Food Safety = Behavior, 30 Proven Techniques to Enhance Employee Compliance

My friend, Wal-Mart Frank, has written a follow-up to his 2008 book, Food Safety Culture. This is from the introduction:

food_safety_culture_0_story(1)As a food safety professional, getting others to comply with what you are asking them to do is critical, but it is not easy. In fact, it can be very hard to change other’s behaviors. And if you are like most food safety professionals, you have probably received little or no formal training on how to influence or change people’s behaviors.

But what if I told you that simple and proven behavioral science techniques exist, and, if applied strategically, can significantly enhance your ability to influence others and improve food safety. Would you be interested?

The need to better integrate the important relationship between behavioral science and food safety is what motivated me to write this book, Food Safety = Behavior, 30 Proven Techniques to Enhance Employee Compliance.

When it comes to food safety, people’s attitudes, choices, and behaviors are some of the most important factors that influence the overall safety of our food supply. Real-world examples of how these human factors influence the safety of our food range from whether or not a food worker will decide to wash his or her hands before working with food to the methods a health department utilizes while attempting to improve food safety compliance within a community to the decisions a food manufacturer’s management team will make on how to control a food safety hazard. They all involve human elements.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf concepts related to human and social behavior are so important to advancing food safety, why are they noticeably absent or lacking in the food safety profession today? Although there are probably several good reasons, I believe it is largely due to the fact that, historically, food safety professionals have not received adequate training or education in the behavioral sciences. Therefore, there are numerous food safety professionals who approach their jobs with an over-reliance on the food sciences alone. They rely too heavily, in my opinion, on traditional food safety approaches based on training, inspections, and testing.

Despite the fact that thousands of employees have been trained in food safety around the world, millions of dollars have been spent globally on food safety research, and countless inspections and tests have been performed at home and abroad, food safety remains a significant public health challenge. Why is that? The answer to this question reminds me of a quote by the late psychologist Abraham Maslow, who said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” To improve food safety, we have to realize that it’s more than just food science; it’s the behavioral sciences too.

Think about it. If you are trying to improve the food safety performance of an organization, industry, or region of the world, what you are really trying to do is change peoples’ behaviors. Simply put, food safety equals behavior. This truth is the fundamental premise upon which this entire book is based.

How does one effectively influence the behaviors of a worker, a social group, a community, or an organization?

frank.amy_.doug_.jun_.11While it is not easy, fortunately, there is good news for today’s more progressive, behavior-based food safety professional. Over the past 50 years, an incredible amount of research has been done in the behavioral and social sciences that have provided valuable insights into the thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors of humans. Applying these studies’ conclusions to our field has the potential to dramatically change our preventative food safety approaches, enhance employee compliance, and, most importantly, save lives.

One of the most exciting aspects of behavioral science research is that its results are often of simple and practical use to numerous professions, including ours – food safety. Generally, the principles learned through behavioral science research require little technical or scientific equipment to implement. They usually do not require large expenses. What is required, however, is an understanding of the research data and the ability to infer how the research might be used to solve a problem in your area of concern.

In this book, Food Safety = Behavior, I’ve decided to collect some of the most interesting behavioral science studies I’ve reviewed over the past few years, which I believe might have relevance to food safety. I’ve assembled them into one easy-to- use book with suggested applications in how they might be used to advance food safety.

To get the most out of this book, at the end of each chapter, I strongly encourage you to spend a few minutes thinking about the behavioral science principle you have just read, what it means to food safety, and how you might apply that principle in your own organization (or in your role) to improve food safety. For those in academic set- tings, you might also want to make a list of potential questions for further research.

frank.doug_.manhattan-300x225In summary, this book is devoted to introducing you to new ideas and concepts that have not been thoroughly reviewed, researched, and, more importantly, applied in the field of food safety. It is my attempt to arm you with new behavioral science tools to further reduce food safety risks in certain parts of the food system and world. I am convinced that we need to adopt new, out-of-the-box thinking that is more heavily focused on influencing and changing human behavior in order to accomplish this goal.

It is my hope that by simply reading this book, you pick up a few good ideas, tips, or approaches that can help you improve the food safety performance of your organization or area of responsibility. If you do, I will consider this book a success.

In closing, thanks for taking the time to read Food Safety = Behavior and, more importantly, for all that you are doing to advance food safety, so that people worldwide can live better.

 

Stadium food safety expose linked to firing

When I turned 16 my dad and I (below, exactly as shown) took a trip around the U.S. and caught a bunch of baseball games at MLB parks. Seven cities, seven games in eight days. In each of the stadiums my dad and I ate a standard hot dog (to compare and rate) as well as a sample of the local food specialty (poutine in Montreal, cheesesteaks in Philly, etc.).

I wasn’t the healthiest teenager.n564500217_1828077_9385

Food is a big part of the stadium experience for many.

