Food safety culture: what is it and how do we measure it?

New Food hears from Papa John’s and Chipotle Mexican Grill on their definition of food safety, and how the industry can begin to measure what is becoming an increasingly important term.

Food safety culture. It’s the food and beverage industry’s favourite phrase at the moment – it appears to follow every event, every conference, every meeting. But for an industry that deals so heavily in black and white, measurable definitions, it doesn’t quite fit.

To try and understand this increasingly important phrase, we spoke to two food safety experts, Philip Quinn, Senior Director of Quality Assurance at Papa John’s, and Kerry Bridges, Vice President of Food Safety at Chipotle, to find out what food safety culture means to them.

Setting a definition

Creating tasty food and drink might well be an artform, but ensuring it is safe for consumption is a science. And science requires definitions, it demands concrete terms rather than abstract concepts.

“For me, food safety culture means doing the right thing when no one is looking,” said Quinn. “Doing the right thing on the good days and the bad days. We all have the best intentions, but ‘work life’ sometimes comes crashing in and there’s different challenges that we face.

“It means that everyone in the business knows the importance of food safety, from the C-suite right down to the production floor. Food safety culture has to be owned by everybody within the business and those values lived by every day.”

The idea of food safety culture being a living, breathing idea living inside every employee is something shared by Kerry Bridges.

“At Chipotle, food safety is more than a collection of programmes and processes,” Bridges noted. “We have a culture of continuous improvement, where we evaluate our processes to ensure that our guests have consistently great experiences.”