What is Food Safety Culture? - MyGFSI (2022)

Ayako Okada: I became interested in food safety culture upon discovering that it was a point of focus by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) in 2017. When I was working for Walmart Japan, I realised that Frank Yiannas of the same company was promoting the concept of food safety culture, and I gained an interest in the evolution of this concept. I believe Frank Yiannas himself was the initial reason for the term’s spread worldwide. Mr. Yiannas, now the Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), published Food Safety Culture: Creating a Behavior-Based Food Safety Management System in 2009 combining elements of public health from the perspective of social-behavioural science from his experience through former roles at Disney and Walmart. Following Mr. Yiannas’s promotion of food safety culture, various organisations have developed models related to food safety culture, and GFSI also issued a position paper in 2018. This paper was formulated by the GFSI Technical Group (Chairman: Lorne Jespersen) to consolidate the evaluation model for a variety of existing food safety cultures.

In February 2020, Version 2020 of the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements was announced at the GFSI Conference in Seattle. Version 2020 includes a new element: food safety culture. GFSI Japan’s Communications Working Group spoke to Ayako Okada of BSI (British Standards Institution) Group Japan K.K., who is familiar with trends in international certification.

What is Food Safety Culture? - MyGFSI (1)

According to Mr. Yiannas, scientific knowledge and policies are not enough to achieve food safety sustainably in an organisation. Measures that raise individual awareness and lead to actual behaviour changes are required from the perspective of social-behavioural sciences. That is the basic idea of food safety culture.

GFSI Japan: Why is food safety culture important now?

Okada:The way food is produced and distributed in the modern world has been changing dramatically.

The two main methods currently being used to reduce the risk of foodborne illness in retail stores are regulatory inspection and education/training in the organisation, but Yiannas believes that education and training alone do not produce dramatic effects. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of outbreaks are caused by infected employees. In particular, the FDA has reported that two thirds of outbreaks originating from restaurants were caused by infected personnel handling food. Many food safety issues and accidents result from employee practices, attitudes or behaviours.

(Video) Building Your Food Safety Culture

Therefore, changing employee behaviour is critical for all food business operators. It is important to build an action-based food-safety management system that integrates food science and social-behaviour studies.

GFSI Japan: The word culture is often considered to be abstract. Could you clarify what ‘culture’ implies here?

Okada: I think that food safety culture will be cultivated by corporate leadership steering their companies in the direction of emphasising food safety and an environment encouraging discussion, sharing and mutual compromise among individual employees regarding food safety. Conducting these activities on a regular basis will lead to an emphasis on food safety as an organisation.

There are two important points here: leadership and a perspective of social behaviour. For the former, the intentional commitment and efforts of leaders at all levels of the organisation are essential to foster a food safety culture as an entire organisation.

Specifically, leaders are required to express to the entire organisation their willingness to foster a food safety culture and to make management decisions necessary for its realisation, such as system construction and resource allocation.

GFSI Japan: The mindset of making matters related to food safety culture a personal concern and taking the lead in making appropriate actions is essential among not only the leadership of an organisation but its employees on the front lines as well. What are the necessary steps from the social-behavioural studies perspective for achieving that?

Okada: Encouraging people to change their behaviour, especially those related to safety and hygiene, is not easy. In such cases, for example devising environmental or physical factors, it is important to motivate people to take specific actions. Such environmental and physical factors range from the design specifications of the facility, to the use of equipment, and the provision of work tools. Walmart, where I used to work, holds a company-wide event regarding food safety culture to foster employee awareness once a year. Walmart also created an educational tool, called Food Safety High Five, designed to help in a casual manner anyone in easily understanding the five essential points of food safety.

(Video) How to strengthen your food safety culture with GFSI’s new position paper

In addition, it is also important to build an action-based food safety management system using a continuous improvement model.

GFSI Japan: What exactly is the improvement model?

