Congratulations to Stephens Fresh Foods in Kent, for achieving a Grade A after their first audit against the new BRC Global Standards Global Food Safety Standard Issue 8! 

Stephens Fresh Foods are a processor of cooked meats which are supplied to the food service and food manufacturing industry. They decided to take the challenge and become certified to Issue 8 of the BRC Global Standards Global Food Safety Standard, even though, under the current BRC Global Standards protocol, in which audits can be organised up to 28 days prior to the re-audit due date shown on the BRC Global Standards Certificate, they could have opted for a final audit against Issue 7 of the BRC Global Standards Standard in January. Consequently they are now proud to be one of the first UK sites to become certified against Issue 8 of the BRC Global Standards Global Food Safety Standard. All BRC Global Standards Global Food Safety certified sites will now be audited against Issue 8, with the change-over date of 1st February 2019 having now passed. Through the latter half of 2018, Mr Richard Mallett, Managing Director of MQM Consulting, steered and helped Stephens Fresh Foods through this journey, undertaking independent, expert internal audits against each section of Issue 8 of the BRC Global Standards Global Food Safety Standard, providing advice and support, in particular where improvements were required within their food safety and quality plan, to meet the stringent requirements of Issue 8. Jumping to Issue 8, so voluntarily, for many organisations, would be a brave decision, but the organisation wanted to showcase their careful and diligent implementation of the new systems required for Issue 8 of the BRC Global Standards Standard, particularly those surrounding the the implementation of a food safety culture plan, increased control of supply chain management,  and enhanced TACCP (threat analysis critical control point) controls. The latter two subjects will be familiar to anyone certified to Issue 7 of the BRC Global Standards Global Food Safety Standard. But what about a food safety culture plan?

Food Safety Culture

Food safety culture is well described in the Interpretation Guide to the Issue 8 of the BRC Global Standards Global Food Safety Standard, which is freely available at the BRC Global Standards global standards bookshop, which states that “a proactive, positive culture within a company can make all the difference in the effectiveness of the food safety and quality plan and its consistent implementation throughout the site”. Food safety culture requires a top down approach in which senior management lead the way in promoting a good food safety culture, involving all colleagues at their site, so that it is “felt” by everyone. It is about the creation of an ethos that permeates throughout the organisation, in which all members of staff, at all levels, feel involved and proud of the food safety and culture plan, and feel that they own and play a part in that plan. The creation of such an ethos removes the barriers of old in the food industry, which could harm or hinder the food safety and quality plan, where some staff simply could not “see” the reason for food safety and quality, why it was important, and what their part was within it. You can imagine this when you perhaps think of some of the feelings amongst staff within establishments which do not promote a good food safety culture, with thoughts amongst staff expressed such as:

  • My boss doesn’t care – as long as I get the job done
  • It’s all about profit and money here
  • I feel afraid to speak up
  • I’m not comfortable with this
  • There’s no point saying anything anyway!

As opposed to an organisation with an implanted good food safety culture, with much better thoughts expressed like these:

  • Everyone is respected here
  • I’m not forced to do things I’m uncomfortable with
  • It’s about profit, but they care about safety too.
  • I’m really happy to shout if something doesn’t seem right
  • I can suggest things, and they take notice!

Food Safety Culture Plan

The creation of a food safety culture plan is not quite as easy as 1-2-3! But one has to start somewhere, and where better than gap analysis to determine the current food safety culture ethos, which in turn allows for a prioritised plan to begin improving the current ethos. A survey to explore the current standing of food safety culture (the ethos) within these 4 categories is perhaps a good start:

  • People – exploring empowerment, behaviour, mentoring, encouragement, teamwork and training effectiveness
  • Process – exploring communication, infrastructure and how this impacts on working lives, access and understanding of the key food safety and quality policies
  • Purpose – exploring how staff feel about the moral compass of the organisation, ethics and prioritisation of core food safety and quality values
  • Forward planning – how staff feel they are involved in planning decisions that will affect their roles, how valued they feel particularly in their growth, training and development

MQM Consulting would of course, as one of the early pioneers, taking customers from Issue 7 to Issue 8 of the BRC Global Standards Global Food Safety Standard, be delighted to support you in this venture. We have a range of options, from a simple, cost effective Excel based, template for analysis of food safety culture and planning for improvements to culture, reflecting the above four points, to full on site support from out BRC Global Standards third party auditor trained consultants. Email or call us now.

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