Countdown to the Global Food Safety Conference: 1 week to go

Next Monday marks the start of the world’s biggest Food Safety event, which brings together over 800 professionals from over 60 countries to share knowledge and best practice and to discuss the most significant food safety risks and challenges facing the industry.

In the run up to the Conference, LRQA’s Senior Manager Food Safety, Timothy Ahn, shares his views on developing a quality and food safety culture.

Tim, what advice would you give to organisations looking to instil a culture of quality and food safety within their business?

My advice to an organisation looking to instil a culture of Quality and Food Safety is to establish a Food Safety Management System that would basically enable the key elements of the culture to be embedded. I think culture is an interesting term and really it’s about the collective behaviours of the leadership of an organisation. A Food Safety Management System defines what’s expected from leadership and it allows a culture to kind of form around it. So I think installation of a Food Safety Management System goes a long way to help enable the formation of a culture.

You mentioned leadership there and many of the international standards reference the terms “leadership” and “top management”; what role do these play in driving a food safety culture?

Food safety culture really starts with the leadership of an organisation. So like I’ve mentioned before, the culture of an organisation is really the collective behaviour of its leaders, and the leaders establish what’s important and why it’s important.

Leaders are responsible for setting objectives, setting policies, getting resources; I mean they make the whole thing happen. So in terms of being role models and creating what’s important within an organisation, it starts from the top.

Is there a link between an organisations’ Food Safety Management System and its culture?

Yes, there’s a definite link between a Food Safety Management System and its culture. If you look at a Food Safety Management System some of the very fundamental things are around enabling the setting up of objectives, communication, defining responsibilities, providing resources, and establishing processes. All these things are fundamental elements within a Food Safety Management System and they also become the foundation or enablers for a culture. All of those elements become really important for a culture and align completely with the foundational elements for a Food Safety Management System so the two do go side by side.

How can management system owners successfully engage and empower internal stakeholders to ensure that food safety is owned by everyone within the organisation?

I think this is a really important point because a management system touches many different aspects of the organisation. Traditionally, food safety in many organisations would always be owned by the quality assurance team, or the quality and food safety team; however, this is generally not the case, as we have all the different parts to play.

It is never going to be easy to understand what everyone’s roles are and how they influence food safety, so the management system is really important and needs to be very well defined. I think just by the fact that by aligning yourself with a management system, that then allows you to identify all the different pieces within the supply chain - not only in quality, not only in food safety but also procurement, marketing, finance, all the different areas of an organisation.

LRQA will be exhibiting on stand C4-5 at the 2016 Global Food Safety Conference in Berlin from the 29th February to 3rd March.