A message from the CEO of Dairy Food Safety Victoria
I am pleased to introduce the ‘dairy edition’ of Culture Connections in my new role as CEO of Dairy Food Safety Victoria (DFSV).In order to remain relevant, regulatory bodies must change their ways toward influence rather than enforcement. We have probably extracted most of what we can from a science- and risk-based approach. It is time to pay attention to the ‘people factor’.
Dairy – an important contributor to Australia’s economy
The dairy industry is Australia’s third major rural industry, employing approximately 42,000 people and with a farmgate value of production of $AUD 3.7 billion in 2016‒17. Dairy is also one of Australia’s leading rural industries in terms of adding value through downstream processing.
Australia is a significant exporter of dairy products, ranking fourth in terms of world dairy trade behind New Zealand, the European Union and the United States.
Safe production is key to industry growth and ongoing access to domestic and international markets. DFSV is responsible for ensuring that standards which safeguard public health are maintained in the Victorian dairy industry. Industry compliance with regulatory requirements is key to achieving this objective and culture is a critical component.
Food safety culture and the dairy industry
Since joining DFSV I have taken the opportunity to meet with a number of people from industry to hear their views on current challenges and the opportunities for dairy now and
in to the future. Staff engagement and culture are often referred to in these discussions.
‘Food safety culture’ is how everyone (owners, managers, employees) thinks and acts in their daily job to make sure that the food they make or serve is safe. It’s about connecting systems and processes, people, and behaviours. The challenge is closing the gap between knowledge and behaviour. A sign in a manufacturing facility I visited sums this up nicely with the slogan: ‘think quality – be proud of the job you do’.
A culture focus
DFSV’s risk-based approach focuses regulatory activities and resources on licensees and compliance areas where non-compliance or food safety risks are greatest. Our policy also encourages a strong culture of voluntary compliance in the industry. A key component is promoting understanding of compliance requirements and providing information to support licensees to meet them.
As a regulator, one of our challenges is how to incorporate food safety culture into our operational and decision-making frameworks.
Linking performance and culture
We will be considering compliance in the context of the culture, leadership and capability of each business and work with industry to ensure food safety priorities and resources are fully integrated into strategic and daily operations. We are looking at the food safety culture tools developed by FSANZ and will be working with our licensees to make them ‘fit for purpose’ for the dairy industry. These self-assessment questionnaires look at knowledge of food safety, workplace culture, management behaviour, staff behaviour, day-to-day operations, communication, use of technology, tools and resources, approach to problem solving and engagement with regulators.
We are working with Cultivate (Lone Jespersen) to develop a system for assessing food safety culture performance across the dairy industry and developing programs for connecting incentives to maturity level. DFSV is committed to promoting culture as a driver of food safety outcomes to support incentive-based compliance. Exploring these opportunities underpins DFSV's strategic direction of implementing intelligence led, risk-based regulation.
We are also building our capacity for interrogating our data for reporting and intelligence purposes to improve our service provision and, in the long term, reducing the reliance on audits as the only means of demonstrating regulatory compliance.
Changing DFSV's compliance model (data-focused and performance-based) will require us to change our established business model and behaviours – we’ll let you know how we are tracking!
By Amanda Hill CEO Dairy Food Safety Victoria
Trust and maintaining a culture of food safety
Food companies around the world are filled with passionate and well-intended leaders who care about their consumers, co-workers, and the food products that they sell to others. Despite this many of us are hit by tragedies of losing loved ones and getting sick by the food we eat and the water we drink. And rightfully so, we lose trust in manufacturers, regulators, educators, and others who we thought were looking out for us.
So, what can we do to promote a culture of food safety in our food companies and what does trust have to do with it?
First, let’s look at a definition of food safety culture and its elements. The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) defines a culture of food safety as ‘the shared values, norms, and beliefs that affect mind sets and behaviours toward food safety in, across, and throughout the company.’ The five dimensions (see figure) can be used to build one linked plan for your company to better understand your current culture of food safety and how to mature it. I encourage you to read the GFSI position paper if you would like more detail on the dimensions. Here I would like to focus on the role of trust in getting maximum impact from any tools you decide to build into your linked plan.
Example of a linked plan to mature your culture of food safety around the GFSI dimensions
Vision & Mission. In a recent study O.C. Tanner (2018) discovered that 1 in 4 of those who participated in the study do not trust their direct manager and 2 in 4 do not trust their senior leaders. This is an issue when you ask co-workers to care and act to make sure food is safe. So, what can you do? Make sure food safety is part of your business planning process. Make the hard decisions in the planning process around time required to train, number of people required in production to study near-misses, and potentially how to say no if an acquisition or a new product poses increased risk for the safety of your consumers.
