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Food Safety Culture Connections

International News

GFSI 2020 Conference: ‘One Connected World. One Safe Food Supply.’

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) held their annual conference on 25-28 Feb 2020 in Seattle USA.

A few highlights related to food safety culture:
  • GFSI releases new Benchmarking Requirements – GFSI’s requirements are a globally recognised benchmark of food safety certification programs. The new version (‘Version 2020’) presents a revamped approach and includes a new focus on food safety culture. Management commitment to food safety culture will require ‘evidence of the senior management’s commitment to establish, implement, maintain and continuously improve the food safety management system’ and at a minimum include communication, training, employee feedback, and food safety-related performance measurement. Version 2020 is available at
  • The US Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) New Era of Smarter Food Safety was promoted by Frank Yiannas, FDA deputy commissioner for food policy and response. Looking to the future, the FDA is planning a more interdisciplinary approach to food safety including focus on traceability, transparency and promoting food safety culture throughout the food system. Some initial ideas on how to begin in this area are:
    • assess and further strengthen the understanding and measurement of food safety culture within FDA; encourage leadership to communicate importance of culture; ensure staff’s primary responsibility is food safety
    • develop education, training and tools to foster and advance industry best practices; update FDA policies and procedures to facilitate industry’s efforts in adopting/improving food safety culture
    • research challenges, barriers and opportunities to influence attitudes and behaviours.
  • 2020 winners of GFSI’s Global Markets Awards were announced recognising small-to-medium-sized enterprises for their exemplary efforts in improving their food safety management systems and as ambassadors for food safety culture in their regions.

Food safety culture drafted into Codex General Principles

Food safety culture has been incorporated into the draft Codex General Principles on Food Hygiene: Good Hygiene Practices (GHPs) and the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) System. (This is the revised version of CXC 1-1969 and its HACCP Annex.)
Now drafted in the General Principles’ introduction, under a new section of Management Commitment to Food Safety, food safety culture is formally included as ‘fundamental to the successful functioning of any food hygiene system…acknowledging the importance of human behaviour…’. Elements listed as important in cultivating a positive food safety include:
  • commitment of management and all personnel, leadership setting direction and engaging personnel, good communication to all personnel, sufficient resources
  • management should ensure clear roles and responsibilities, maintain food hygiene integrity when change occurs, verify controls and documentation, ensure training and supervision, encourage continual improvement.
The draft was progressed at the 51st session meeting of Codex’s Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH), held 4–8 November 2019 in Cleveland USA. The meeting was attended by 59 member countries including Australia (with FSANZ as Australia’s representative).The revised draft general principles will be forwarded to the Codex Alimentarius Commission’s CAC43 meeting for adoption mid-2020.

Further information: Codex website has the CCFH51 meeting report with the draft revised document in Appendix IV pp62-98.


FSANZ and FAO help Bhutan with food safety culture

Bhutan, similar to most developing economies, faces enormous resource and technological challenges to implementing food safety measures. As the food industry increases in sophistication and commercialisation, so do food safety risks along the supply chain. Understanding the importance of food safety culture will help in development of an integrated approach to food safety management.
In Thimphu Bhutan last year (August), a high-level seminar and technical workshop on food safety culture was run by Food and Agriculture Organization, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) for senior government officials, food businesses and other stakeholders. The events aimed to introduce food safety culture and gain top-level support to adopt and progress food safety culture.

Attendees of the advocacy seminar in Thimphu
Some key points discussed at the events:
  • the shift in the role of regulators to becoming educators – the more you educate, the less you need to regulate
  • food standards, procedures, testing, inspections are not enough – also need focus on food safety behaviour
  • a strong culture needs senior support and commitment –  e.g. developing policies and strategies, providing resources
  • communicating the importance and benefit of food safety culture – e.g. through a declaration, unique catch phrase and champions
  • age-old values of pride and commitment in the Bhutanese culture could be incorporated into food safety practices to ensure food safety and quality.
Ministers, policy makers and technical participants expressed support and commitment to progress the introduction of food safety culture into Bhutan. Next steps include developing a declaration from senior government officials to commit to food safety culture, and forming a food entrepreneurs’ group to work together with BAFRA.
FAO. 2019. Technical summary report: FAO-BAFRA National seminar and workshop on food safety culture and food safety indicator pilot project. Bangkok, 22 pp. License: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

