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Food Safety Crisis Management 101

Food Safety

In the latter half of 2020 alone, three multi-state foodborne illness outbreaks are sweeping the food industry. According to the CDC, 72 people have reported illness to date. In fact, since 2017, E. coli found in romaine lettuce has haunted the produce industry (particularly the leafy green industry), with multiple outbreaks occurring in the fall and winter each year.

Despite its ubiquity, many facilities are not prepared to handle foodborne illness outbreaks. Nevertheless, a full and accurate context of crisis management planning and proceedings is essential to deftly and successfully maneuver through a foodborne illness outbreak. Industry leadership juggling consumer demands for more convenient and higher quality products, complex supply chains, and government regulations may not fully understand the multifaceted decision-making process that arises during a potential foodborne illness outbreak.

A food safety crisis could lead to lost revenue, increased turnover, negative brand publicity, temporary closures, lost wages for staff, lawsuits, and more. Proper planning can help organizations avoid or lessen the impacts of a food crisis.

What is food safety crisis management?

A crisis plan for food safety incidents helps your organization’s key players know what actions to take once an incident occurs. While this plan goes beyond Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) and risk mitigation strategies, they are both integral parts of your food safety system.

Crisis management should include, but is not limited to:

  • Pinpoint possible crises, developing a plan of action for each
  • Identify those individuals who will manage the crisis and communicate this team of individuals to all employees
  • Define each step to be taken during a crisis, including how to communicate with media and interact with regulatory bodies
  • Train key players early and often
    Create a positive food safety culture across teams
  • Continually review your crisis plan to determine if updates or changes as needed

Resources for Preparing Your Crisis Management Plan

Alchemy Academy and Produce Marketing Association (PMA) have developed a new choose-your-adventure style crisis management simulation for produce industry professionals and beyond. Food Safety Crisis Management Simulation puts learners directly into the shoes of a produce industry CEO and President tasked with managing a foodborne illness outbreak in their facility. Participants build a new food safety knowledge base and have access to practical crisis management resources for their operation. Join the waitlist today!

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