The Challenge for a Career in Food Safety

A career in food safety is not for the faint of heart. It is a demanding profession requiring unwavering dedication, commitment to continuous learning, and effective communication. Food safety professionals often face the daunting task of convincing others to prioritize food safety in their operations, despite encountering challenges in language and perception.

One of the major challenges in communicating food safety is the complex language often used in the field. With a plethora of terms, acronyms, and requirements such as GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices), HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), HARPC (Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls), VACCP (Vulnerability Assessment and Critical Control Point), GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) schemes, and FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) regulations, among others, it’s no wonder that food safety can seem like a boring and confusing topic to many.

The language barrier can hinder effective communication and understanding, making it challenging for food safety professionals to convey the importance of food safety to stakeholders at all levels of an organization.

Another challenge that food safety professionals often face is resistance from management. Upper-level managers may question the concerns raised by food safety professionals, particularly when it comes to issues such as unsanitary conditions. For example, mould, algae, mildew, insects, and contaminants may be dismissed as mere aesthetic matters with no impact on the food product’s safety.

Food safety professionals must then navigate the challenge of convincing management that these issues are not just cosmetic concerns but can also pose serious food safety risks. This requires clear and persuasive communication skills, backed by scientific evidence and data, to drive home the importance of adhering to food safety practices.

Management Commitment as a Challenge

Another aspect of management commitment that can be challenging for food safety professionals is obtaining the necessary resources and support to implement and maintain effective food safety programs. Food safety programs require investment in training, equipment, testing, and monitoring, among other things.

However, management may view these investments as burdensome and costly without immediately visible returns. This can make it difficult for food safety professionals to obtain the necessary resources to ensure that food safety practices are effectively implemented and maintained.

Moreover, some managers may prioritize production and profit over food safety, viewing food safety practices as an inconvenience to the flow of business operations. This mindset can create conflicts between food safety professionals and management, as food safety professionals strive to uphold rigorous food safety standards while management may prioritize meeting production targets and minimizing costs.

Food safety professionals may face challenges in convincing management that food safety is not just a regulatory requirement but a crucial aspect of ensuring the integrity and safety of the food supply chain.

Legal Implications and Due Diligence

Food safety professionals face challenges communicating the legal implications of not meeting food safety practices. If a company’s product causes someone to become sick or injured, the company and the food safety professionals may be liable and face legal repercussions. Food safety professionals must emphasize the importance of prevention and due diligence in setting up robust food safety programs to mitigate potential risks.

However, management may view the implementation of food safety programs solely as a compliance issue rather than recognizing the legal and financial risks associated with non-compliance. Convincing management to view food safety as an essential aspect of risk management and liability prevention can be challenging for food safety professionals.

Overcoming Challenges and Promoting Food Safety

Despite the challenges, food safety professionals play a critical role in safeguarding public health and ensuring the safety and integrity of the food supply chain. To overcome these challenges, effective communication skills are paramount. Food safety professionals need to develop strategies to simplify the language of food safety, avoiding jargon and technical terms when communicating with stakeholders at all levels of the organization.

Using clear and concise language backed by scientific evidence and data can help bridge the gap and make food safety concepts more accessible and understandable to management and other stakeholders.

Building relationships and establishing trust with management is also crucial. Food safety professionals must cultivate relationships with key decision-makers, educate them on the importance of food safety, and demonstrate the value and benefits of implementing robust food safety programs.

This may include providing regular updates on food safety performance metrics, conducting training sessions for management and employees, and highlighting success stories and case studies from other organizations that have benefitted from effective food safety practices.

In addition, food safety professionals can also leverage external resources and industry best practices to reinforce their arguments. This can include referencing regulatory requirements, industry guidelines, and case studies of food safety incidents and their consequences. Food safety professionals can bolster their arguments by providing external references and examples and help management understand the potential risks and liabilities associated with inadequate food safety practices.

Finally, food safety professionals can advocate for integrating food safety into the business strategy. By aligning food safety with the company’s core values, vision, and goals, food safety professionals can demonstrate how effective food safety practices can contribute to the organization’s long-term success, reputation, and customer trust.

This may involve incorporating food safety as a key performance indicator (KPI) in management dashboards, conducting regular food safety audits and reviews, and integrating food safety into employee performance evaluations and incentives.

In conclusion, management commitment can be challenging for food safety professionals. Overcoming language barriers, resistance from management, and prioritization of production and profit over food safety can be daunting tasks.

However, by developing effective communication skills, building relationships with management, leveraging external resources, and advocating for the integration of food safety into the business strategy, food safety professionals can navigate these challenges and promote a culture of food safety within their organizations.

Author: Felicia
Felicia Loo is a Certified Food Scientist and registered SQF Consultant, focused on assisting food business to obtain food business license, achieving effective food safety management system and automate food safety system.