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    Building a Food Safety Culture, Part 6 – Continuous Improvement

    Julia Stewart:

    Hello, this is PMA PR Director Julia Stewart, and welcome back to PMA’s audio blog, “Ask Dr. Bob.” PMA’s Chief Science Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker and I have been talking about the importance of establishing a food safety culture, and what the four basic attributes of a food safety culture are.  Today, he will share more detail on the fourth attribute, Continuous Improvement. 

     

    Bob, how do we go about building Continuous Improvement into our food safety programs?

     

    Bob Whitaker:

    Julia, food safety is dynamic, complex and ever-changing activity with many, many moving parts. In that type of changing environment, you can never be satisfied; you must always think in terms of continual improvement.  Absent true and complete kill steps, food safety will always be a process of risk management so you have to drive innovative thinking and search out new ideas and technologies to help manage those risks. There are lots of exciting new technologies out there poised to have an impact on food safety performance.  We have to first test these new technologies, verify they work, and understand how they can impact food safety.

     

    So, how does one stay current on the latest technologies and the latest thinking on food safety? By getting involved. I think of this as a “ripple effect”. It’s like a drop of water splashed into the middle of a pond.  The ripples increase in size as they reach the shore.  The same thing is true with getting involved to build your food safety knowledge. A little drop of information obtained at a conference, off the internet, or at an ag extension service meeting can be shaped and molded and implemented in your business to impact the food safety performance of your company. However, the information is not simply going to find you; you need to search it out. You can do that by getting involved with your trade associations, by visiting Web sites like the PMA site to get food safety updates and find other useful linked sites, and by supporting the research efforts of the Center for Produce Safety or your local university that is actively engaged in food safety research.

     

    Always remember, as your business changes, so does your food safety risk profile.  You should be constantly in the mode of updating and re-evaluating. If you add a new product line or a new packing machine, re-examine your risk assessment to be sure all new potential risks are managed. Don’t ever assume they are. Go through the process of risk evaluation – it is a chance for employees to learn, and a chance to improve your performance. Having a mindset of continuous improvement can and will transfer to other aspects of your business activities and have a positive impact on your business culture.

     

    Julia:

    Thank you, Bob. We all know how dynamic our industry is and certainly the food safety component is no exception. That commitment to continuous improvement is a skill that will pay off in plenty of other management areas as well, in addition to food safety.

     

    Thanks very much to our listeners, please join us again next time!

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