Australian News

The Australian melon industry looks to a bright future

The entire Australian melon industry was severely impacted following the 2018 incident with listeria detected in rockmelons from one farm in New South Wales. Sales, both domestic and export ceased for around six weeks and it has taken the following two years to regain market share. Following the outbreak, the industry funded a project through Hort Innovation to support rockmelon growers to strengthen food safety measures and combat foodborne illness risks.
Delivered by the NSW Department of Primary Industries, the project has worked individually with all Australian rockmelon growers to review and audit current practice and critical control points and provide one-on-one food safety consultations with growers, managers and key farm staff. The project also developed a Melon Food Safety Best Practice Guide and a ‘toolbox’ for grower use including risk assessment templates, training guides, food safety posters and record sheets to support food safety programs (guide and toolbox available here). A successive project continues to monitor food safety practice by growers and has been extended to include major watermelon growers.


Left to right: FSANZ staff Hazel and Mikey meet Jamie and Dr Singh

‘The melon industry has made great strides forward in rebuilding consumer confidence and building a collaborative and consistent approach underpinned by the supply of safe fruit to consumers.’ says lead researcher, Dr SP Singh.

Jamie Schembri from Greenview Farm in the NSW Riverina Irrigation Area is one of the growers who has worked closely with Dr Singh in reassessing his food safety systems. Jamie’s farm has more than 1350 hectares growing seedless watermelon, rockmelons, piel de sapo melons and almonds.
Jamie is also a board member of Select Melons Australia, a 100% grower-owned marketing business supplying fresh melons direct from farm to Australian and international customers.

While Greenview Farm was severely impacted by the listeria incident, Jamie has a positive outlook on the industry and welcomes visitors to his farming and packing operation. FSANZ staff recently visited the melon fields and viewed fruit being sanitised and packed.
‘We’re always looking to how we can improve our operation’, Jamie commented. ‘We believe our melons are safe and healthy for consumers, but we don’t want to rest on our achievements. We are always looking at new methods and research in food safety.’
Visits to melon-importing countries in 2019 were funded through a federal government grant to help the melon industry recover export market share. Jamie and his wife Marie participated in the project meetings and workshops in Singapore and Malaysia.
Jamie was surprised during his visits by the level of impact of the 2018 listeria outbreak in the Asian market. However, he said ‘Importers were willing to learn of the importance that Australian melon growers were placing upon food safety and product quality.’

Left to right: Dr SP Singh (NSW DPI), Dianne Fullelove (Industry Development Manager), Su'aidah Ahmad (Euro Atlantic), Marie and Jamie Schembri (Greenview Farm), and Kong Cheng (Austrade Malaysia) on Malaysian visit April 2019

The Australian melon industry is looking forward to the future, knowing that growers are working with technical experts, exporters and retailers to ensure that melons provided to consumers are safe and top quality.
By Dianne Fullelove, Industry Development Manager, Australian Melon Association Inc

Culture changers: Celebrating food safety champions

At Eastern Health Authority in Adelaide, we recently celebrated with a food business that took steps to improve their food safety culture. Following low levels of compliance over a period of years, a complaint of alleged food poisoning sparked the emergence of a food safety champion in the business and a marked improvement in its food safety performance.
Through our meeting with the business to address the complaint, one of the owners was particularly affected by the idea that the business’s practices may have made people unwell. They indicated that they were interested in food safety and wanted the business to improve. Our officers were able to identify and highlight this individual’s potential as a food safety champion and advocated for their ability to promote and supervise food safety practices in the business. Following this, the owner completed some food safety training and we identified improvements in general practice at the business at follow-up inspections.
The business also for the first time in many years began renovations to the shop to bring the premises’ fit-out to a much-improved standard. These structural improvements were made without the need to issue an Improvement Notice. The modifications allowed for easier cleaning and maintenance, which were highlighted by staff as welcome changes.

