GUEST POST : The challenge of multi-site food safety

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In many respects, the larger a food business is, the bigger the challenge they face with regard to food safety. A single issue at one location can do serious reputational damage, so it’s essential that every product has been correctly stored, prepared, cooked and served.

Following the rise of social media, restaurants and food businesses are at greater risk than ever before. Incidents can escalate and reach a global audience in seconds, as was shown recently when a rat shaped piece of chicken was photographed at KFC and shared around the world (as it turns out, it was just a funny shaped piece of chicken).

So what can a multi-site business do to limit these risks?

In our infographic (below) we’ve collated 10 tips from some of the world’s leading restaurants, food manufacturers and food safety experts. You can also download our free white paper: The Ultimate Guide to Multi-Site Food Safety

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According to the experts we spoke to, the key to ensuring food safety across multiple sites involves a standardisation, technology, and engraining a food safety culture throughout the entire organisation. The result will be greater consistency, visibility, and higher standards of staff conduct.

Here’s what they had to say:

Bizhan Pourkomailian, Director Food Safety and Supplier Workplace Accountability, McDonald’s Europe

“It is indeed a task and a half to manage food safety in a multi-site business.  However, it is not impossible.  One way, and for certain not the only way, is to standardise and harmonise as many activities as possible.  Past experience has shown that areas that can be standardised are training, operational procedures, equipment design, equipment approval, cleaning agents and use of the same raw materials for food production.  This will make implementation, monitoring, verification and improvements more efficient and effective.”

Dr. Joanne Taylor, Training and Research Director, Taylor Shannon International (TSI)

“Within the food industry, food safety culture can be described as the “prevailing attitudes, values and practices related to food safety that are taught, directly and indirectly, to new employees”. Some of these attitudes and practices are immediately apparent to an outside observer, such as the facilities and equipment, certificates and posters and the visible behaviours of staff. However, some attitudes and practices are harder to see. For example, the real priorities of management, the incentives and disincentives at play, and the way things are done when no-one is looking.”

Dr. Martin Nash, Checkit Product Line Manager, Elektron Technology

“Cloud-based food safety monitoring systems are increasingly employed within the food industry owed to their simplicity and affordability of deployment.  Smart fixed sensors provide continuous automated monitoring of food storage locations, whilst flexible handheld sensors schedule food hygiene and temperature checks for users and provide guidance for corrective actions when things go wrong.  It allows you to manage compliance in real time with reduced costs.”

Andy Kerridge, Food Safety & Quality Consultant

“One thing multi-site food businesses should consider is matrix management. This sees specialists work as part of two teams, such as the local factory team but also the larger company team such as with QA, engineering or purchasing. This can lead to conflicts, and yes, matrix management needs careful introduction, but it is also a huge opportunity for best practices to be shared rather than imposed.”

Sarah Daniels, RedCat Partnership

“Communication of the core business procedures is my key to compliance; everyone within the business needs to know what is expected of their role and how to achieve the standard required. This can be through managers leading by example, by appropriate monitoring, by training, by displaying notices, by having the correct equipment etc. if everyone knows the culture of the business & that this is checked, consistency can & will be achieved.”

Becky George, Monkhouse Food

“When a food business operates from more than one location it is essential that unified systems are in place throughout the different sites so that HACCP records are consistent and comparable. Equally everyone working in the business must understand and take ownership of these procedures. When it comes to food safety checks – accuracy and minimising the scope for error is the key objective. Standardisation always be of benefit in the long run. Staff training and regular performance reviews will help to improve monitoring efficiency.”

Steve Pepper, Food Hygiene and Health Safety Trainer

“Food safety culture has got to come from the top. As a manager, you can’t expect staff to wear protective clothing if you waltz in to a kitchen wearing your day clothes. Lead by example and in turn your staff will give out the message that “this is how we do things here”. It will increase profits through less waste and a good reputation. It will reduce staff turnover by having higher standards and most important keep the local environmental health team happy. It’s a real ‘win win’ and you’d do well to invest the time getting it right.”

Richard Leathers, Quality management Systems specialist, Campden BRI

“Multi-site food safety related to Threats (TACCP) and Vulnerabilities is often a concern, as there is no ‘one size fits all’ system. Even in similar disciplines such as dairies, abattoirs, canneries and fresh produce, even subtle differences can result in vastly different risk profiles. This has been acknowledged by the FDA in North America, who in section 106 of the Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA) state that, “It is recommended to conduct a personalized vulnerability assessment of the facility and implement the appropriate number of mitigation strategies.”

Sterling Crew, Head of Technical, Kolak Snack Foods Ltd.

“Delivering a food safety culture is the most important job for any senior manager in the food industry. As culture is increasingly cited in reports and papers relating to food safety incidents and out breaks; it has been identified as a significant emerging risk.  Consequently, the real food safety is what happens when managers and supervisors are not present and individuals are left to their own devices. This is when your food safety culture is tested. I’ve found that training on its own can give a false sense of security. It is only the first step. Management of food safety culture is essential to develop positive attitudes and the necessary behavioural change to drive food safety.”

Chris Fells, Product Excellence Director, KFC

“At KFC we do a number of things centrally to try and eliminate the risks. Every operating procedure is created centrally and every employee is trained against them. For example, all of our cookers are computer controlled and the programmes that run them are developed in our test kitchens. The goal is to make it as fool-proof as possible.”


About ABurne

Andy Burne has worked in Technical Management for many years in the food industry. Now he is a certified BRC auditor and provides consultancy to the Food Industry.