Food safety should always be top of mind, given its importance in human health.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA), one in six Americans will experience foodborne illness every year. Businesses at every point in the supply chain must prioritize food safety to keep their employees and consumers safe.To help grow this awareness, the US celebrates National Food Safety Month each September to increase education about safe food handling. According to the
Here are five important food safety reminders to consider this month:
1. Maintain a strong food safety culture.
Adopting food safety as a way of life is the first step towards developing and maintaining a strong food safety culture in your workplace. When food safety is top of mind, employees at all levels must do the right thing, even when no one is watching.
Start by assessing your current food safety culture and identifying measurable behaviors to help you reach your goals. Identify the core values and behaviors contributing to your organization’s effective food safety culture. Then, talk about your key performance indicators (KPIs) and what they mean, using them to benchmark against the maturity of your culture.
Take the time to educate your employees, teaching them new behaviors and practical applications, such as properly using and cleaning equipment. Gather feedback and encourage an open discussion. Lastly, reassess your food safety culture maturity and continue the conversation to keep food safety in mind.
2. Don’t forget about nonfood compounds and chemicals.
The right nonfood compounds and chemicals, including food-grade lubricants, water treatment chemicals, disinfectants, sanitizers, and cleaners, can help to support proper food safety. Ensure that your nonfood compounds and chemicals are properly vetted and specifically intended for food processing and handling environments. Using the right compounds and chemicals can improve performance, deliver efficiency, reduce operating costs, and improve the lifespan of equipment.
Consider using products that meet the strict safety criteria of a nonfood compound registration program. For example, NSF’s food lubricants registration program is a continuation of the USDA product approval and listing program, which is based on meeting regulatory requirements, including FDA 21 CFR, for appropriate use and ingredient review.
When in doubt, look for the recognized NSF mark of assurance, which is trusted by the food industry, food safety regulators, and auditors.
3. Factor in water and electrical safety.
Food manufacturing facilities can be breeding grounds for bacteria in water such as Legionella, yet many businesses are unaware of its impact on their workers. Conduct a risk assessment to minimize water ingestion, inhalation, and skin contact hazards.
Improper electrical safety can result in electrical shock, skin burns, and fires. Food equipment used and sold in the US and Canada must meet the requirements of the National Electrical Code (NEC) and the Canadian Electric Code (CEC), respectively, via certification from a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL). Ensuring your equipment is up to code can involve a third-party inspection via a production site visit or field evaluation. By getting your equipment certified and/or tested, you minimize the risks that your equipment poses.
4. Bolster cybersecurity for increased food safety.
An important part of keeping an operation’s food safe is keeping its data and information safe. The loss of personal and client data and intellectual property can have huge ramifications for a business in the food industry and throughout the supply chain. With data breaches on the rise, most companies understand the need to improve cybersecurity but are unsure where to start.
Earning certification to a globally recognized standard such as ISO/IEC 27001: Information Security Management can help you to establish an effective information security management system. Developing a solid information security policy is a great first step for businesses not ready to dive into a full information security management system. Information security policies provide employees with clarity on data security and detailed protocols on how to use and maintain your company’s systems and applications properly. Consider using a tool such as NSF CyberSecure, which can harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to build comprehensive information security policies.
5. Stay on top of your certifications.
While achieving certifications can support the food safety culture of your business, doing so only works if you continue to maintain your certification process. Incorporate audits and certification renewals into your annual strategic planning process, budgeting, and scheduling to ensure that you don’t have any gaps in the recertification process. Preparing for your annual recertification can also help to mark a recurring period to review your existing food safety practices and gather feedback from your team on how to further improve them.
National Food Safety Month provides a yearly spotlight on the importance of food safety in our daily lives. Using this important time of the year to acknowledge your organization's vital role in food safety can help improve and save lives.
About the Author
As Director of Product Certification – Equipment and Chemical Evaluation, Global Food Division, Sam Cole leads NSF’s nonfood certifications and evaluations teams. His teams prevent foodborne illness by certifying and registering commercial and processing food service equipment, food contact materials, and nonfood compounds, including lubricants, greases, and other chemicals used in and around food processing areas.