Staff behaviours, attitudes and food safety knowledge all play a part in a food business’s food safety culture. Does your organisation prioritise these aspects of the business?
A positive food safety culture impacts your business goals
All staff in a food business, including owners and managers, should foster proper food safety habits. This shows that the whole organisation is dedicated to improving food safety processes, ensuring food is safe to consume and protecting the public from food-borne illness. What’s more, investing in food safety training and resources to create a positive food safety culture will help your business:
- minimise food safety risks and protect your customers from food-borne illnesses
- manage food allergen risks
- protect or improve your business’s reputation
- prepare for food safety inspections
- avoid unnecessary food waste, fines and operational costs to fix food safety issues such as pest eradication
- ultimately boost your bottom line!
Evaluate your food safety culture with AIFS’ quiz
Assess the health of your organisation’s food safety culture with this brief quiz by the Australian Institute of Food Safety (AIFS). Choose the response that best matches your business. At the end of each section, tally up your points to determine your business’s strengths and areas for improvement.
SECTION 1: STAFF ATTITUDES
1: Is food safety considered more important in your business than other standards like earnings or reputation?
Yes: Food safety is the top priority for everyone in the organisation, even above goals such as increased profit. [1 point]
No: Food safety is only seen as important when problems arise. The business is most concerned about the bottom line. [0 points]
2: In your organisation, is food safety everyone’s responsibility?
Yes: Employees of all levels share the responsibility to ensure food is safe. [1 point]
No: Only top-level managers or specifically assigned people monitor whether food is stored, handled and served safely. [0 points]
3: Are Food Managers always focussed on food safety?
Yes: Every aspect of food safety is always the main focus for management. [1 point]
No: Managers are not attentive to food safety, or only pay attention when issues come up. [0 points]
4: Do managers lead by example when it comes to food safety best practices?
Yes: Managers know the rules and fully follow them. They act in a way that shows food safety is extremely important. [1 point]
No: Managers don’t always follow their own advice about food safety, and some may act as though they are above the rules. [0 points]
0-3 Points: Keep trying. Your organisation needs to invest in creating a food safety culture among top staff for the business to succeed.
4 Points: Great work! Employee diligence to food safety is the starting point — profits and brand recognition will follow!
SECTION 2: WORKPLACE & PROBLEM RESOLUTION
1: Are staff encouraged to report problems, question processes or suggest improvements?
Yes: Employees at all levels are encouraged to speak their minds about food safety concerns as they arise, as well as at regular intervals. [1 point]
No: Staff are discouraged from bringing up possible food safety issues, or may only raise concerns during formal reviews. [0 points]
2: Is there a clear process in place for reporting problems that ALL staff are aware of?
Yes: All staff know where and how to report any issues to resolve them quickly. [1 point]
No: Some or all employees may be unsure how to go about reporting a food safety problem. [0 points]
3: Are food safety issues addressed positively, with strategic and immediate action?
Yes: The organisation works to prevent food safety issues, but when they do arise, swift action is taken to fix the situation. [1 point]
No: The person who brings an issue forward will often be blamed, and nothing changes. Staff may be afraid to bring issues to Food Managers. [0 points]
0-2 Points: Keep trying. The business needs a clear reporting strategy in place that’s communicated to all staff, and should make sure employees feel comfortable pointing out any food safety issues they spot.
3 Points: Great work! Your business is clearly devoted to ensuring all employees feel comfortable and know how to report potential problems before they become bigger issues.
SECTION 3: TRAINING
1: Are all staff provided with robust training?
Yes: All staff are trained when they start, take regular refresher courses and even seek out further educational opportunities. [1 point]
No: Staff are left to learn through trial and error and often have to teach themselves how to do their jobs safely and effectively. [0 points]
2: Are staff given the chance to put theory to the test? Is knowledge acquired in training put into practice every day?
Yes: Staff consistently use their training on the job, and do things properly all the time regardless of the specific situation. [1 point]
No: Awareness of food safety stops when training ends. If no one is watching or employees are busy, food safety is less prioritised. [0 points]
3: Are there clear, easy-to-read food safety signs posted in prominent locations around the workplace?
Yes: Reminders about hand washing, correct cooking temperatures, cross-contamination risks, etc. are visible in key spots such as near sinks and food preparation areas. [1 point]
No: Signage is minimal or non-existent. Employees need to actively search for this information if they forget the rules. [0 points]
0-2 Points: Keep trying. All staff should receive thorough training in food safety that’s applicable to day-to-day tasks.
3 Points: Great work! Training in your organisation is fulsome, with theory put into practice.
SECTION 4: DATA COLLECTION AND IMPLEMENTATION
1: Is new information about food safety regularly assessed and used to make improvements?
Yes: Data are collected often and processes are changed or improved based on new information. [1 point]
No: Information is not collected and filed properly, nor is it used to improve business practices. [0 points]
2: Does the organisation have a good relationship with Environmental Health Officers (EHOs)?
Yes: Beyond audits and basic food safety obligations, managers have regular contact with EHOs to discuss ways to improve. [1 point]
No: Interaction is minimal between staff and EHOs, e.g. only when there is an impending inspection or audit. [0 points]
0-1 Points: Keep trying. Working openly with EHOs before and between inspections and audits will benefit all areas of the business.
2 Points: Great work! Your business works together with EHOs to improve services and safety.
By making sure that owners, managers and all staff at a food business make food safety a top priority, you are setting your organisation up for success. Looking for even more actionable steps to improve your company’s food safety culture? The AIFS Food Safety Culture Questionnaire provides more in-depth tips for implementing proper attitudes, processes and training to foster good food safety habits.
Operating a food business involves meeting various requirements, not only related to food safety. Here is an outline of the steps you need to take if you are just getting started with your food business.