In November 2014, ESPN’s Outside the Lines ran a story about Jon Costa, an Aramark employee at Kaufmann Stadium who reported frustration with his bosses over not being able to address food safety problems. Today, ESPN reported that Costa had been fired.

Jon Costa shared with “Outside the Lines” a copy of a letter he said his former employer, Aramark, sent him on March 17 saying Costa was being fired “for cause.” The letter outlines a number of reasons, the first of which is that he violated the company’s media policy by taking his concerns public.

The company defended its food safety record: “In Kansas City, we have served over 17 million fans since 2007 at hundreds of games and events and have a strong record of performance. We have continued to work closely with the Kansas City Health Department who has inspected Truman Sports Complex more than 100 times over our operating tenure. None of our Kansas City sports operations have ever been shut down by the Health Department and there have been no cases of food-related illness tied to our operations.”

In its letter of termination, Aramark also said Costa “failed to take prompt action to address food safety issues, notwithstanding documented support from his managers and direction from them to do so” and to discipline employees who were violating food safety practices.

But Costa said he had tried to solve problems by addressing them on site and bringing them to the attention of managers who never supported his efforts. He said he did not supervise anyone and had neither the authority nor training to discipline fellow employees.

The letter detailing his firing also says that Costa hampered Aramark’s relationship with the local health department and that he did not follow protocol in dealing with the department. Costa, who used to work for the City of Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department, denied those allegations. When “Outside the Lines” interviewed health department division manager Naser Jouhari in November, he said he knew Costa as a former employee and Aramark representative and that, “It’s all been pleasant. We never had any major concerns.”

Boy Scouts avoid liability in E. coli lawsuit

I was shocked and shamed about a month ago when we were invited to dinner at the home of other hockey parents.

thermometers.feb.15I normally carry a spare Cormark PTD 300 tip-sensitive digital thermometer in my knapsack, but had donated the spare to Sorenne’s school the day before and forgot to replenish the stash (thanks, Chapman, for providing more).

I felt naked not being able to probe the pork roast, especially when our hosts asked for a demonstration.

Dr. food safety was Dr. fail.

Apparently the Boy Scouts of America don’t care about such things either.

Harrison King, then 14, was among more than 80 campers who became ill after a 2008 gathering at a sprawling Boy Scout camp in Rockbridge County. King suffered brain damage as a result of his illness, according to his lawsuit.

A Virginia Department of Health report concluded the outbreak was caused in part by undercooked ground beef.

amy.thermometer.05King sued both the Boy Scouts and the company that sold ground beef used at Camp Goshen. He claimed the meat supply was tainted and the Boy Scouts failed to ensure the meat was properly cooked.

U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon first ruled in November that the Boy Scouts were entitled to charitable immunity in King v. S&S Foods LLC, Boy Scouts of America (VLW 014-3-618).

At the time, Moon left the case open for the parties to explore whether there was evidence of gross negligence that would allow King’s claim to proceed against the Boy Scouts.

Based on evidence that the Boy Scout regional unit had provided guidance on the proper cooking of so-called “foil dinners” and on safe food handling generally, Moon rejected the allegations of gross negligence. He dismissed the Boy Scouts and the BSA regional unit on March 20 in King v. S&S Foods LLC (VLW 015-3-142).

Take a thermometer.

 

Pennington writes: Outbreaks are full of lessons

I’ve never met Hugh Pennington (or Sir Hugh as he’s known to some), but as far as food safety gurus go, he’s way up there. In 1997 he led a public inquiry into a massive E. coli O157 outbreak linked to a Scottish butcher resulting in 21 deaths. In 2006 he was tasked with deconstructing an additional E. coli O157 outbreak that tragically led to the death of 5-year-old Mason Jones.hugh.pennington-184x300

Pennington has some serious street cred. He writes in Scottish Justice Matters this month about E. coli and the law. The below is an impactful passage that exemplifies a daily barrier to keeping food safe.

HACCP works. Ideally a food business prepares its own plan, but SMEs will probably buy one. Their understanding of hazards is sometimes poor. And there is dishonesty; William Tudor lied to environmental health officers, and John Barr was economical with the truth. Such behaviour poses a big challenge for regulators. While it is a step too far to continually invoke Paxman’s principle (‘Why is this person lying to me?’), box ticking will not do; personal experience and even intuition is very important in detecting the ill-intentioned but well- informed operator.

In my experience Inquiries have been good at identifying lessons but less effective at ensuring that they are learned.

The lessons are all there; learning them – and doing something – is the challenge.

