Q&A: Creating A Food Safety Culture

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) recently launched its Food Safety program, which is designed to help food processors address industry issues, such as increasing regulation and consumer awareness of food safety issues. Food Manufacturing spoke with Hank Lambert of UL about the new program and how food manufacturers can improve product safety.

Q: Can you give a brief overview of the overall goals of UL Food Safety?

A: UL Food Safety aims to mitigate safety risks across the global food supply chain by employing the science-based processes and standards-based solutions that have made UL a symbol of trust for over a century.

The program builds on UL’s commitment to protect people, products and places from safety risk and works to develop holistic, actionable food safety solutions to address the growing needs of the global food industry.

Q: What industry concerns does the initiative plan to address?

A: UL Food Safety will offer a large portfolio of food safety services designed to address a host of industry concerns, new government regulations and heightened consumer awareness of food safety issues including food safety training, traceability, validation and testing services.

We launched the program with an initial focus on safety training beginning with an innovative course on “Food Safety Culture,” designed to better integrate behavior science with food science across organizations within the food supply chain.

Q: How does UL Food Safety plan to help the industry adapt to the new government regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FMSA)?

A: With the passage of the FSMA, the government is driving the food industry to adopt safer practices, and industry executives across the supply chain are looking for solutions.

With more than a century of experience advancing public safety, UL is uniquely positioned to meet the specific safety needs of the food industry. As we further develop UL Food Safety’s portfolio of services, we plan to leverage our core areas of expertise in training, certification and testing to help the industry comply with the FSMA.

Q: What does the initiative plan to do regarding improving food safety?

A: We believe that implementing best practices for safety in the food supply chain begins by ensuring that all food professionals, from senior management to line workers, are empowered and equipped to work toward the production and distribution of safe food products. Therefore, the initial focus of UL Food Safety is safety training, beginning with an innovative curriculum offered through UL University.

The first course, “Food Safety Culture,” goes beyond traditional training, testing and inspections, and teaches the human dimensions of food safety. To improve food safety performance, employees need to understand how their behavior contributes to food safety. They need to be aware of each other and how their roles interrelate so that they are all working towards the production and supply of safe food products in a healthy and sanitary work environment. Such understanding creates an environment where all employees feel personally responsible to ensure that proper food safety practices are followed.

The course is intended for senior level management and is supported by two additional courses: “Food Safety Awareness,” developed specifically for food industry workers, and “Evaluation of Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) & Food Safety Preventative Control Programs,” developed for mid-level managers and auditors in the food industry.

Q: What benefits can food manufacturers derive from the program, and how can they apply these in their day-to-day operations?

A: All those involved throughout the food supply chain — from growers, packers, shippers, processors, retailers and food service operators — can benefit from learning about potential safety risks and new ways to mitigate these risks.

UL brought together leading food industry experts, regulators, academics and trade associations to develop a training curriculum that is applicable to anyone working in any facet of the food supply chain and at any level of an organization.

We feel that this approach will not only help the food industry manage the requirements of the FSMA, but also help companies be better positioned to protect their brands and ultimately deliver safer products to the marketplace.

Interview by Lindsey Coblentz, Associate Editor