How do organisations go about creating a safety culture, or more specifically for food processors, a food safety culture? In this update we take a look at what food safety culture is, and why it is so important to an organisation.
Firstly, what is food safety culture?
Well organisational culture is often said to be “The way that we do things around here” but more specifically, organisational culture is made up of the following three elements:
- The visible
- The spoken
- The invisible
1. The visible element is what can be seen, for example premises, equipment, staff activities and documentation.
2. The spoken element are those rules and processes such as management memos, town hall meetings, training and reward and recognition schemes
3. Perhaps most important however are the invisible elements, those things that are the organisations underlying values. The paradox here is that these elements are often the hardest to see, yet their impact on food safety culture within an organisation is very great.
What drives these underlying values is the tone at the top, the leadership and the level of commitment that management has regarding food safety.
In addition, other elements of food safety culture include:
- Business priorities i.e. the extent to which an organisation prioritises food safety and their overall attitude regarding food safety as opposed to other priorities like cost saving or revenue generation.
- Risk perception – The organisation’s perception and understanding of the risks embedded in a food production environment.
- The organisation’s perception of the effectiveness and validity of food safety regulations.
- Food safety ownership or the level of responsibility that an organisation accepts in relation to food safety.
- Competence – The level of understanding an organisation has regarding risk management procedures.
- Employee engagement – The level of commitment the wider organisation has toward food safety.
- Effective communication – The level of communication across the organisation and the freedom for employees to challenge procedures.
This all sounds pretty straightforward stuff, right out of the business school playbook. Well, if that it is the case it raises the questions why do businesses fail to create such a culture and repeatedly “miss the mark”.
There are 4 key reasons why this might be the case:
- Confirmation Bias – the human tendency to search for, favour, and use information that confirms one’s pre-existing views on a certain topic. This can be especially the case where there is a strong CEO or senior group that operates in a controlling way.
- The Illusion of Control – this is similar to the above as there is belief that “We know what we are doing so nothing will go wrong”.
- Cognitive Dissonance – the uncomfortable tension that comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time. For example, you’re at work, and you notice that it appears to be okay for food quality checks to be done every 2-3 hours rather than the hourly standard that the employee manual states. However, if the company seems okay with it, you can see how you might be conflicted regarding what to do.
- Organisational Ambivalence – there are more important or pressing matters – cost control, production targets – to be addressed.
It is no easy task to create a positive culture in an organisation, however, the rewards are significant through factors such as increased efficiency, greater staff engagement and increased revenue numbers. A win for everyone.
For more information on how HVDs can help you to create an effective food safety culture in your organisation contact us at HVDS on 01785 256976 or email email@example.com.
All food processors and producers are facing an unseen threat to their food processing business, and the worrying thought is that in many businesses it is; not even recognised, not budgeted, countered or planned for, and not taken seriously.
99.9% of businesses (if not all) have taken precautions and ring fenced against computer viruses and spyware etc, but this is a threat that is just as dangerous as it acts on its own impulse, strikes at random and could bring a whole business and brand to is knees.
The threat can damage brands, close production and comes with a host of names.
The positive thing about the threat is that in the last 10+ years the threat behaves in the same way, attacks in the same way and can be prevented. But as a warning, just because it may not have attacked your process yet, there is nothing to say that it won’t.
The threat is poor IAQ (indoor air quality).
Having been in the industry for over 25 years, Indoor Air Quality has never been more important. The reason why it is more important now is because the result of social media action from poor IAQ affecting food produce is likely to be seen by 1000’s in a minute and 10,000’s in days. The world is becoming more informed, transparent and has more information at its finger tips, literally.
The various bacteria and mould spores that travel and breed in ventilation equipment that has not been properly maintained or cleaned is staggering, and its impact on food produce must not be underestimated.
The number of brands and blue-chip businesses that are playing Russian Roulette with poor IAQ is alarming. What is more alarming is that business leaders, auditors and supermarket chains are not giving IAQ enough or any attention. Many businesses are putting IAQ as a low budget priority when should it not be higher.
One argument would say, if IAQ is not a high priority for businesses that are global leaders then is it really an issue?But when poor air quality poses a risk of loss of profits, or even brand image when products are faulty, consumers are ill or go to social media about a product – surely it is something that should be assessed more critically.
The positive thing is that the remedy is quite simple for Indoor Air Quality:
- Use the right filters
- Have good frequent maintenance regime of ventilation and duct collection systems
- Have scheduled and frequent full system deep clean regime
- And repeat as necessary
Business Owners and Auditors should be checking these areas, or at least have photographic reports on the ventilation systems including the ductwork. Is it not in all parties interests to process and produce food products in clean environments?
For more help and assistance checking and improving IAQ please contact HVDS at 01785 256976.
How much fresh air should be going into the food production area?
Effective air filtration and a good level of air hygiene are not only important to ensure a safe and comfortable working environment, but effective food production air handling is also essential to reduce or prevent the possibility of airborne contamination in High Care and High Risk Areas.
If we consider that outside air carries between 200 – 1500 bacteria per m3, then a regular food processing plant can be being supplied with millions of bacteria hourly. So it goes without saying that all food manufacturing and processing facilities require efficient air filtration and effective extraction and ventilation in a food factory. It is also necessary to ensure the air flow containment of these critical working areas.
Failure to install and maintain an effective and efficient air filtration system can lead to a loss of production and lost sales at best, and loss of consumer confidence and brand damage, not to mention potential litigation at worst.
