There are a lot of factors that go in to making the food we eat safe for consumption. There are things like manufacturing equipment, supply side control, ingredient management, testing equipment, packaging material and the list just goes on. The processes need to be well defined and the methods well documented. HACCP plans must be discussed, lab testing procedures outlined and final checkpoints determined
But there’s no better guarantee that the food coming out of any facility will be safe than having the right people oversee the whole process. From the top down, there has to be a culture of quality assurance and safety. This commitment is first demonstrated by managers and leaders daily, and it includes the company vision, values, systems, language, beliefs, and habits. Keep in mind, however, that all the best “stuff” (processes, procedures, plans and equipment) mean nothing if the right people aren’t in place to use it. And it’s not just knowledge or education that will make the difference. Your plant might be lined wall to wall with PDHs and still miss the proverbial boat when the final product ships out to the marketplace.
People who think about the customer at the end of the food chain as if it were their own families at the dining room table who will ensure there is quality control in the marketplace. That means having a hiring process that seeks out more than knowledgeable or even experienced employees is crucial. It might even be more important to hire and train the right kind of person than looking for a staff that understands the ins and outs of the food industry. Training will require time and effort, but imagine your wife, your children or your best friend sitting down to eat a meal with your product knowing they might get sick or bite into a piece of metal.
So when you make a list of the requirements for your employees, consider carefully how much weight you place on each of the qualities needed for the job. You might have to develop a training curriculum or set aside days for educating the people you know you can trust rather than being unsure about the people with all the right education. Digging into a potential employee’s references and asking the right questions may have a huge impact on what you bring to the marketplace. Rather than asking, “Tell me about a time when you successfully led a project from start to finish,” you could ask, “Tell me about the people you worked with on a project, how you treated them throughout the process and the quality of the end product or goal.”
Of course, it’s not an either/or question. It’s a both/and. In a best case scenario, you get employees with the right knowledge base and education who really care about the quality of the product, people who are proud of what they do. Wouldn’t it be great to have a crew that can defend your product without having to being defensive? And how nice would it be to fall asleep at night knowing your team has done the best job possible to protect every consumer who buys your product? A culture of food safety isn’t just what appears in your employee handbook, it’s what goes out the door with every product you sell.
At Testrods.com, we know we’re only 1 small lin in the food safety chain. But even here, we understand the value of a culture of safety. We want to know, as much as you do, that what we buy off the shelf we can feed to our families.