5 Simple (and cheap) Ways to Improve Food Safety

It doesn’t take millions of dollars and a team of food scientists to create safe food. A lot of it can be boiled down to common sense and there are simple things that can be done to improve food safety in any facility.

Let’s take a look at some things that can be done to make a safer product:


1. “Inspect what you expect” 

We have all heard this mantra applied to business. But what does it mean in the literal context of food safety? We all have certain expectations surrounding food we consume and products we use that they will be safe and sanitary. Why then, would one not provide a safe product? We need to put ourselves in the shoes of the consumer, but think like an inspector at all times. Take a few minutes to conduct your own inspection. Think about what a potential customer or inspector would think of your operation and employee practices. This means getting out on to the production floor to observe employees, ensuring that equipment is in good repair and that the facility is being maintained. What would you expect to see if you went to someone else’s operation?


2. Organize, Organize, Organize 

If there is one thing I have learned to be successful in any area of life, it is to be organized. Food safety can be greatly improved by going into storage and organizing raw materials, for example. A major reason for recalls is undeclared allergens. Storing raw ingredients in an organized manner can prevent mix-ups or spills, which can cross contaminate other ingredients. Having an organized system to use up inventory, such as first-in, first-out (FIFO) can prevent waste by using the oldest ingredients first. This doesn’t cost a lot of money, just a little bit of time.


3. Use Color Coding

Color-coding works in many areas of the plant. For example, designate utensils for food contact only, cleaning only and maintenance only. In a previous place I worked, we utilized green cutting boards for vegetables, red for meat, and yellow for chicken. This coupled with a good cleaning regimen for the boards ensured that bacteria from raw meat would never come in to contact with the cutting boards used for ready-to-eat vegetables. I have also seen color-coded stickers used to identify allergens so it was immediately apparent to staff what allergens were in a certain ingredient.


4. Read the Regs

Yes, reading can be time consuming, but monetarily, it’s free! There are many free resources available online such as the regulations, guidance for industry, and Q&A documents that can answer that burning food safety question you have. People can no longer claim ignorance on the regulations as all of them are now available online. Take the time to poke around the FDA, USDA and CDC websites. They all provide free resources and contact information to get answers. The Food Code has recommendations for retail operations. State and local boards of health may also provide training to their constituents at low or no cost.


5. Create a Culture of Food Safety

What does this mean, besides just a turn of phrase? It means people practice food safety principles, even without a supervisor watching them. The principles should be engrained into the behavior and understood by everyone in the company. I think the best way I have seen this happen is by management setting a good example and fostering an environment of mutual trust and respect. 



Thomas is a food safety inspector, writer and food science aficionado who holds a BS in Food Science from Kansas State University. He started in the trenches as a QA Technician. He has written for Science Meets FoodChews-Worthy and other food-related publications. You can follow him on twitter @mmbagelz.