Food Conference Outlines Importance of Food Safety Culture

Thursday, 18 November 2021

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s (FSAI) Food Safety Consultative Council today hosted an open meeting to discuss recently introduced EU regulation, requiring food businesses to establish, maintain and demonstrate an appropriate food safety culture. ‘Food Safety Culture – How Food Businesses and Consumers Benefit’ provided an opportunity for leading specialists to provide unique insights into the role and value of food safety culture in food businesses. Over 700 people registered for the virtual event with guest speakers including experts from the Irish food industry and international experts on food safety culture including from the US food regulator.

Recent research* carried out by the FSAI showed that the need for food safety culture is strong, with 9 out of 10 (92%) of respondents saying they have some level of understanding of the term. A similar 9 out of 10 people believe a better food safety culture in the workplace would improve food safety for consumers. Some three quarters (76%) also believe their workplace has an appropriate food safety culture.

Chaired by Suzanne Campbell, Author and Journalist, the event offered insights into the importance of having a positive food safety culture in a food business. It also looked at the risks and subsequent negative consequences for consumers and food businesses of having a poor food safety culture.

Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI, outlined that whilst it may seem challenging, a food safety culture in practice is a strong commitment to improving food safety in your food business.

    “Consumers should always be able to trust that businesses produce food that is safe and trustworthy, and to expect that there is a strong food safety culture. It’s not about only doing the right thing when the food inspector is on-site, it’s about doing the right thing all of the time. It’s about speaking up when we see something is not as it should and ensuring a robust food safety culture is in place for all staff working in the food business. Ireland has a fantastic food sector with some of the safest food in the world produced to national, EU, and international standards that in many cases go well beyond what is required by law. The FSAI is encouraging all food businesses to do the right thing and develop the best food safety culture for their business – that ultimately has consumer health protection at its core.”

The open meeting offered members of the public and food businesses an opportunity to engage with the FSAI directly, a point highlighted by Ray Bowe, Chair, Food Safety Consultative Council.

    “The fact that the Food Safety Consultative Council is today discussing food safety culture with both consumers and food businesses is hugely important, and we are delighted to be joined by experts in the field both here in Ireland and internationally. Since March of this year, there has been a legal obligation for every food business to establish, maintain and provide evidence of an appropriate food safety culture in their businesses. A culture that highly values food safety shows employees that food safety is important and necessary to be successful in the food business. This influences the behaviour of employees and helps ensure that they act appropriately at all times. Ultimately, a good and effective food safety culture is a prerequisite to efficient food safety management and protecting consumers’ health.”

Contributions on the day included Mike Taylor, former Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine at the U.S. FDA; Lone Jespersen, Principal and Founder of Cultivate Food Safety; Brian Hyland, Food Safety, Quality & Animal Welfare Director, Dawn Meats Group and Gail Carroll, Director of Regulatory Affairs and Compliance Building, FSAI.