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Weeklong Event Makes Food Safety Personal at Golden State Foods

June 6, 2023
World Food Safety Day is June 7, but Golden State Foods makes food safety a priority year-round; and then boosts that commitment through a full week of recognition, training and reinforcement.
Have you ever wondered how your favorite restaurants and quick-service locations ensure the health and safety of the food you’re about to order and eat or take home to your family? From farm to fork, our food travels on a journey with complex processes along the way. No one thinks about this more than the 6,000-plus associates at Golden State Foods (GSF), one of the largest diversified suppliers to the foodservice and retail industries, feeding one billion people every day.

The United Nations annually designates June 7 as World Food Safety Day to raise global awareness and inspire action to manage foodborne risks. Just five years ago, this day of recognition did not exist! At GSF, we prioritize food safety every day and dedicate more than just one day to recognizing food safety — we have our Food Safety Awareness Week. This June 5-11 marks our third annual celebration of the daily impact that each GSF associate has on food safety.

Why We Do It

We implemented GSF Food Safety Awareness Week in 2021 to formally further recognize our food safety objectives and provide additional food education to our associates. This is now included in our strategic planning and part of our journey to maintain a best-in-class food safety culture. Keeping all food safe for consumption is an intricate process, and it requires every associate to be aware and committed to following all food safety rules.

Even prior to the implementation of the Food Safety Awareness Week celebration, GSF had robust systems in place with a significant focus on food protection and with the ultimate goal to raise further awareness about how each associate’s actions may impact food safety across our entire system. GSF seeks to inspire all associates to take action and help prevent, detect, and manage food safety risks. Understanding the importance of proper food handling, the critical role each one of us plays in manufacturing, and delivering safe foods to our customers are pillars to our success in this industry.

By reminding our associates that a member of their family could eat our products at any given time, our message is personal and relatable. Showing our teams how their actions may impact consumers, GSF (and our brand reputation) and potentially their family is very important to capturing their attention and motivating all associates to do the right thing, even when no one is looking.

How We Do It

During the initial implementation of Food Safety Awareness Week, committee leaders were director- and manager-level leaders. In evolving the program today, supervisors with closer access to associate behavior are leading the charge on improvement opportunities across GSF teams. Thus, we are diversifying each committee member to better understand the needs of each facility within our system of companies.

Since its inception, the information and messages crafted have become more sophisticated with design and content to engage associates across the organization. Additionally, our Food Safety Awareness Week has acquired a better cadence as GSF associates became more familiar with the program, allowing our facilities to better prepare for this annual week of food safety celebration.

To ensure a cohesive message across all GSF teams regardless of location, our committee developed informational scripts detailing internal guidelines for use during Food Safety Awareness Week and beyond. Furthermore, the team holds sessions with Food Safety, Quality and Regulatory (FSQR) leaders to review topic slides for ease of delivery during learning sessions. We try diligently to continue to innovate the ways in which we deliver messaging, training materials and educational programs to better involve associates at every level.

Heading into our third year of Food Safety Awareness Week, some key learnings we have gained include:

  • It is very important to reward good behavior and recognize associates doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.
  • The messages, training modules and educational resources need to be very simple and easy to understand. The activities must also be fun to engage with as many associates as possible.

This year, we will share key Global Food Safety Facts and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs); explain the “whys” of code dating, food defense requirements, good housekeeping and robust sanitation programs. We have also developed a whiteboard GMPs video to drive a deeper engagement with our associates.

Leading Together

For GSF, food safety is personal. Beyond our own associates and throughout the foodservice industry, we believe that all companies have the opportunity to raise awareness of the impact each employee has on food safety. Establishing a food safety culture does not happen quickly, and unfortunately, there is not a single solution for every food safeguarding challenge. It can take years of hard work and commitment from the top down across an organization to enact a successful strategy and steadfast culture of ownership in this area. But every step forward can be positive progress on the journey.

Ensuring teams embrace and foster a robust food safety program instills confidence that it will be prioritized no matter what obstacles may arise. We invite other organizations to reach out to other companies in their field and learn from their food safety journeys.

About the Author

Mariana Manole | Group vice president of quality, food safety and regulatory affairs, Global Liquid Products

Mariana Manole is group vice president of quality, food safety and regulatory affairs, Global Liquid Products at Golden State Foods (GSF), a diversified supplier to the foodservice and retail industries, servicing more than 200 leading brands from its 50-plus locations on five continents. In her role, Mariana successfully served as chief quality officer for GSF with worldwide responsibility for food safety and quality systems that satisfy regulatory requirements at all liquid products facilities.

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