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Food Safety Culture

Food safety culture is the shared values, beliefs and norms that affect mindset and behaviour toward food safety in, across and throughout an organisation.

Food safety research states that food safety culture maturity can be attributed/measured by five key areas within an organisation.

These are:

  • Communication (between employees)
  • Enabling conditions (company rules)
  • Organisational attitudes (compatible food safety values between QA team and management)
  • Company vision (vision compatible with food safety)
  • Food safety priorities (people, training, health & safety).

Understanding Food Safety Culture: The Centre is attempting to better understand food safety culture in the Australian and New Zealand fresh produce sector.

Food safety culture is human, as such it wholly depends upon the subjective attitudes of management and staff.

The 2019 panel discussion between Barbara Wilson, Food Safety Consultant; Elizabeth Frankish, PhD Student, UTAS/USYD; Tundra Howe, Harvest Moon and Jessica Purbrick, FPSC A-NZ led the audience through the challenges of identifying culture, implementation and measurement.

Jargon such as the use of the word “culture” is a barrier to understanding what it is and how it can be improved along with perceived lack of senior management involvement or direction around the importance of this theme.

The Global Survey of Food Safety highlighted the top three reasons businesses implemented food safety practices:

  1. Safeguard the health of consumers
  2. Comply with laws and regulations
  3. As a prerequisite for good business, not a competitive advantage.

Within this study, the number one threat to “good business” was management and staff attitudes around food safety. And the top businesses demonstrated that developing a strong food safety culture was an effective action to mitigate risk and used this as a control to their strategies and reputation.

A 2019 survey of the fresh produce industry in Australia and New Zealand found 90% of businesses believed they had strong food safety culture however commented that production pressure takes priority over procedures that address food safety.

Other keys points:

  • A misfit between management and the QA workforce/staff
  • Food safety is a tick-box exercise that needs broader team buy-in

The Centre is collaborating with the Australian dairy and red meat sectors to undertake more work in this area to help businesses realise the opportunities of robust food safety culture and its relationship to business continuity, along with creating consistent language and a how-to can-do food safety culture model.