So let us focus on High Risk areas in regard to filtration and ventilation in a food factory.
The management of air filtration within High Risk Areas is crucial to ensure that the air introduced does not contain micro-organisms of concern and not be the source of additional contamination.
There are certain aspects that need to be considered to maintain the recommended and required levels of ventilation in a food factory.
This includes extraction and filtration of the air in the High Risk environments:
- To establish the air quality standards that are required, it is important to carry out a hazard analysis (HACCP).
- Air intake (fresh air supply) needs to be located to minimise the intake of contaminated or re-contaminated air. For example, upwind of potential contaminants such as dust and chemical vapours.
- A documented risk assessment must be conducted to determine the requirement for air filtration.
- There is no ‘universal’ standard for air filtration. However, the filter grade required will depend on the source of the air and the period of exposure to high risk products and ingredients.
- Some accreditation schemes and governing bodies may have regulations in place with regards to a required grade of filtration.
- The effectiveness of the filter and system employed should be checked by the use of periodic sampling of the air, close to the outlet of the air ducts for microbiological quality.
- The air filter replacement frequency is just as important as the air filter specification. The buildup of dust, dirt and grease on air filters in the food production air handling system can result in re-circulation of contaminated air.
- Without regular cleaning, air will pass through the polluted duct carrying bacteria onto or around the food process areas. It is important to maintain a routine air duct and air handling cleaning schedule.
- Maintaining positive air pressure compared to adjacent areas, particularly where there is a connection with low risk areas.
Over the last decade, the food industry has seen a rapid evolution of food safety regulations. Many food manufacturers have had to make significant developments to processes, procedures and resources to remain compliant with regulations.
As a result of changing consumer habits and as rise in the demand for specially manufactured dietary foods, there is a continued growth in the ‘types’ of food manufacturing and processing facilities that we are seeing in the food industry. In many cases, each manufacturing process is different and requires a unique layout and organisation of a facility, which is centred around the specific production output.
Although this proves to benefit the consumer and reassures manufacturing quality, it does however mean that it isn’t easy to provide a ‘universal’ solution for individual food production air handling requirements.
On the other hand, it can be simplified, and overall the requirements for air handling in High Care and High Risk Areas can be defined as:
The inbound or fresh air supply into High Care and High Risk Areas needs to undergo sufficient filtration to reduce or prevent the risk of airborne contamination. And the air extraction mapping of the potentially contaminated air that is produced within the High Care and High Risk areas is filtered and distributed in a way that will help prevent cross contamination.
Food contamination by microorganisms is a major public health and economic problem in the food processing industry. Airborne bacteria and contamination can occur at various points of the food production process, for example in the slaughter process, cold storage, and in the processing of meat and other foodstuffs.
Organisms can use air as a transport medium to either contaminate product surfaces directly, or to contaminate contact surfaces, and therefore it is clear that the air inside food production plants needs to be controlled.
Simple practices such as keeping doors closed or controlling employee traffic can be essential in controlling air contamination.
However, there is more to it than that and below are the factors we believe are pertinent when considering control of airborne bacteria in the processing environment.
- Doors: Doors should remain closed as much as practical. This will prevent entrance of excess outside air and fluctuation of ambient temperature and humidity. (see below) However, this is easier said than done especially in areas of heavy traffic but in those instances it is essential that door maintenance is up to date.
- Employee Traffic: The area of highest employee traffic is the point at which the most people are moving in and out of the room during the day and as people carry a number of microorganisms on their person it is not surprising that movement of staff and other personnel, outside contractors for example, is associated with higher contamination levels.
- HVAC Fan Operation: HVAC fan operation causes increased air flow and that air flow will affect air contamination and, in the absence of a means of separation, for example a wall, microorganisms may be moved by the air flow into clean areas. The use of correctly selected and installed air filtration installed into the HVAC system will reduce the amount of airborne bacteria.
- Ambient Temperature: Maintaining cool temperatures is very important as most bacteria thrive in temperatures higher than that which you’d use for refrigeration. Likewise, any increase in ambient temperature also heightens the survival of airborne bacteria.
- Ambient Humidity: An increase in humidity increases the likelihood of survival of microorganisms in the air. Humidity can increase in a food production facility from the entrance of outside or warm air into a much cooler environment and vise versa.
Other elements such as the time of the year or time of day, as well as the external temperature and humidity, should also be taken into account although these cannot be controlled.
It is also worth noting that as the working day progresses, the amount of air contamination increases, and likewise as the working week progresses, there is an increase in the overall contamination of air with bacteria.
So what are some of the controls that we can put in place to regulate the air conditions in food processing plants?
- Make sure that doors are kept closed at all times to reduce the chance of cross contamination and to assist the cooling units in maintaining temperature. In addition, ensure that doors are properly maintained and that they fit properly.
- Correctly pressurised rooms with the air cascade working in the right direction from the highest risk area to the lowest risk areas will also reduce the bacteria count based on the correct ventilations system set up.
- Route traffic around the processing area rather than through it to reduce contamination.
- Ensure your HVAC units are in good working order and consistently maintaining temperature. Routine, regular maintenance is essential.
- Install recirculating air filtration units to help reduce the amount of bacteria and molds in the atmosphere.
HVDS provide a range of high quality, energy efficient air filtration, ventilation, air handling and air extraction products, including HVAC air filters.
For more information and advice on the impact air filtration and ventilation contact us at HVDS on 01785 256976 or firstname.lastname@example.org