 

 

Walking the walk

Ashley Chaifetz, a PhD student studying public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill writes:

A company should be able to survive and improve in the wake of a major food recall; it’s an opportunity to reevaluate and strengthen what’s great about an operation and fix what has gone impossibly wrong.2014-03-10 17.23.50

In 2013, my dog Chloe’s (right, exactly as shown) food was recalled due to Salmonella contamination. After some struggles with refunds, we haven’t returned to feeding her any of the Natura brands foods. After trying multiple brands, we landed on the Diamond Naturals Grain Free Chicken kibble and she’s been consuming it for more than a year already. I am a fan of its ingredient list (lots of fats and proteins) and nutritional content (probiotics, omega-6 and 3, complex carbs, antioxidants), as well as its price point; Chloe seems to find it delicious.

Diamond Pet Foods had a 2012 recall due to Salmonella that resulted in 49 cases of foodborne illness in humans in 20 states due to contamination at a single production facility, discovered via a routine check. Two years later, Costco (a distributor of the Kirkland product, also recalled) settled claims for over $2M initiated by the death of Barbara Marciano’s dog, which ate the contaminated food purchased from Costco. The contaminated food had not yet been recalled. Part of the settlement included “new and improved quality control procedures and therapeutic reforms that had not been implemented prior to the recalls.”

During the investigation, the FDA observed the following: 1) All reasonable precautions are not taken to ensure that production procedures do not contribute contamination from any source. 2) Failure to provide handwashing and hand sanitizing facilities at each location in the plant where needed. 3) Failure to maintain equipment, containers and utensils used to convey, hold, and store food in a manner that protects against contamination. 4) Failure to maintain equipment so as to facilitate cleaning of the equipment.

Now, the Diamond website depicts its commitment to food safety and mentions: on-site product testing, mycotoxin control, microbial testing, water quality, air quality, and its test-and-hold program. To the average consumer (including myself), its difficult to decipher what this means and how it is different from the pre-recall era.

I called Diamond for an explanation.

The customer service person answered all my food safety questions without stumbling. She explained since the 2012 recall, they’ve made a lot of changes. Some of her descriptions remained a bit vague; others came with more detail. She said all ingredients are tested (a series of tests, she explained) and then multiple times as they are manufactured. There are on-site labs at each facility—one of the biggest changes since the recall. For each batch of food, they retain samples to test for Salmonella. Each batch must be tested and held before it is released; if it comes up as Salmonella-positive, they will not distribute it. She explained that they used to send samples out for testing, but not hold the product – so the dog food could be consumed by the time Salmonella was detected.

Additionally, there are new safety protocols in each of the plants; incoming products are segregated from final product, not just within a space, but also by room through the use of walls and dividers. The result, she told me, is less cross-contamination. I also asked about how manufacturing might have changed, if there were any major changes in how the food was processed and she said no.

It’s hard to know what any manufacturer is doing to reduce risk of contamination, it’s all about trust; I appreciate that Diamond answered the call and my questions. It’s important to me to believe that a company can learn from bad experiences and improve its operations in the face of a recall, rather than attempt to cheat the system or disagree with the recommendations. But I also pay close attention to pet product recalls (there are so many!); if there’s another recall like the one in 2012, there’s a good chance Chloe will get to try another brand.

Owner sad: TV expose shows employees changing best-before dates at Canadian company

The president of Valoroso Foods, the Kelowna, B.C. company facing allegations of tampering with best before and expiry dates, says his team has spent the weekend doing a full inventory check of their product. Joe Valoroso says they are throwing away anything that is outdated. He adds they are planning to provide a full report to the public and to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Joseph-ValorosoThis comes after Global News conducted an investigation into allegations from former employees. One of them, James Summers-Gill documented some of the alleged tampering with a hidden camera for several weeks before he quit. Some of the footage shows employees discussing how to make the new tags more professional looking.

However, Valoroso denies the accusations. He says the inventory review is taking place at all of the company’s locations and warehouses. There are two retail stores and a warehouse in the central Okanagan as well as a warehouse in the Lower Mainalnd. Valoroso says he is sad and his priority is getting the trust of his customers and community back.

“We are going to assure them that their trust should not be violated and we are going to make sure that we can regain whatever trust we lost and we apologize if we have caused any inconvenience to their patronizing at our place,” says Valoroso.

inventory-in-progressThe CFIA says before Global News’ story aired, it conducted an inspection of the facility “which included reviewing with the owners, requirements pertaining to best before and expiration dates,” said Tammy Jarbeau with the CFIA in an e mail statement to Global News. “The CFIA will continue to work with and monitor the company to ensure compliance with health and safety legislation.

Jarbeau added that changing the best before date on food is not a violation of the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations however it is illegal to sell food that is known to be unsafe.

Valoroso Foods has operated in Kelowna for almost 20 years. They specialize in Italian and European cuisine.

 

 

Listeria in spinach prompts recalls

Listeria in organic spinach has prompted at least two companies to recall frozen meals.

listeria.amy's.kitchenAmy’s Kitchen, Inc. is voluntarily recalling approximately 73,897 cases of select code dates and manufacturing codes of products.

