Qstream had the pleasure of attending this year’s Food Safety Summit, and as first timers, we were blown away by the thought and effort that went into making the event both educational and entertaining. The annual conference, which gathers the food safety community to share the latest best practices and business solutions, was held in Rosemont, IL, just outside of Chicago. The team planned to venture into the big city at some point, but found there were plenty of restaurants and things to do around the convention center.

We met so many wonderful people and had great conversations with those that stopped by our booth – attendees and fellow vendors alike. Since it’s difficult to share all we learned and observed during the three-day event, here are the main takeaways.

Knowledge is not sticking for frontline workers

We couldn’t help but pick up on one theme from attendees that stopped by our booth: training material is not being retained due to the forgetting curve. On top of that, companies don’t have the analytics to measure what employees know and don’t know, making it a problem without a real solution.

Not being able to recall knowledge on the job can result in non-compliance and potentially lead to increased costs to consumer health, hefty regulatory fines and a severely damaged company reputation.

Eyes lit up when we explained how Qstream can help. Our microlearning and knowledge reinforcement solution seems to be the missing piece of their L&D strategy. They saw Qstream as something that could add value to their existing programs and ensure that proper procedures shared in other training sessions are not only remembered long-term, but actively applied on the job.

The science behind our product also resonated, as many attendees in this space come from related fields. Qstream was developed at Harvard Medical School and rigorous testing proves that our methodology, which uses the spacing and testing effects, improves knowledge retention by up to 170%.

People also had a sort of “aha!” moment when we shared the analytics Qstream provides which pinpoint critical gaps in knowledge in real time so they can quickly be addressed.

Our translation services also went over well with most training folks supporting a diverse group of frontline workers. We offer translations in 18 languages and have a library of readily available translated content on a variety of topics.

People said this would help drive ongoing DEI efforts, which include developing their workers for future leadership roles, and specifically, building a more diverse executive team.

Fostering a food safety culture is critical for future success

Conference attendees, panelists and vendors alike rallied around building a company-wide food safety culture, which was a major theme across all sessions and activities. Everyone seemed to agree that it’s imperative for providing safer food and reinvigorating what it means to work in this industry – from the front lines and beyond.

But what exactly does this culture look like and how do we get there? That was the focus of a keynote presentation, which featured panelist representation from the industry, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Each provided their take.

“We are responsible for the health of the nation and increasingly the world,” Shawn Stevens, Founding Member of Food Industry Counsel LLC, said to kick things off on a note of urgency and drive home the seriousness of the discussion.

Those representing the FDA believe that this transformation needs to come from the top, with leadership focusing on instilling food safety values that lead to real behavior change. They assured those in the audience that the FDA is here to support their efforts in creating this culture at their individual organizations, as it will help them achieve one of the pillars of their New Era of Smarter Food Safety plan of action.

Michael Roberson, Director of Corporate Quality Assurance for Publix, offered the industry perspective, agreeing that this culture change must start with leadership and adding that it should be prioritized as a business KPI. Publix, which is consistently recognized as a leader in food safety, uses a variety of training formats to promote safe and hygienic practices, ranging from educational content to monthly themes to drive awareness and adoption. Their recent focus was on proper hand washing. They also equip frontline managers with data and talking points to start conversations around the topics with their teams. And to track their efforts and continuously improve, they evaluate their performance using food safety score cards.

Food safety culture is also hugely important to the DOJ, who is responsible for protecting the consumer. This group evaluates an organization’s food safety culture during prosecution, specifically internal communications, compliance and how quickly the situation was handled.

Food Safety Magazine did a nice job summarizing the keynote presentation, which you can read here >

During these conversations, I was nearly jumping out of my seat, wanting so badly to share how Qstream is ideally suited to help these organizations make food safety part of employees’ daily lives. The science behind Qstream has been proven to change behavior. In the end, an organization’s culture is not about how people behave when they are being inspected but about how they behave when no one is watching. If you want to change culture, focus on the science of behavior change throughout the organization.

Organizations must build strong, mutually beneficial relationships with regulators

Teamwork among the industry and regulators will be an increasingly essential part of driving that culture of food safety. After all, both parties have the same goal: producing safe food. Working in harmony with regulators promotes better communication during outbreaks and emergencies, ultimately leading to better outcomes.

In a workshop titled Effectively Communicating with the Regulatory Committee, a panel consisting of regulators and those from the regulated industry discussed the importance of being respectful, bringing facts to the table and being proactive – particularly when it comes to maintaining lines of communication and forming partnerships with regulators at all levels. Here are a few of the other recommendations shared:

  • Set up a yearly meeting with your local regulator
  • Join your state’s food safety group
  • Approach disagreements constructively
  • Present your concerns as soon as possible and be prepared to to show evidence
  • Consider a written response to the inspection

 

And this one really got me – pick up the phone and call your regulator! People today are bombarded by texts and emails and this is one way to easily cut through the clutter and humanize yourself and your company.

Thanks to everyone who came by our booth! We hope to see you all, as well as some new faces, next year.

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