New global guidance from BSI—developed through consensus with industry leaders including Walmart, McDonald's, Kerry Foods, and 3M—aims to assist food businesses and employees in developing a robust food safety culture that will improve product quality, minimize the risks of contamination or recalls, and benefit productivity and talent retention.

The guidance document, titled Developing and Sustaining a Mature Food Safety Culture (PAS 320), is the result of a round-table discussion at the 2019 International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) Annual Meeting that led to the creation of an industry steering group. The guidance produced by the steering group is designed to guide organizations of all sizes across food, beverage, and retail in creating a culture where people are prioritized, and employees embrace food safety, take responsibility for reporting issues, and are empowered to initiate change.

Relevant to all food businesses and employees—from manufacturers and factory workers to restauranteurs and baristas—the guidance has been published by BSI following extensive sector discussion on food safety culture, including what “food safety culture” is, how to measure food safety culture and how to ensure continuous improvement in culture. The document defines food safety culture as the "shared values, beliefs, and norms that affect mindset and behavior toward food safety in, across, and throughout an organization."

The guidance notes that creating and maintaining a strong culture that preserves quality and reduces risk requires firm commitment from management, as well as a pervasive mindset that safety is the responsibility of everyone at every stage of the food supply chain. Culture is also highlighted as key for employee retention, improving product quality, and decreasing food contamination risk.

PAS 320 includes steps for identifying gaps and then implementing a plan for change, and makes recommendations related to:

  • Leadership
  • An organization's vision, mission, values and policy
  • Organizational structure
  • Responsibilities, accountabilities and authorities
  • Guiding coalition team
  • Interested parties
  • Change champions
  • Influencers
  • Food safety documentation.

The guidance also includes advice on how prioritizing people in the sector not only supports improved food safety but also brings other benefits, including investment return, business performance improvement, reduction of the costs associated with poor quality, and enhanced efficiency.