People. Recognizing those around you have the biggest impact on whether or not they will trust you (Globoforce 2016). It starts with a thank you and it ends with a system that helps everybody recognize effort. Sometimes this means a conversation about a needed correction but it is a recognition that you acted. Feedback to improve is also recognition if delivered respectfully. So, adopt a social science model, for example ABC (Antecedents, Behaviour, Consequences), and set the expectations that this is how we in our company will manage behaviours by recognizing each other.
Adaptability. Kotter has shared with us for a long time that 70% of change initiatives fail. So, what can we do to ensure tools introduced to improve food safety culture succeed? Choose how you will manage change in your company. Just choose a model! For example, The Kubler-Ross model helps everybody understand what happens if change is important to us and as change leaders we can act to help impacted co-workers through the stages in the model. Secondly, understand the beliefs of those you work with and how this might impact their fear and frustration with change.
Consistency. Actions speak louder than words. Through the data that Cultivate have collected from global food companies we are able to quantify participants’ perception of their company’s food safety actions versus food safety talk. On average participants rated their company to spend 60% talking and acting and 40% just talking. In other words, we are inconsistent in what we say and what we do. Building a habitual rhythm to have a dialogue with everyone on food safety can help with this. Set a schedule broken into annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily. And schedule who leads what, why. The only thing you have to do after that is stick with it! Regardless of circumstances, do not break the rhythm. If a leader is sick, appoint a deputy. If time is short, prioritize the conversation. It has proven to reduce near-miss safety findings, why not try the same for food safety? Make a habit of food safety!
Risks and hazards awareness. There are multiple cases of where silos have caused food safety mistakes. Silos between managers and supervisors, silos between functional areas, and silos between plants and shifts. To break down silos consider conducting a workshop with members of the different silos to discuss and decide what risks they are dealing with for food safety and what competencies are required in each ‘silo’ to mitigate risks from becoming hazards. For example, a new product that includes a new allergen is managed through the labelling of the product. The same product is managed in the plant by ensuring the right product is put in
the right packaging. Same risk, different risk-competencies.
There is no simple answer or 'store bought' plan for you to mature your culture of food safety. It takes hard work, frustrating setbacks, and loud discussions to ensure your culture of food safety is strong enough to keep your consumers safe. To quote the good folks at Cargill 'It is not always easy to do the right thing but it is always right!'
By Lone Jespersen, PhD, Principal, Cultivate Food Safety
- LW Braksick 2007, Unlock Behaviour, Unleash Profits (2nd Vol), McGraw-Hill
- JP Kotter & JL Heskett 1992, Corporate culture and performance, The Free Press
A helping hand for small dairy businesses
The dairy industry is contracting – with around eight dairy processors processing approximately 90% of Australia’s milk production. However, there is an increasing number of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) emerging, producing products for niche markets. Some dairy SMEs are well versed in their market requirements, while others are investigating expanding their reach through new markets and/or products. Many are time and people resource poor.
Consumers take food safety for granted and expect that all products are safe – no matter who is producing them. The global nature of business these days means that markets look for where products are produced and anyone in that market can enhance or detract from the country’s food safety and quality reputation, depending on their actions.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) managed a Ministerial program aimed at helping support SMEs to export. The Package Assisting Small Exporters (PASE) project provided a great opportunity to focus on dairy SMEs and help them appreciate how important a food safety culture is across the business and understand the role they play in promoting and protecting the dairy industry's reputation. It also provided dairy SMEs with insights into export opportunities and how these can be accessed successfully.
The PASE program funded Dairy Australia to manage a project aimed at helping dairy SMEs to:
- embed a food safety culture within their business continuity plans
- demonstrate this culture is being effectively implemented
- be trade ready and able to trade into markets of choice
- protect the dairy industry's reputation internationally as a producer of safe quality dairy products.
Initially, the project was centred around delivering a series of workshops to dairy SMEs, in partnership with DAWR, FSANZ and the relevant state food regulators. Feedback from the pilot workshops reinforced the fact that dairy SMEs are time and resource poor – and taking time out of the business to attend workshops was not always possible. It was also noted that often the first contact dairy SMEs had with state and national regulators was when they were audited for their dairy licence or if they had a food recall event. So, a combination of workshops hosted by state regulators on specific topics plus the provision of resources readily available at times that suit dairy SMEs became the focus. The workshops provided a valuable channel for dairy SMEs to meet the regulators in a non-compliance environment and helped them appreciate the valuable resource that the regulators provide.
Dairy Australia has worked with state regulators, FSANZ and DAWR to either identify existing relevant resources or develop new digital resources where required to help SMEs be more trade ready. The ability to access the materials through more streamlined methods was also seen as a value add for each SME – recognising that they had limited time to search for material.