Okada: There are 6 steps in the model: 1. Expectations, 2. Education/Training, 3. Communication, 4. Goals/Accountability, 5. Measurement, and 6. Reinforcement. The first step is to present and communicate the performance in food safety expected of each employee as a clear and achievable indicator (1. Expectations), followed by education to encourage behavioural change (2. Education). The content should be created in a convincing way so that employees can recognise the actual food safety risk, explanation through case studies as more effective than presenting statistical data.

The following step is to share daily information on food safety and feelings among employees (3. Communication). In addition to communication in writing, using multiple forms of media to convey information helps to communicate easier. Moreover, food safety would be recognised easier as an organisational culture not only by stating concepts and numbers but by also providing specific case studies. For example, case studies can be effective in expressing how and who develop allergic reactions, and organisations can use images to express tragedy for an allergy accident. Posters should be designed for simplicity by using symbols, photos, and figures. Posters should also be updated frequently. Facilitating interactive communication between employees on the theme of food safety is also effective.

Goals must also be set and measured to understand the results of efforts in education/training and communication (4. Goals and Accountability, 5. Measurement). Food safety goals should be achievable and documented as concrete, risk-based and measurable goals. The evaluation index should capture the physical condition of facilities and foods, process, knowledge, and behaviour. The evaluation index should also be set and measured in combination with the leading index (input index, food safety culture survey data within the organisation, employee proficiency test, etc.) and the lagging index (output index, food poisoning occurrence data, food recall information, etc.).

Finally, based on the results of these processes, appropriate food safety behaviour will be strengthened and affect the next behaviours of employees (6. Reinforcement). The results of the process can be presented in a timely and clear manner to encourage more effective behavioural change.

It is important to encourage individual behaviour changes by repeating these 6 steps and rotating through the PDCA cycle.

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GFSI Japan: Thank you for the very clear explanation. How will including food safety culture in the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements affect certification programme owners and certified food companies?

Okada:Up until now, GFSI has maintained a working group on and has been actively discussing food safety culture. In 2018, the summary regarding food safety culture was presented, and food safety culture was added as a new requirement on the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements (Version 2020) issued in February 2020.What is Food Safety Culture? - MyGFSI (2)

In Version 2020 of the Benchmarking Requirements, “elements of food safety culture, at a minimum consisting of: communication, training, feedback from employees and performance measurement on food safety related activities” as well as “the senior management’s commitment” is required in a food safety management system. It is stated in paragraph “FSM 2 Management commitment and food safety culture”

I think all food companies are concerned when it comes to what needs to be done to address food culture. The BRC certification guidelines will be helpful when considering specific items. The Food Safety Culture Strategic Plan is included in the guideline. In the Plan, a company is supposed to establish methods for implementation and measurement activities, a planned time schedule, and an action plan. Companies are also required to review for the effectiveness of completed activities as well as set, implement, review, and improve KPIs related to food safety culture. However, specifying the points that should be looked at as a more specific index will be a future task. The accumulation of cases and discussion among stakeholders will continue to be required.

GFSI Japan: How does this impact the Japanese food industry?

Okada: The GFSI Benchmarking Requirements includes food safety culture, and it will be included in the updated Codex. In the UK and Australia, an ombudsman checks company strategies on food safety culture.

There is a possibility that governmental regulations will come to include food safety culture in Japan too. In the future, as with the HACCP system, not only companies that deal with global food distributors but all companies would be required to take action related to food safety culture.

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Traditionally, Kaizen is a field of specialty for Japanese companies, especially in manufacturing. We can say that Japanese people have a culture to move naturally in terms of how they can contribute to work, even if the obligations of employees are not stated in contracts and job definitions. Therefore, I think there is a possibility to show Japan’s unique model of food safety culture, a tip for cultivating food culture, to the world. I have great expectations for the efforts of Japanese food companies so that the mechanism of the food safety management system, including this food safety culture, will spread and develop.

GFSI Japan: Thank you for the very interesting conversation– we all learned a lot.