However, the true test came in our next routine inspection, which found a significant improvement in overall compliance. The food safety champion was flagged by staff as having had a fundamental influence on practices at the business. These positive results were celebrated with staff, who took great pride in their improved food safety performance. Positive reinforcement of improved food safety behaviours will no doubt further promote and consolidate food safety in the business.


By Jasmine Austin, Environmental Health Officer, Eastern Health Authority, South Australia


Recipe for success – One Harvest’s approach

One Harvest is a multi-generational business owned by the Robson family. For over 80 years, One Harvest has been supplying Australian families with fresh produce, and for over 25 years, we have been processing and supplying Australian retailers with fresh cut salads. We have a national footprint incorporating four factories and a Tasmanian farming operation. 
We supply all the major retailers in Australia, employ more than 1000 people, and nationally produce 620,000 bags of salad per day, so it is critical our focus remains on ensuring a strong food safety culture. Processing ready-to-eat salads just in time involves no kill step and short run times, so it is essential we teach our frontline operators to understand what they must do and why they must do it.

Food safety culture starts with our leaders, and is embedded through processes and routines designed to support communication and quality control. The challenges of introducing, instilling and establishing a food safety culture include overcoming the barriers to change and skill gaps for essential leadership positions. One Harvest has actively recruited innovative, operational, technical and commercial staff from outside the food industry, here and overseas, to improve operational capabilities and expand our skills set. This approach has ensured we continue to learn and develop.

Employees at One Harvest processing facility

One Harvest faces the difficulty of maintaining a strong culture in a seasonal business that requires a large inflow of transient workers during the peak summer season. We also face constant competitive challenges as retailers demand more innovation and brand protection. Meeting these challenges requires multiple layers of strong supervision and governance, coupled with vigorous development of first and second line management. 
We invest in our people, standardise our systems, nurture strong external relationships with our growers and government agencies and align with our customers’ expectations. We actively search and implement new science and technology to ensure our high standards are maintained. We are dedicated to continued consumer protection while providing innovative, healthy and convenient salad options.
One Harvest believes food safety is no longer a document or a program. It is most effectively achieved when it is a systematic approach to organisational operations. We use a comprehensive preventative approach to food safety (hazard analysis and critical control points, or HACCP). This method combines work standards, strong leadership, detailed food safety expectations and near-miss evaluations across our different functions.
We have long-term relationships with our growers. Open communication from the growers allows us to modify processing controls at our processing facilities in advance of actual detection. One Harvest has also supplemented grower compliance with third-party standards such as Freshcare or Globalgap with an internally developed GAP (good agricultural practice) guideline. This guideline details the requirements to supply produce into the ready-to-eat salads supply chain. 
We have also implemented the 5S workplace organisation method to visually maintain our work spaces. The five disciplines of ‘Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain’ simplify the workplace, reduce accidents and costs and improve the quality of our produce.
Determining root causes for various problems has been aided by using the ‘Five Whys’ technique. By repetitively asking ‘Why?’ five times, and using the answer to the previous question as the basis for the next, we determine the underlying reason for a defect or problem much more quickly and gain better team engagement.

Frontline training and communication has been improved with the introduction of one-point lesson plans and changing our language from product, batch, and carton to the ‘food’ we produce. We actively decided to ask ‘Would you feed this to your family?’  If the answer is NO, the product is isolated and dumped.
Embedding a food safety culture around our people, processes and procedures has helped One Harvest improve against our benchmarked performance for food safety.  At the heart of all we do, and guiding our actions is our commitment to our purpose ‘We help people live better lives’.


