Food safety and quality culture of packaging: a GFSI requirement

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The Global Food Safety Initiative (international organism that involves the principal food safety standards, like BRC, IFS, FSSC) promotes the concept of product safety culture in food companies for years (food processors, packaging manufacturers and related) in order to observe a series of beliefs, values and behaviours that guarantee the alignment of the business strategy with the continuous improvement of food quality and safety. This positioning has been reflected in the update of the main standards to guarantee the quality and safety of packaging. In this sense, 2020 starts with the new issue of BRC Packaging, issue 6, that incorporates as a fundamental clause the establishment of a plan for continuous improvement of food quality and safety, as well as in i5 of the FSSC 22000 Packaging standard.

This important change about product safety and quality culture implementation is described in clause 1.1.2 of BRC Packaging i6:

“The site’s senior management shall define and maintain a clear and effective plan for the development and continual improvement of a product safety and quality culture. This shall include:

  • Defined activities involving all sections of the site that have an impact on product safety and quality
  • A description of how the activities will be undertaken and measured, and the intended timescales
  • A review of the effectiveness of completed and ongoing activities.

Clause effective from 1 February 2021.”

In this post, we talk you about product safety and quality culture plan, focusing on explain its significance, its implications and last, how implement it. Let us begin!

Product safety and quality culture

When we talk about business culture, we mean the set of attitudes, values and beliefs shared by the whole team and that represents de “soul” of the company. This is built taking care of habits and attitudes of all company workers.

The set of attitudes, beliefs and ways of acting that are aligned with the continuous improvement of product (or food) safety and quality is what is understood as a product safety and quality culture. As you can see is a concept aligned totally with total quality and with the four BRC standard pillars that are:

  • Quality
  • Safety
  • Legality
  • Authenticity

What implications will it have?

The product safety and quality policy must be included in the business strategy, if it has not been done before, and understand that both product safety and quality are competitive advantages of great importance. It can be traduced in:

  • Incidents and non-conformities reduction.
  • Ensure stakeholders that health and safety are a priority.
  • Improve employee awareness and its involvement in safety and quality improvement.
  • Increase confidence in existing safety and quality initiatives and validate that they are correct.
  • Allow management to focus on safety and quality initiatives in key departments.

How to implement a product safety and quality culture plan

The process to implement a product safety and quality culture plan has four phases and follows a circular scheme. The different phases are design following the objective of assessing the culture maturity of the organization and planning and implementing an action plan to improve that maturity and verify that this action plan is really effective. At the end of this stages and following the schemes of continuous improvement, the organization will be able to detect other weaknesses with which the cycle will begin again to seek excellence in the fields of product safety and quality.

We study thoroughly each of the phases:

Phase 1: weakness and strengths identification

In this phase a diagnosis is made of the state of the organization in the fields of product safety and quality. To make this diagnosis, objective tools (SWOT analysis, claims and non-conformities analysis, and quality system evaluations in the different committees of the company) and subjective tools (personnel evaluation questionnaires and suggestion boxes) can be used.

The data generated by these tools should be compared with the definition of the company’s culture of product safety and quality. This will provide areas for improvement and indicators on the currents bases to reach the goals set and will be addressed in the following stages.

Phase 2: Planning the activities to be implemented

Once the areas of improvement have been identified and validated by the senior management of the organization, an action plan must be defined at different levels of the organization, from the senior management to the plant staff. This action plan should be designed to facilitate that each person in the organization has access to the training and awareness necessary to carry out the performance of their tasks. Actions that may be part of this plan include the implementation of large-scale continuous improvement systems (5S, Lean manufacturing, 6sigma) and highly targeted actions aimed at a specific group (role-playing games, bingos, case studies).

Phase 3: Implementation of the action plan

The defined action plan must be implemented using the time management in an optimal way so that it affects as little as possible the normal development of activities of the productive centres, and the time is necessary to be able to review the subsequent effectiveness of said action plan.

Phase 4: Review of effectiveness

Once the action plan has been implemented, it should be checked whether there have been positive changes in the areas of improvement. To do this, the diagnostic systems used in phase 1 are repeated, checking whether the results of the indicators are objectively better. For example, a reduction in claims, an increase in strengths and a decrease in weaknesses.

This last phase is considered the most important because it evaluates whether the implemented action plan has provided improvement results. It also shows which points remain weaknesses for the organization and which areas can be further improved.

How can you achieve continuous improvement? Moving from phase 4 to 1, following a cyclic scheme, and conducting a periodic evaluation. This is the only way to achieve the best results to meet the proposed goals.

In RepaQ you will find expert technical consultants to carry out and evaluate the results of the implementation of a product safety and quality culture plan. Remember: we are the only official BRC Packaging consultants in Spain. Contact us!