Written and contributed by:

What is Food Safety Culture? - MyGFSI (3)

Kohei Kishi

Regional Industrial Strategy Group, Regional Revitalization Division, Mitsubishi Research Institute, Inc.

GFSI Japan Local Group Communication WG

(Video) SQF Food Safety Culture & Management Responsibility


What is Food Safety Culture? - MyGFSI? ›

The GFSI TWG defines food safety cultures as, “shared values, beliefs and norms that affect mind- set and behaviour toward food safety in, across and throughout an organization.” The definition is derived from existing literature on organizational and food safety culture and made practical and applicable through the ...

What are the 4 components of a safety culture? ›

Safety culture is presented here as a pyramid with four components: safety values, safety leadership strategies, safety attitudes, and safety performance.

What safety culture means? ›

“The safety culture of an organisation is the product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behaviour that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, an organisation's health and safety management.

Why is food safety culture? ›

A food safety culture helps bring written processes and procedures and hygiene best practices to reality by ensuring that upholding food safety standards is at the core of every decision or action by individuals in the organization.

What is safety culture and why is it important? ›

A good safety culture helps an organisation maintain safe operations. By having everyone, from operators to managers, take safety seriously, remaining watchful and avoiding compromises, means that operations are conducted in as safe a manner as reasonable, given the risk of the licence holders operation.

What is a food safety culture plan? ›

Food safety culture in a food business is how everyone (owners, managers, employees) thinks and acts in their daily job to make sure the food they make or serve is safe. It's about having pride in producing safe food every time, recognising that a good quality product must be safe to eat.

What are the examples of safety culture? ›

A positive safety culture exists when employees understand the importance of safety and exhibit positive safety behaviours. Examples of positive safety behaviours include wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) without being asked, completing risks assessments for all jobs and reporting all incidents.

What is food safety culture performance? ›

Food Safety Culture. Definition. Shared values, beliefs and norms that affect mindset and behavior toward food safety in, across and throughout an organization.

Why is food safety important? ›

Why Is Food Safety Important? Foodborne illnesses are a preventable and underreported public health problem. These illnesses are a burden on public health and contribute significantly to the cost of health care. They also present a major challenge to certain groups of people.

What are the characteristics of a safety culture? ›

According to the UK Health & Safety Commission, a safety culture is “the product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behavior that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, an organization's health and safety management.”

How do you create a food safety culture plan? ›

Other key elements include:
  1. A food safety culture team.
  2. Goal planning.
  3. Measurable short and long-term culture objectives.
  4. Employee empowerment and retention.
  5. Effective communication.
  6. Food safety education.
  7. Risk-based decision-making.

What are the three steps to create a safety culture? ›

3 Steps to Create a Safety Culture
  1. Raise safety awareness with “safety champions.” ...
  2. Implement safety policies and procedures that support your safety message. ...
  3. Truly reward safe behavior.

How is Safety Culture measured? ›

Assessing Your Safety Culture in Seven Simple Steps
Apr 1, 2010

What are the principles of Haccp? ›

Seven basic principles are employed in the development of HACCP plans that meet the stated goal. These principles include hazard analysis, CCP identification, establishing critical limits, monitoring procedures, corrective actions, verification procedures, and record-keeping and documentation.

How can you promote a positive food safety culture at work? ›

StateFoodSafety Resources
  1. Don't just teach food hygiene on the job.
  2. Provide formal food safety training for new employees.
  3. Look for high-quality training that changes the way employees think and act toward food safety.
  4. Create food safety policies and train your staff on them.

How can we promote food safety? ›

4 Basic Steps for Food Safety
  1. Clean. Always wash your food, hands, counters, and cooking tools. Wash hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds. ...
  2. Separate (Keep Apart) Keep raw foods to themselves. ...
  3. Cook. Foods need to get hot and stay hot. ...
  4. Chill. Put food in the fridge right away.
Oct 28, 2021

What are the positive indicators of health and safety culture? ›

A positive safety culture is easier to build and maintain when employees feel comfortable reporting concerns, believe that the reporting process is positive and see improvement outcomes.

