Researchers interviewed employees and owners at eight small and medium sized food manufacturers in Ontario, Canada, to uncover their attitudes towards HACCP.
Motivating factors: Writing in the Food Control Journal, the scientists said most of the interviewees cited the likelihood of future regulation as a primary motivator.
“The good thing about HACCP is that it makes you accountable to an outside body so there is no compromise. I don’t have to be the one verifying it, the auditor is and everybody is aware of the ramifications if things don’t pass when the auditor comes in.”
At the companies where HACCP certification had been achieved, there was widespread agreement that food safety awareness had increased among employees.
Although one food safety manager said the HACCP experience had created tension between managers who were either for or against the program, most interviewees were positive about the effects of HACCP. Respondents also mentioned improved consumer confidence and more standardised processes as benefits.
When it came to implementation, all personnel identified commitment of senior staff as the key to success. In addition to providing sufficient financial support, this means that managers and owners musts “walk the talk” and wear hair nets and wash hands as they enter production areas.
Staff challenges: Getting the right staff in place is also crucial. Lack of in-house experience meant that three of the eight plants surveyed had failed in their first attempt to implement HACCP. One certified plant had worked towards HACCP for two years and had replaced the quality manager twice in that time.
But expertise is not all that matters. One respondent said it is important to get people involved who like the paperwork and the details. “The biggest challenge we’ve had was in the documentation process. It wasn’t actually getting the food safety systems working but the actual documentation process.”
Another staffing issue identified by senior managers and owners related to the hiring of someone to champion the HACCP program. Smaller companies in particular complained that it was difficult to find someone who knew about HACCP and was willing to work for the salary on offer.
One interviewee said: “We got a ton of applications but everyone wanted between $60,000 - $100,000 to do HACCP and traceability to just take care of the paperwork on it. To me, this seems completely out of line especially for such a new program and you won’t be hiring somebody who has any real knowledge or background because it’s such a new thing.”
Further down the company food safety managers and coordinators complained about lack of time to write and implement programs. At five of the companies consulted, the language barrier was also mentioned as a problem when it came to training production workers about HACCP.
Source: Food Control doi:10.1016/j.foodcont.2010.06.005. Effective implementation of food safety initiatives: Managers’, food safety coordinators’ and production workers’ perspectives. Authors: Anne Wilcock, Brita Ball and Abisola Fajumo