Tips for reducing food safety risks with technology
By Greg Staley
Food businesses face risks every day, every shift. This means their teams must work proactively to reduce the risk of a foodborne illness incident, security breach, or any other crisis. Now, in addition to “basic” security protocols, organizations must also implement COVID-19 protocols, which are constantly changing, in accordance with local, state and federal guidelines. Adding to these challenges is the staff shortage across the industry, making it even more difficult for food businesses to operate efficiently and ensure adherence to safety protocols.
Any violation of the SOPs is a cause for alarm. An innocent mistake, like not properly closing a freezer door, could be a huge liability for your business. And mistakes do happen, especially if your business is understaffed or if your new employees are not yet fully conversant with your security protocols.
How operators monitor and mitigate risk vary widely from industry to industry, with some using paper checklists while others rely on comprehensive digital tools. As operators want to reduce risk, upgrading their outdated security systems may not be high on their to-do lists, especially as they deal with unprecedented COVID-related disruption, economic losses. devastating disruptions in the supply chain and a human capital crisis.
It may seem overwhelming to consider purchasing and implementing new technological tools now – with all the other pressing issues requiring attention – but the negative impact of a potential security breach could be catastrophic, in terms of lost customer trust, bad press, scathing social media. comments and potential disputes. The investment is well worth it, as the technology tools can help reduce risk and maximize compliance across your organization.
Food businesses would be advised to:
- Use technological tools to improve food security surveillance
It only takes one mistake to ruin your brand’s reputation. Your employees can be busy and accidentally skip a queue check, resulting in unsafe food being served. Requiring technological tools, such as security checks on a smartphone app versus a paper checklist, can improve compliance and accuracy, as well as your peace of mind that security checks have been completed. performed correctly.
Food safety software can include Bluetooth integrations that continuously monitor the temperature sensors in your refrigerator and freezers and immediately alert staff if they go outside safe ranges. Digital temperature sensors automatically enter and track data. Today’s digital solutions allow managers to spot any potential trends with employees entering data incorrectly or skipping line checks altogether.
- Catch problems before they turn into costly liabilities
Manual processes have major drawbacks, including the inability to see, compile, and analyze data in real time. Companies that use manual systems may not notice potential risks for weeks or even months after the reports are compiled. However, using technological tools to manage data means it’s quick, easy, and accurate to spot – and fix – potential issues before they turn into huge liabilities.
Creating automatic reports in real time is a critical part of reducing risk. Digital reports allow you to see trends, confirm if the correct protocols are being followed, determine if someone is changing the data, and more.
- Follow evolving COVID protocols
Cleanliness has always been an essential part of food safety. Historically, food companies have conducted âbehind the scenesâ cleaning protocols. COVID-19 has changed that – likely in the long term – as customers, suppliers and other key audiences expect and demand cleanup to be done properly and on an ongoing basis.
Likewise, employees, customers and other key elements expect COVID protocols to be followed – including masks, social distancing, employee temperature checks, more frequent hand washing, etc. . – especially since the highly contagious Delta variant continues to spread.
As we’ve seen since March 2020, COVID information and protocols change over time, so use technology to make sure your staff has access to the most up-to-date and accurate recommendations and regulations. Leverage solutions like team communication apps to distribute real-time updates to all staff and keep everyone aligned.
- Upgrade training
During the pandemic, there was huge turnover in the food industry. As your team takes on new employees, train them in security protocols to minimize risk and protect your brand. Remember: training can’t be a ‘one-off’ experience, where you provide tons of information on day one and never reinforce it. Instead, use technological tools to provide instant access to documents, reminders, updates, and information in smaller âchunksâ so they’re easier to digest. Make sure safety protocols and other relevant information are easily accessible so that whenever a question arises, employees have guides at their fingertips.
- Avoid cutting corners
Some companies, or some employees, may try to “cut corners” because they are understaffed, losing money, or for other reasons. Food recalls declined significantly in 2020, likely due to a combination of fewer inspections, fewer apps, and businesses operating with fewer employees. Cutting corners on safety can lead to food contamination, foodborne illness and other issues.
Savvy companies hold their employees accountable, using technology solutions that offer transparency and accountability. Many companies are moving beyond the old honor system, now requiring proof of security practices to keep their customers, employees and businesses safe.
Operators must remain vigilant at all times to reduce or prevent risks, including food safety violations, falsified reports and security breaches. Technological tools help make operations safer, more efficient and more profitable, and can reduce various risks that can destroy a brand.
About the Author: Greg Staley is the CEO of SynergySuite, a back-of-home restaurant management platform. Greg is focused on facilitating better visibility and increased profitability for restaurant chains through the use of smart, integrated back-of-house technology.
(To subscribe to Food Safety News for free, Click here.)