What is food safety meaning? ›

Food safety refers to routines in the preparation, handling and storage of food meant to prevent foodborne illness and injury. From farm to factory to fork, food products may encounter any number of health hazards during their journey through the supply chain.

What are the 5 food safety? ›

The core messages of the Five Keys to Safer Food are: (1) keep clean; (2) separate raw and cooked; (3) cook thoroughly; (4) keep food at safe temperatures; and (5) use safe water and raw materials.

What are food safety standards? ›

Codex Alimentarius

Codex standards are international food texts, i.e. standards, codes of practice, codes of hygienic practice, guidelines and other recommendations, established to protect the health of the consumers and to ensure fair practices in the food trade.

What are the key elements of cultural safety? ›

Cultural safety is about:
  • Shared respect, shared meaning and shared knowledge.
  • The experience of learning together with dignity and truly listening.
  • Strategic and institutional reform to remove barriers to the optimal health, wellbeing and safety of Aboriginal people.
Nov 30, 2021

What are the five elements of an effective safety culture? ›

5 Crucial Elements Of A Successful And Positive Safety Culture
  • Shared Values. The very foundation of every successful safety culture is a set of shared values at every level. ...
  • Leadership Involvement. ...
  • Continuous Learning. ...
  • Accountability. ...
  • Constant Support.
Nov 14, 2018

What are the 5 elements of safety? ›

5 Core Elements of Successful Safety Programs
  • What is a safety manager's job role?
Dec 17, 2018

What is organizational culture example? ›

The organizational culture definition relates to the structure of an organization such as a company or non-profit and the values, sociology, and psychology of that organization. Some examples of organizational culture include philosophy, values, expectations, and experiences.

What are the two main types of cultures? ›

Culture unites people of a single society together through shared beliefs, traditions, and expectations. The two basic types of culture are material culture, physical things produced by a society, and nonmaterial culture, intangible things produced by a society.

What is the impact of cultural safety? ›

Research demonstrates that cultural safety can significantly advance the nature and the scope of healthcare services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and positively impact their overall wellbeing. Cultural safety involves strategies to increase system self-knowledge, systemic reflection, and evaluation.

Why is cultural safety important in the workplace? ›

In a culturally safe workplace all workers feel comfortable, supported and respected. Workers will feel they can contribute to all appropriate discussions, they will work safer and be more productive.

How is food safety culture measured? ›

Food companies can measure the culture and management commitment of a facility with on the floor observations – either by using a template or by using observations customized and written by plant personnel. These observations encourage employee to supervisor, or employee to internal auditor interaction.

How do you create a good safety culture? ›

How to Build a Safety Culture in 9 Simple Steps
  1. Define Responsibilities. ...
  2. Create an Organizational Vision for Safety. ...
  3. Develop a System for Open Communication. ...
  4. Involve All Level of Employees. ...
  5. Rebuild Reporting System. ...
  6. Implement Hands-On Training. ...
  7. Management Modeling. ...
  8. Hold Employees Accountable.
Sep 10, 2018

How do you maintain a safety culture? ›

Make sure that all of your employees know the rules and are following the rules consistently. Focus on critical skills and rules, and hold everyone accountable for following them. Consistent rule compliance in all departments is critical in establishing and maintaining a safety culture.

What is total safety culture? ›

What is a Total Safety Culture (TSC)? ❑ A process where employees are empowered to create. data sets of safe and at-risk behaviors and use them to predict and avoid Injuries.

What is safety culture PPT? ›

PPT-106-01. 5. Safety Culture Defined. “The safety culture of an organization is the product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies and patterns of behavior that determine the commitment to, and style and proficiency of, an organization's health and safety management.” PPT-106-01.

What are the 3 E's of safety? ›

When it comes to safety the person who is at risk for injury must be aware of the hazard and what can be done to control the hazard and prevent injury. This is one of the three E's of safety: Evaluation, Education, and Enforcement.


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