By Sharon Jones, Head of Technical, One Harvest


Recent Publications

Using culture to eliminate contamination by foreign material

This article looks at the use of organisational culture to minimise physical hazards in food. The authors examined the learnings of two successful meat companies (that ‘get’ food safety) and came up with 5 cultural characteristics that impact foreign material elimination:
  1. Promote trust and courage, not blame – e.g. show appreciation for courageous acts by showcasing them in team discussions and public displays.
  2. Integrate food safety into everyday management principles, reliability and operations – e.g. track and report costs of maintaining food safety related to foreign material.
  3. Set and revise internal expectations and consequences – be prepared to change with e.g. new technology, staff turnover.
  4. Focus on competent employees at all levels and functions in risk analysis – e.g. measure employee aptitude, look for visual literacy, analytical mind sets, an understanding of big picture.
  5. Adhere to the belief that winning organisations are built on cross-functional teams – e.g. set up problem-solving teams to seek and destroy foreign material; have friendly competitions between departments, or internal staff and external suppliers.
Other take-home points:
  • Forge relationships with both ends of the supply chain, create/host forums that share best practice and experiences and learn from each other.
  • Give all teams a clear view of the impact of foreign contamination on their business to drive action and maintain a sense of urgency.
  • Measure and evaluate what you can – e.g. costs of internal failings, rate of in-process detections.
  • Strategies that do not work include yelling at people, firing staff and detailed paperwork for re-training staff.
This summary was provided by FSANZ. The full paper is available online: Five unusual ways to use your company culture to eliminate foreign material.

By L Jespersen, M Henderson and W Fluckey 2020. Food Safety Magazine Feb/Mar issue, 2020.


Impact of organisational and human factors on food safety

How do different types of organisational cultures and behaviours influence the rest of the workforce? Some insights from a recent review of the impact of organisational and human factors on food safety management:
  • Organisations that have a positive impact on their workforce have a culture that provides purpose, and involves people in creating and developing skills. People work together as a team to generate ideas, make decisions and communicate well.
  • Managers and supervisors need to set a good example, show motivation, demonstrate values and be seen to follow rules even under pressure.
  • New employees normally adopt dominant behaviour of others around them, so it’s important to make sure they are learning from the ‘right’ people. Employees’ commitment to the workplace affects how positive they are to change.

*Cited articles are by Lone Jespersen (Cultivate) and colleagues
A new definition of food safety culture is also proposed in the paper as: ‘… a long-term construct existing at the organisational level relating to the deeply rooted beliefs, behaviours and assumptions that are learned and shared by all employees which impact the food safety performance of the organisation.’ The term ‘food safety climate’ is differentiated from culture as a short-term construct at the individual level. The definitions are offered to promote the understanding of culture and climate and encourage consistent terminology.
This summary was provided by FSANZ. The full paper is available online: Terminology and the understanding of culture, climate and behavioural change – Impact of organisational and human factors on food safety management.

By N Sharman, CA Wallace and L Jespersen 2020. Trends in Food Science and Technology 96:13-20.


Code of practice and case studies

Woolworths released a Supplier Excellence COP on Food Safety Culture(1) with a helpful Introduction and Explanation document (August 2019). It is based largely on the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) 2018 Food Safety position paper(2) . Five critical components for food safety culture are cited and explained: values and mission, people, consistency, adaptability, and hazard and risk awareness. Guiding notes show how food businesses can start evaluating their food safety culture and get an action plan together.
Fonterra, One Harvest and SunFresh case studies: Three interesting industry case studies are also included in Woolworth’s Introduction document. Some of these companies’ shared learnings:
  • Strong leadership and management support is critical – it takes time, focus and energy to change culture and continual attention.
  • It’s essential to communicate food safety is business as usual, not a special program or fad.
  • Focus on the ‘why’ and make it personal – e.g. personal food safety promise statements from staff and stories on ‘what food safety means to me’.
  • ‘We are only as good as our people’ – take care with staff selection in key positions, build relationships and trust, give opportunities and incentives for staff to report food safety issues and to analyse the root causes of problems.
  • Make sure food safety training is successful – e.g. an interactive board game or app may be better than slide presentations for some food handlers.
  • Encourage cross-team interaction – e.g. between QA and production teams, so they understand each other’s roles and responsibilities and how they relate.
1 The Woolworths COP is available through (search Codes of Practice). Their Introduction and Explanation document can be found through wowlink or a Google search (‘Woolworths Food Safety Culture Introduction Explanation’)
2 The GFSI white paper: A Culture of Food Safety – A position paper from the Global Food Safety Initiative 2018.



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