Food safety culture in good shape but there’s more to be done

The Food Safety Assurance and Advisory Council (FSAAC) and New Zealand Food Safety (part of the Ministry for Primary Industries) have released research into the food safety culture in New Zealand food businesses.

The FSAAC was established in 2014 to provide the Ministry for Primary Industries with high-level independent strategic advice and risk analysis on the performance of New Zealand’s food safety system. The council commissioned this research.

The chair of the FSAAC, Michael Ahie explains:

“We wanted to get a better understanding of how New Zealand food businesses are implementing and maintaining a strong food safety culture in the workplace. Food safety must be treated as a way of doing business and not just something that is discussed at a weekly meeting. This initial research provides a baseline that will be valuable for tracking improvements over time”.

New Zealand Food Safety’s director of food regulation, Paul Dansted says having a strong food safety culture is very important.

“It’s important for the health of our consumers and the strength of our economy that New Zealand food continues to be safe and suitable and we protect our good reputation. Most food business owners, managers, and staff have an inherent sense of pride in what they are doing and are motivated to build and maintain a good reputation for their business.

“But there is still work to do to ensure consistency across all types and sizes of food businesses, and right across the supply chain, whether it’s growing, harvesting, importing, processing, transporting, storing, exporting, or selling. Part of having a world-leading food safety system is that we must always look at continuous improvement. This research helps to identify areas where we excel and areas where we can do better.”

Nine hundred food business and 193 employees spanning all areas of the food supply chain from manufacturers to retailers were surveyed.

Overall, the results show that New Zealand food businesses have a strong commitment to food safety, Mr Dansted said.

Food businesses are doing well with keeping customer safety top of mind and having formalised food safety policies and procedures – 95% of them say they had policies and rules in place to identify and deal with food safety risks.

Good leadership with driving food safety culture is reflected in 75% of employees surveyed saying their managers visibly show support for food safety and walk the talk.

On the other hand, the research indicates businesses need to have specific food safety goals and key performance indicators in place, and reward employees for taking part in the day-to-day improvement of their food safety practices.  Businesses also need to develop a more inclusive and shared sense of responsibility for food safety across the whole organisation.

Only 3% of food businesses surveyed report data on their food safety performance back to their employees.

“This research helps us to build a better picture of how food businesses view and develop food safety cultures both internally and across their supply chain. New Zealand Food Safety has been providing more effective food safety tools for businesses,” Mr Dansted said.

“We have received very positive feedback on our new food safety templates, resources and guidance, and the way we have worked in partnership to develop them.”

A food safety guide aimed at boards, directors, chief executives, and business owners will be released next month as NZFS continues to help food businesses to support their work in developing a strong food safety culture.

More information about the research can be found HERE. 

Source:  Ministry for Primary Industries

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog

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