Gluten-free, dairy-free, GMO-free in Amy’s kitchen, but maybe Listeria.

And Wegmans Organic Food You Feel Good About Just Picked Spinach (frozen), 12oz after Twin City Foods, Inc (Wegmans’ supplier) said the spinach may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

Feel-good spinach, now with Listeria.

4 of the most commonly recalled foods (and how to buy them safely)

We talked to former professor of food safety, Douglas Powell, about the safest ways to eat the things we love.

Baked Goods

doug.coach.happy.feb.15The Concern: While it’s been more than 10 years since the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act went into effect, unlabeled allergens—most often peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, dairy, fish, shellfish and eggs—are still the number one cause of recalls for FDA-regulated foods. And they often crop up unannounced in bakery products. 



Small Thing to Keep in Mind: If you have an allergy, check the label each time you buy a product, because manufacturers sometimes change recipes and a trigger food may have been added. Here’s a helpful list of unexpected words to watch out for, broken down by the type of diet you’re following.

Cantaloupe

The Concern: These orange-fleshed melons are different from honeydew and watermelon, since their “netted” exterior is more porous, so contaminants from soil, water, animals (and their manure) can get trapped in the rind. Plus, unlike other fruits, they’re not acidic, so pathogens can grow more easily once you cut the melon open. 



Small Thing to Keep in Mind: As many of us already do, avoid buying cantaloupes that look bruised; and, if you purchase precut cantaloupe, make sure it’s refrigerated or on ice. Finally, don’t let the sliced fruit sit out at room temperature for more than two hours.

Chicken

The Concern: This popular meat (we buy about 86 pounds per capita annually) is one of the most common causes of foodborne illness. 



Small Thing to Keep in Mind: A good recommendation is to buy chicken last when you’re grocery shopping, since keeping it cold can prevent bacteria overgrowth. Also, be sure to defrost frozen chicken safely and cook it to 165 degrees (use a meat thermometer).

Sprouts

The Concern: Alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean sprouts, which add crunch to salads and sandwiches, score well nutritionally. But in recent years, there have been at least 30 food-related illness outbreaks linked to raw and lightly cooked sprouts. 



Small Thing to Keep in Mind: If you enjoy sprouts in salads, buy only ones with fresh, clean, white stems and roots that have been kept properly refrigerated. Dr. Powell says the safest way to prepare sprouts is to cook them thoroughly before eating (so, stir-fries and pad Thai are fine).

Chewing on a band-aid isn’t fun

I spend most of my time at the hockey rink. Between Jack’s practices/games on weekends and my adult beer league games on Mondays and Wednesdays, my non-food safety social interactions revolved around the ice.

Sometimes my two worlds cross-over.

IMG_8203One of my hockey buddies sent me a citizenfoodsafety submission (above, exactly as shown) that exemplifies a physical (and potentially biological) food safety hazard. The story that goes along with the picture goes like this: my friend’s colleague was eating some guacamole, sensed something chewy and pulled a band-aid out of her mouth.

Do they care about humans? The money involved in food safety recalls

Food safety is top-of-mind among many consumers and producers of food. It is also a continuum, because the more a food firm spends on effective technologies and protocols to ensure safe food, the greater chance the foods are protected against contamination.

recallDespite a blanketed desire to keep foods safe, eventually food firms reach a price point—a limit they can spend feasibly to ensure staying in business and giving consumers an affordable product, said Ted Schroeder, professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University.

“The more a company knows about the anticipated impact of a recall event, the better it can make a decision about adopting new food safety protocols, new technologies or new surveillance methods to reduce the probability of a food safety breach,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder, along with Veronica Pozo, assistant professor of applied economics at Utah State University, recently found that when food firms face a meat or poultry recall, several factors determine how that recall affects the firm’s bottom line. The most impactful factor is the class of the recall, which determines if a severe human health hazard is involved. Other factors include the size of the recall, size of the firm, if the firm has prior experience dealing with a recent recall and the media coverage surrounding the event.

The researchers examined meat and poultry recalls that took place between 1994 and 2013, based on availability of recall data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The FSIS showed more than 1,200 meat and poultry recalls happened during that time, and 163 of those recalls came from 31 different publicly traded firms.

Although 163 of more than 1,200 recalls may seem like a small number, publicly traded firms showed almost half of the total meat and poultry products recalled, said Pozo, who was a K-State doctoral student when the research was conducted. In fact, 277 million out of 638 million total recalled pounds, or 43 percent, came from publicly traded firms.

Although it’s difficult to obtain financial data from firms and measure total direct costs and losses of revenue from a recall, price reactions in the stock market surrounding a recall event tend to

The researchers found it took about four to five days, on average, for the stock price to reflect a recall. If a major health hazard was part of the recall, the stock price could take a hit earlier, potentially within one day.