An organisational belief around food safety is the key to success, according to the vice president for food safety, global retail service at Ecolab.
Speaking exclusively to FoodQualityNews.com at the Global Food Safety Conference 2013 in Barcelona, Tom Ford said the firm’s goal is to have a total holistic food safety approach.
Good manufacturing practices in all areas are the basic building blocks, he said, with examples including cleaning and sanitation and pest programs.
“It’s extremely clear that you need to have an organisational belief that food safety is what you are operating around, that is core, that’s acted upon every day, that it’s accepted and recognised in empowerment at all levels,” Ford said.
“That is still not happening, you can call it whatever you like, but what is really necessary in the food safety future going forward is true harmonisation of a belief throughout an organisation, not only that it’s understood but acted upon and more importantly when there’s a breakdown, corrective actions are taken place.”
Food safety culture
All of the building blocks revolve around the people on the front line doing what they do every day, he added.
“It’s not happening yet, I think food safety culture, whatever kinds of operating systems you want to bring into that, you can call it what you want, but there is a few organisations that are out there that are doing extremely well and those are the people who have figured it out and done it and there’s things that make them special,” he said.
“You could talk about the culture and the support they get from upper management but more importantly you see it when you walk into one of their facilities, the person serving you whether it’s in a restaurant or a grocery store checkout lane, believes and knows what they are supposed to do in regards to food safety and that’s truly important.”
Ecolab is fully integrated with the farm to fork approach, from growing and harvest, to post farm-gate and production and distribution channels all the way down to the customer level.
Operating system and know whether system is operating appropriately, is another factor in the food safety challenge, said the firm.
Training and education
“Training is the key to making sure they understand what they are doing, why they are doing it but ideally you build into the training component, a component that makes them want to do it,” Ford explained.
“They give the emotional tie to think I need to do this because if I don’t do this step somebody’s going to become ill. That’s where it starts to get into where we think the food safety role should be.”
Ecolab said it has a front-facing member to each account so they can understand how the firm works and can then offer the best services.
“We have seal teams that are known in industry, so if one of our customers is having an issue in the food and beverage world we literally can get a person there that will manage the crisis for them, get them through that situation and get them back out,” said Ford.
“So we think there’s a real need to have the technical expertise to do their day to day operations but also have such a pulse on their business, so when they do have an issue we can really jump into a situation.”
Ford added that globalisation is a trend that is taking route with many firms having worldwide operations.
“We are seeing brands now that were geographically centred and now their global names. You have to manage your business globally, we manage our business globally because our customers manage their business globally.”