Traditional retail verticals are becoming more obscure. Here in the northeast, big box retailers have been “re-opening” with grocery departments and it seems that every time I visit my grocery store they have more and more retail merchandise. The change in merchandising channels force loss prevention professionals to once again re-adjust, adapt and focus on new concerns; one of those concerns is food safety.
Why is food safety important to a Loss Prevention department who supports a retailer selling food?
Well, you don’t want your customers’ getting sick from your food is the most important reason. One illness or outbreak could cost your company hundreds of thousands of dollars. This could happen as a result of an increase to your insurance premiums, loss of business, damage to your reputation, the cost of correcting violations and legal costs to name a few. Any company selling food or food related products has a legal responsibility to maintain a high level of product safety for their consumers. This responsibility transcends down to your associates and anyone handling food items.
So while your LP Professionals are in your establishments handling the traditional loss prevention operational issues why not have them check up on your food safety practices or more specifically, your Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) while they are there? They do not need a degree in food management, 20 years food service experience and a lot of expensive testing equipment to make positive difference in your organization. Armed with knowledge through a food safety manager certification course and some time with the federal and state food codes, your loss prevention professional can do what they do best – observe and educate your associates at the store level.
Your store associates are the people on the front line and those most responsible with day to day food safety. When a state food inspection occurs on your premises the first thing a state inspector wants your person in charge to do is demonstrate their knowledge of foodborne disease prevention. Responding correctly to the inspector’s questions as they relate to the specific food operation is a critical first step of the inspection. A wrong answer or no answers at all could signal to the inspector that there may be problems in your establishment.
Not sold on the value of a food safety program yet? Take a look at some of these actual news headlines from July and August.
State Salmonella outbreak sickens 107 linked to ground turkey
Raw milk from dairy farm sickens 8 with Campylobactor in Wyoming
Shigella, Crypto illness reported in Kentucky
North Carolina Olive Garden to face Hepatitis A Shot class action
380,000 pounds of Canadian bacon recalled to Listeria
Norovirus hits Sea Princess Cruise ship
9 Sicken in Michigan E. Coli outbreak traced to hamburger
(not sure what some of those diseases are? Google them - they aren't pretty)
So how to get your LP team started to focus on food safety in your company?
It is simple really. Start by educating your LP team through a food service certification program. These programs are designed to give a broad understanding of food safety operations. Then look to the federal and state food codes to build food safety aspects into your loss prevention operational audit. There are 17 specific points listed in the federal food code that your loss prevention personnel can test and train your food handlers on.
When your food handlers gain the knowledge to answer these questions you can bet they will be running a better food operation for your protection and the protection of your customers.
And by the way…Hold the salmonella please.
Written by John Fice, CFI, Chief Operating Officer