They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but what many don’t realize is it’s also a shortcut to success. Modeling our behavior after those we admire can lead to huge leaps in proficiency, something that’s true whether we’re talking about fitness, career goals or even parenthood.
This same idea can be applied to food and beverage companies hoping to improve their organization’s safety record. Looking to industry leaders and analyzing their approaches is a great way to understand what it takes to get to the next level in food safety.
So what do food safety superstars do that makes them perform so well? Here’s a list of 5 things they all have in common.
1. They have third-party certifications
Food safety leaders are typically certified in one or more third-party standards like GFSI and/or ISO 22001. While pursuing certification can be time consuming, independent research shows the benefits far outweigh the costs. In fact, one study showed a 23% drop in complaints after certification, creating cost savings of $3.5 million annually.
Yes, certification requires digging deep into your operations to align them with standard requirements, conducting audits and possibly even hiring an outside consultant to help you prepare. However, if you already have an automated Food Safety Management System (FSMS) in place, you’ll find the process is much easier.
2. They have a Food Safety Management System
Food safety superstars leave nothing to chance, and that’s why you’ll find that most of them have automated FSMS software. This helps them standardize their processes in a single environment, centralizing functions like:
- Employee Training.
- Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP).
- Supplier Ratings and Quality Records.
By systematizing how they approach food safety, they’re able to more easily achieve compliance. More than just compliance, this type of integrated technology helps them be proactive rather than simply reacting to problems.
3. Their commitment to quality and safety is authentic
Any food manufacturer’s mission statement is going be full of lofty, nebulous language around committing to quality and safety. Unfortunately, this isn’t always sincere, and many lagging companies undermine performance with messages like “We want you to be safe, but we really need to hit these targets…”Leaders know when it comes to safety, there are no “buts,” and everyone needs to know that safety always comes first. Not only is public health at stake, this kind of attitude fosters systemic quality problems as well.
When you look at food safety leaders, you’ll find safety and quality are seen as two sides of the same coin, another reason why these companies integrate these processes in a single FSMS.
4. They use data effectively
Food safety superstars know their stuff when it comes to leveraging their data, using it to uncover precisely where and how they need to improve.
A few areas where Centralized Reporting is critical to food safety:
- Monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs). Custom KPI dashboards in the FSMS provide a quick snapshot of progress on your most important goals, also making it easier to report to others on the data.
- Audit Management. Audits generate a huge amount of data, and food safety leaders use the opportunity to make improvements. With an integrated FSMS, they can also pull up any data related to a particular item, such as viewing its risk mitigation history or comparing against previous Audit results.
- Drawing larger connections. Having a repository of data and the analytical capabilities to mine it effectively can generate important food safety insights. For example, one National Science Foundation Food Safety Leadership award-winner was able to collect data that tied her company’s humane handling practices to low Salmonella rates and improved product quality.
Many certification standards now incorporate risk-based approaches, a clear sign that true food safety leaders are those whose decisions revolve around risk.
There are several reasons for this evolution. First, risk provides a common yardstick for making sound decisions. Quantitative Risk Assessment tools such as risk matrices and decision trees provide an objective, repeatable method to guide your decisions. This helps prioritize your to-do list, while also ensuring what you do actually improves safety.
Second, Risk Management prevents problems before they occur. When you consider the cost and reputational impact of even a single contamination outbreak or recall, it’s clear this is a make-or-break issue for companies.
At the end of the day, leaders view safety as an investment, not a cost or a regulatory requirement. Recognizing this fact is the first step on the path toward food safety stardom.