls, while also benefitting productivity and talent retention.

The guidance – Developing and sustaining mature food safety culture (PAS 320) –is designed to guide organisations of all sizes across food, beverage and retail to create a culture where people are prioritized, all employees embrace food safety, take responsibility for reporting issues and are empowered to initiate change.

Identifying areas for development

PAS 320 includes steps on identifying gaps and then implementing a plan for change. It makes recommendations related to leadership; the organization’s vision, mission, values and policy; organizational structure; responsibilities, accountabilities and authorities; guiding coalition team; interested parties; change champions; influencers; and food safety documentation.

It also includes advice on how prioritising people in the sector not only supports improved food safety, but also brings other benefits including investment return, business performance improvement, reduction of the costs associated with poor quality, and enhanced efficiency.

Neil Coole, director of Food and Retail Supply Chains at BSI, said: “A positive food safety culture that prioritizes people and gives everyone a stake in driving quality can have a transformative effect and help reduce the risk that comes from unsafe food.

This starts with leadership taking steps to turn ambition into action in order to build and sustain continuous improvements across their organization and the wider supply chain. Ultimately, moving from seeing food safety culture as a compliance issue to an investment in people can offer huge benefits for individuals, organisations and society as a whole.”

The need for change

BSI director general for standards Scott Steedman lamented the number of lives lost to contaminated food and called for urgent change, especially in the wake of the UK’s departure from EU regulations the implementation of Natasha’s law.

“We understand that the common factor in food safety related risks is people, and it is an organisations culture towards food safety that presents the opportunity for continuous improvement,” ​said Steedman. “PAS 320 provides the guidance to empower people to make a positive impact on the future of the food industry.

“Enabling a robust food safety culture is vital for enhancing quality and safety across the food sector. Strengthening understanding of what best practice looks like and how everyone in the food sector can play a role, by enhancing global consistency and offering clarity, can help food sector organizations accelerate change and support the realization of quality and food safety ambitions.”

Related topics Food Safety Supply Chain

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