A message from the CEO of Safe Food Production Qld
Regulators face a challenge to remain relevant
In order to remain relevant, regulatory bodies must change their ways toward influence rather than enforcement. We have probably extracted most of what we can from a science- and risk-based approach. It is time to pay attention to the ‘people factor’.
Linking culture and success
Linking culture with success (on the football field and in the Boardroom) appears to be the new management solution. The theory is that a skilful team also requires a supportive culture to remain successful.
Where to from here
Putting the hype aside, there is good reason to pay more attention to motivation, behaviour and attitude as influential ‘people factors’ when mandatory requirements are imposed. At the end of the day, it is choice that will produce outcomes, not regulation.
Regulators in the food space have experienced the development of risk controls under HACCP. However, these controls are challenged by a future driven by disruptive technologies. In the digital world, it is easier and potentially more profitable to avoid regulation than it is to comply with it. How do we get ahead of the curve, or should we go with it and adapt?
The experience at Safe Food
Safe Food Production Queensland regulates primary production and processing in Queensland. We are a statutory body that has been in business for 16 years. We are fortunate to have a single, outcomes-based piece of legislation to administer. Our regulation is science/risk-based and operates through-chain. The industries we regulate are meat, dairy, seafood, horticulture and eggs. Working with diverse commodities allowed us to develop and adapt to meet demands of rapidly changing supply chains.
Over the years we have seen that voluntary compliance is much more sustainable than issuing corrective actions and enforcing the rules. Therefore, helping people understand and support the reason for regulation is our starting point. We spend more time now on effective engagement and developing a relationship with each business that we accredit.
What has changed?
We continue to work on our internal culture and also on how we engage with food businesses. Businesses are encouraged to have internal discussions about culture and how it relates to food safety.
The tools prepared by FSANZ are recommended as a starting point.
Regulation generally relies on the ‘one size fits all principle’. Safe Food considers compliance in the context of the culture and capability of each business.
When we approach the business about food safety regulation, we start with questions that help us understand the motivation of the business owner or operator as a food supplier. The conversation then moves on to expectations focusing on what food safety controls are relevant to that business.
The language used in these conversations is about ‘how we get things done around here’. What is said reveals the extent to which the existing business culture supports food safety. With this knowledge, Safe Food can extend the conversation to consideration of what might need to improve and why.
While the regulatory outcomes remain paramount as a background to these conversations, starting with a shared objective of supplying ‘best product imaginable’ brings food safety into focus as a critical element of business success. We must bear in mind that food safety is one of many requirements that businesses have to deliver.
The more we educate about culture (inside our organisation and outside with businesses), the less we have to regulate with a ‘big R’ to achieve food safety outcomes.
by Dr Barbara Wilson, CEO Safe Food Production Queensland