It’s all about people: People who run food safety testing, validation, and sampling programs. Compliance officers and those who provide technical training. Business owners, operators, and managers. People who want to do the right thing.
With leaders from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and retail giant Walmart/Sam’s Club to international organizational culture experts and Peanut and Tree Nut Processors Association (PTNPA) member company representatives who carry a wealth of knowledge, the PTNPA Technical Forum 2021 gathered industry leaders from across the globe. The group experienced powerful and meaningful collaboration focused on the importance of building a culture of food safety and robust discussions on what it takes to make that happen.
Here are the top four takeaways from the PTNPA Technical Forum 2021:
Weave Food Safety into All Aspects of Business
The topic of food safety is no longer left to frontline quality assurance and compliance team members. People who own, invest in, and manage businesses must be engaged. To compete and succeed in today’s global food environment, nut growers, importers/exporters, processors, suppliers, and even retailers must make food safety a core value and quantifiable element of corporate culture.
Accountability for safe food handling should encompass the entire organization—every employee at every level in the company must take responsibility for and pride in prioritizing and operationalizing food safety. The FDA has named food safety culture as one of four core elements in its blueprint for the New Era of Smarter Food Safety—and every food organization should designate food safety as a core value too.
Increase Access to Resources, Information, and Training
The Industry Handbook for Safe Processing of Nuts is a proven, valuable resource for all nut industry representatives. Companies utilize the handbook as a training guide, an onboarding playbook, to prepare for regulatory agency visits and to reference practical solutions. Tech Forum attendees requested expanded access to the handbook, specifically a Spanish-language translation to reach even more employees. Additionally, as a supplement to the handbook, PTNPA will produce and record a webinar series focused on key sections of the handbook: food safety plan, process validation, allergen preventive controls, supply chain and other prerequisite programs, pathogen environmental monitoring programs, equipment design and installation, food defense, and intentional adulteration. The handbook is a tool of immense value (and a labor of love by those who volunteer to create each edition) and is widely available to anyone in the food industry at ptnpa.org.
Invest in Technology
There is emerging technology in every aspect of the food supply chain, and new advancements will allow us to track food from the ground to the dinner table. As FDA increases the use of technology in traceability for food safety, so too must businesses that operate anywhere along the food supply chain. Investment in and adaptability to new technology is critical to advancing food safety and for allowing producers and suppliers to maintain the highest standards of safety while also remaining cost-effective and consumer-focused.
Talk About It — A Lot
All of this—culture, training, new technology—must be introduced, prioritized and “talked up” during regular meetings, at special town halls, in company newsletters, during performance evaluations, and even as part of incentive and reward programs. As businesses evolve their food safety culture, they must shift the thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors of their teams. Talking about it ensures each employee is informed, has ownership and responsibility, and understands their role in making food safety an ordinary part of doing business.
The bottom line? Prioritizing food safety across an organization’s entire culture is absolutely critical for success in today’s food industries—it’s a reflection of brand reputation, embedded in business plans, present in daily operations, part of solving challenges, and a consideration while innovating and thriving. Elevating the importance of food safety culture isn’t just important—it’s the right thing to do.
Jeannie Shaughnessy is the CEO and executive director of the Peanut and Tree Nut Processors Association.