Creating a Food Safety Culture and Responsibility
Sponsored As the restaurant industry moves to reduce the instance of foodborne illness, they must look internally at their food safety.
Foodborne illnesses like those caused by norovirus have affected the restaurant industry in a major way in the past year. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), roughly one in six Americans gets sick from a foodborne illness annually.
The CDC provides simple ways for restaurant workers to help prevent the spread of norovirus and other foodborne illnesses:
1. Stay home sick
Avoid preparing food for others while you are sick and for at least 48 hours after symptoms stop. Food can be contaminated with norovirus when an infected person comes into contact with it with their hands (or through coughing). This one is vital because you’re most contagious when you are sick with norovirus illness or during the first few days while you recover.
2. Perform basic hygiene
Wash your hands carefully and often with soap and water. Outbreaks occur because of how easily a person sick with norovirus illness can contaminate food and drink that passes to the one consuming them.
3. Inspect the food
Rinse fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens. Cook shellfish thoroughly. Foods can also be contaminated at the source, such as fruits and vegetables contaminated in the field or oysters harvested from contaminated water.
4. Keep it clean
Clean and sanitize kitchen utensils, counters, and surfaces routinely. Outbreaks of norovirus illness happen most often where people eat food that’s been prepared by others—restaurants, nursing homes, cruise ships—so preparation safety is key.
5. Do the wash
Wash table linens, napkins and other laundry thoroughly. Keeping up good hygiene when preventing norovirus illness outbreaks extends beyond simple food prep.
What more can we do?
According to William Weichelt of the National Restaurant Association, there’s still discussion within the food industry of who exactly is responsible for food safety. “What we believe it boils down to is that food safety is part and parcel of the daily operations of an organization,” Weichelt says. “From the manager to the hourly paid employee, it’s something everybody does — not something just one department or the manager has to do.”
The National Restaurant Association reports that last year two in five restaurant operators said they plan to devote more resources to employee training. However, creating a new culture is obviously easier said than done.
Work attitudes and behaviors of cleanliness don’t come together in a vacuum. In order for this cultural shift to take place, senior leadership must have a vested interest in it —food safety culture is a philosophy that must be reinforced from the top to allow all employees to do the right thing
“The National Restaurant Association reports that last year two in five restaurant operators said they plan to devote more resources to employee training.”
If the rest of the team sees management making food safety a priority, they’re more likely to prioritize it themselves. Conversely, if employees notice management disregarding food safety, then that culture falls apart and that restaurant is vulnerable to an outbreak.
Doing more than minimum
“Over the past few years, we have seen companies have food safety embedded in their culture and we hope to see this trend continue,” says William Weichelt, who sees food safety becoming as integral to a restaurant’s identity as uniforms.
According to ServSafe, the most effective route to positively reinforcing food safety in the workplace is the cognitive management tool The ABC Model: “an individual or group needs a set of antecedents (A) to consistently achieve desired behaviors (B), which then bring consequences (C).”
Consistent consequences help create or curb behavior. Using consistent terminology (and in employees’ native languages where possible) helps back up what management intends for the restaurant.
So, when you set out to create your own food safety culture, ask yourself, “Is my current food safety management system effective?”