BSI puts focus on food safety culture with new guidance

By Teodora Lyubomirova

- Last updated on GMT

Getty/Nikola Stojadinovic
Getty/Nikola Stojadinovic

Related tags Food safety Food standards agency Standards

The document, developed with input from industry players such as Kerry Foods and Walmart, identifies that the common factor in food safety incidents, quality failures and recalls is people rather than technology.

Relevant to anyone from manufacturers and factory workers to restauranteurs and baristas, the guidance has been published by the British Standards Institution (BSI) following extensive sector discussion on food safety culture, including what it is, how to measure it and how to ensure continuous improvements.

Food industry majors – including Walmart, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, HelloFresh, Kerry Foods and 3M – have all been involved in drafting the guidance.

Positive food safety culture

The document – named PAS 320 - includes steps on identifying gaps and then implementing a plan for change. It makes recommendations related to leadership; the organization’s vision, mission, values and policy; organizational structure; responsibilities, accountabilities and authorities; guiding coalition team; interested parties; change champions; influencers; and food safety documentation.

In particular, 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. For example, the guidance notes that creating and maintaining a strong culture that preserves quality and reduces risk requires management commitment and a mindset that safety is the responsibility of everyone at every stage of the food supply chain.

The guidance is published at a time when packaging and labelling regulations is being led by the Food Standards Agency following the UK’s exit from the European Union through Brexit. New allergen labelling laws that came into force in the UK last year also require businesses to label all food that is pre-packed for direct sale with a full list of ingredients, with the 14 major allergens including milk emphasised in the list.

Neil Coole, director of food and retail supply chains at BSI, commented: “A positive food safety culture that prioritizes people and gives everyone a stake in driving quality can have a transformative effect and help reduce the risk that comes from unsafe food. This starts with leadership taking steps to turn ambition into action in order to build and sustain continuous improvements across their organization and the wider supply chain.

“Ultimately, moving from seeing food safety culture as a compliance issue to an investment in people can offer huge benefits for individuals, organizations and society as a whole.”

Scott Steedman, director general, standards, at BSI added: “It is tragic that so many lives are lost globally every year to contaminated food. This is something nobody in the industry can ignore and urgent steps to change this are required. We understand that the common factor in food safety related risks is people, and it is an organisations culture towards food safety that presents the opportunity for continuous improvement. PAS 320 provides the guidance to empower people to make a positive impact on the future of the food industry.

“Enabling a robust food safety culture is vital for enhancing quality and safety across the food sector. Strengthening understanding of what best practice looks like and how everyone in the food sector can play a role, by enhancing global consistency and offering clarity, can help food sector organizations accelerate change and support the realization of quality and food safety ambitions. This new standard on food safety culture can build confidence in the global food industry and offer long-term benefit for everyone.”

The new guidance is available as a free download from the BSI website​.

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