These resources are now accessible through a single portal (the Dairy Manufacturer’s Resource Centre) housed on the Dairy Australia website. This website provides a roadmap to where materials can be found and also offers some self-assessments for dairy SMEs to help determine what areas they need more information for. The range of resources available include materials relating to trade (insights from successful export SMEs, China insights, indicative costs of a food recall), learning materials insights, indicative costs of a food recall), learning materials (online courses relating to food recalls, food safety programs, product testing, food safety culture maturity model etc – these are still in development) and webinar information (topics relating to technology, manufacturing, regulations etc).
The dairy resources developed through PASE complement the materials in FSANZ’s Food Safety Culture Hub and help reinforce the need for food businesses, especially SMEs, to prioritise food safety culture throughout their business.
By Helen Dornom, Manager Sustainability including Food Safety & Integrity, Dairy Australia
Recipe for success - Four key aspects from Chobani
My career has involved more than 25 years working in food safety for various manufacturing companies. Over the course of that journey, I have identified four key aspects that must be in place to be successful.
1. Role of leadership
Business owners and leaders need to ‘get’ food safety. If the key people are ‘foodies’ at heart, then this makes the life of the Food Safety Manager much easier. If not, then the Food Safety Manager needs to be exceptional at communicating the risks and highlighting relatable failures to the organisation. Business owners and leaders need to understand that getting food safety right is effectively a license to operate. Getting it wrong can destroy a business and obviously have a huge impact on affected consumers.
2. Champion the consumer
Your consumers are the reason you exist. Ask yourself: how well do you know what they think of your products? How safe do they think it is? It is important to listen and communicate with them. Remember it's hard work getting new consumers to try your product. This can all be undone by poor attention to getting food safety right.
3. Factory staff are crucial
A factory employee can be a leader in food safety culture by doing the ordinary tasks of their role extraordinarily well. Clean the equipment well every time. Complete checks properly every time. Be 100% accurate with all their paperwork duties. Undertake preventative maintenance thoroughly on every occasion. All these tasks of a factory operator’s role are ordinary in nature, but an operator can deliver extraordinary performance by doing them correctly 100% of the time. It is crucial that this happens.
4. Supply chain focus
Don’t forget your suppliers. You need to think of your suppliers as an extension of your own factory. Your suppliers often ‘touch’ the product at their processing facility more than you do at your own factory. It is essential to understand the risks and hazards that they can expose your product to. How well are they controlling those? Do they understand your process? What about their suppliers?
The Food Safety Manager must be the champion for developing and embedding a food safety culture. They must be successful at managing these four key areas. Ultimately, people in responsibility must recognise that food safety culture is a foundation stone for a successful business.
Research on food safety culture in New Zealand
According to a recent survey, New Zealand food businesses are doing well when it comes to food safety culture. The survey found most business owners, managers and staff have pride in their work and are motivated to build and keep a good reputation for their business. Their commitment is largely driven by keeping customers safe, being known for a high quality product, staying in business and keeping people employed.
Most food businesses were found to have supportive leadership, to invest in training (mainly frontline staff) and to have food safety policies and rules in place. Most businesses also have a positive relationship with their auditors and consult with them for advice.
Some areas for improvement are noted in the survey report. Businesses could do more to have clear and specific food safety goals and performance indicators, for everyone. They could develop a more inclusive sense of responsibility, improve feedback to staff and reward employees for day-to-day actions that improve food safety.
The survey involved 900 decision-makers (owners/senior food safety managers) and 193 employees from food businesses across the supply chain, from manufacturers to retailers. The survey report Food Safety Culture in New Zealand Businesses by Colmar Brunton and the Ministry for Primary Industries is available at http://www.mpi.govt.nz/food-safety/food-safety-and-suitability-research/food-safety-culture
New project with businesses preparing raw egg products
A new project aims to enhance food safety culture in food service businesses preparing raw and lightly cooked egg products. The 2-year pilot study will involve Australian food regulators, authorised officers (e.g. environmental health officers) and selected businesses working together to road-test resources on both food safety culture and on raw and lightly cooked egg products.
Food regulators will partner with authorised officers in planning and implementing this pilot, to build a shared understanding of food safety culture. Authorised officers will have a critical role working with food businesses, trialling the resources and increasing awareness about the importance of food safety culture. The pilot will also include an evaluation phase to determine lessons learned for potential future activities.
The food safety culture resources are largely based on the 'Know, Do, Follow Through' kit on FSANZ's website. Guidance material on safely preparing raw and lightly cooked eggs has been developed by food regulators.
This project is one of the first activities under Australia's Foodborne Illness Reduction Strategy 2018-2021+. The strategy was recently developed to address one of three priorities identified by The Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation: to reduce foodborne illness, particularly related to Campylobacter and Salmonella. An important part of the strategy is 'focusing on food safety culture with government, industry and educational institutions working together to promote its importance and support through resources and training'.
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