Promoting a robust food safety culture of employees dedicated to the quality of the company’s products is a cornerstone of producing high-quality products.

“As with everything, a program can be very well-written and very well-documented, but if it’s not actually implemented in the operation, it’s useless,” said Des Flahive, senior vice president of food safety and quality assurance, regulatory and compliance, at Aspire Bakeries, Los Angeles. “We adopted a food safety culture as critical for ensuring that our programs are well-implemented within our bakeries and empowered every single bakery team member to be part of this food safety journey.”

Aspire Bakeries actively trains workers throughout the year on a variety of food safety programs. During its food safety week, the company celebrates its successes, recognizes in-house food safety heroes and engages all associates through a variety of activities.

McKee Foods, headquartered in Collegedale, Tenn., also works to find new and interesting ways to train and engage workers on the topic of food safety.

“We’re using some gamification in our trainings to make them more appealing and effective. We provide these trainings to help educate our employees about our environmental monitoring programs, food safety culture and how small decisions can make major impacts on the company,” said Jennifer Hughes, food safety compliance specialist at the McKee Foods plant in Gentry, Ark. 

She said the company is lucky to have a number of long-term employees who mentor new workers on their job functions as well as food safety. 

“We have to train people and get them to understand that the five-second rule some might use at home is not scientific and cannot be used at work. We are really getting them to think about food safety on a mass scale,” Ms. Hughes said.

Effective training is very important, but it sometimes can be lacking in bakeries, said Nathan Mirdamadi, senior food safety specialist, North America, Commercial Food Sanitation. “Are we challenging what the person learned? Do we actually observe it in practice?” he asked. “In part, it’s understanding how adults learn. Some material is not best learned by a lecture approach. Sometimes people are doers and need hands-on training.”

Bill Steadman, manager, AIB International, emphasized the importance of continuous training as well.

“Food safety is a vast concept that encompasses handling, preparing and storing food in ways that prevent food-borne illness. Therefore, it is important that employees are familiar with all related aspects,” he said. “Because of time constraints and employees’ preferred learning methods, baking companies should consider different training alternatives, including online courses, live remote training sessions and in-person or private classes.”

Mr. Flahive said that all employees should not only understand food safety but also feel a responsibility to ensure the safety of consumers. 

“It’s not just one individual looking out for food safety and quality anymore,” he said. “It is a whole business approach.”

There are many elements that go into keeping food safe in bakeries. Bakers who train their employees well, ensure that all cleaning and monitoring are done with diligence, and keep up with the latest regulations and rules will continue keeping consumers safe.

“It’s never going to be easier to make food,” Mr. Mirdamadi said. “The bar’s only going to get higher.”

This article is an excerpt from the July 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Food Safety, click here.