By nurturing a positive food safety culture within your organization, you can improve the food safety habits of all staff in your business, protect the public from food safety risks and ultimately boost your business’s bottom line. All businesses have unwritten values that influence the behaviour of all staff, and people’s behaviours, attitudes and food safety knowledge all contribute to a company’s food safety culture.
How does a positive food safety culture help your business?
Fostering proper food safety habits within all levels of the business, including owners and managers and not just employees, shows that the whole organization prioritizes ensuring food is safe to consume. What’s more, investing in food safety training and resources to create a positive food safety culture will help your business:
- minimize food safety risks and protect your customers from food-borne illnesses
- manage food allergen risks
- protect or improve your business’s reputation
- be prepared for food safety inspections
- avoid unnecessary food waste, fines and operational costs to fix food safety issues such as pest eradication
Take our food safety culture quiz
Assess the health of your organization’s food safety culture with this brief quiz by the Canadian Institute of Food Safety (CIFS). Choose the response that best fits 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 organization, 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 organization, 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 focused 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 organization 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 organization 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 prioritized. [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 organization is fulsome, with a 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 organization have a good relationship with Health Inspectors?
Yes: Beyond audits and basic food safety obligations, managers have regular contact with Health Inspectors to discuss ways to improve. [1 point]
No: Interaction is minimal between staff and Health Inspectors, e.g. only when there is an impending inspection or audit. [0 points]
0-1 Points: Keep trying. Working openly with Health Inspectors before and between inspections and audits will benefit all areas of the business.
2 Points: Great work! Your business works together with Health Inspectors to improve services and safety.
Set your business up for success by ensuring all staff, including owners and managers, make food safety a top priority. Use the CIFS Food Safety Culture Questionnaire to learn even more actionable steps to improve your food safety culture. For business owners and managers, the Guide to Building a Positive Food Safety Culture provides the tools needed to foster proper food safety habits within their businesses.