A scientist in a lab coat carefully examines a ripe strawberry in a laboratory setting.

How a zero-harm mindset supports food safety in pharma

Published on : 5/24/24
Reading time : 5 min
  • Patient safety is paramount in the pharmaceutical industry, with robust procedures governing all aspects of the sector’s work. Food safety is equally critical to protecting the talented pharma workforce, and requires the same robust approach.

    Food handlers need the right training, processes and oversight, fundamental to this is a positive safety culture. Because serving delicious dishes that nourish and delight each guest must start with a zero-harm mindset.

    Safety is fundamental in pharma and food service

    For companies across all sectors, health and safety is not a nice-to-have; it’s pivotal to commercial success. In this highly regulated industry, the productivity of both R&D and manufacturing sites depends on tight adherence to well-designed processes. Even suspected deviations can see operations grind to a halt.

    The same is true in the food service sector, where the tiniest amount of an unexpected allergen could have far-reaching and potentially deadly consequences. That's why Sodexo takes the safety of our guests incredibly seriously. Whether following food preparation procedures to the letter or meeting high cleaning standards in pharma labs, safety is vital to our purpose and to the trust of our customers and guests.

    No one should take food safety for granted

    Getting food safety right saves lives, and we believe that everyone has a role to play. It’s about food handlers answering guest’s questions accurately, chefs avoiding cross-contamination, cleaners keeping food areas spotless and suppliers providing accurate information about allergens. It’s about making sure everyone involved in sourcing, preparing, storing and serving food is doing so in line with the law and best practice.

    That’s why, from the boardroom to the kitchen and from farm to fork, our policies, procedures, training and quality assurance processes are designed to minimise risk. And why we work hard to foster a zero-harm mindset, putting food safety on the menu even before a colleague starts.

    All Sodexo’s food supplier are subject to a rigorous onboarding process ahead of being permitted to supply. 

    Sodexo has a dedicated teams of experts working on its processes and procedures. This includes food safety experts to ensure safety of foods and nutritionists to ensure menu design provides consumers with nutritionally balanced, delicious dishes. 

    Building a positive food safety culture

    Even before someone starts, we explain that great food must always be safe food. And once they join, it’s clear that food safety guides everything we do. We talk about it, we celebrate it, we voice our concerns out loud. It’s how we shape a positive food safety culture, where working with care and talking about potential issues is seen as saving lives, not causing problems. 

    Rachael Elliott, Sodexo UK and Ireland Senior Food Safety Manager

    Food safety is at the heart of our colleague induction and training programme. Just like any other food business, we cover the law, procedures and practicalities, like temperature checks, allergen management and labelling, hazard analysis and compliance monitoring. But we also bring their importance to life through storytelling and keep our Food Safety Policy memorable by summarising it in three simple steps: 

    1. Look Out: follow our processes to watch out for hazards

    2. Speak Up: challenge unsafe practices and always report near misses

    3. Act Now: demonstrate positive behaviour and keep up with training

    Even when the induction is complete, the learning never stops. We share ‘safety moments’ at the start of each shift, reward good practice through our ‘Have a Safe Day’  programme, and keep colleagues up to date with regular briefings and training. 

    Giving teams the right tools to cut risk

    We invest continually in technology that helps site-based teams to reduce food safety risk. Our centralised food ordering system, DRIVE, is a one-stop-shop for effective menu planning. By enabling our chefs to see which ingredients they need for each meal, they can order the correct amount of food for their sites. This helps to minimise waste and facilitiates effective stock control. 

    Staying responsive to clients’ needs

    A woman in a white lab coat holds a leafy green plant, showcasing scientific research on plant life.Our food safety management system takes a risk-based approach, enabling us to focus specialist resources in the right areas to protect each and every guest. That means we can respond quickly to changes in law and to different clients’ needs, avoiding a ‘one size fits all' approach.

    Any issues that may be discovered through our compliance monitoring – whether delivered by our in-house teams or external companies – are escalated quickly – and subject to review of the Just Culture behavioural framework. Our aim is not to punish poor practice but rather to support immediate change, encouraging people to keep reporting areas of concern so we can take the right actions at the right time.

    Making improvements all the time

    We’re continually improving our food safety procedures, using data gathered at site level  to identify strong performance and share best practice. We also look for ways to make compliance as easy as possible. Feedback from our operators is actively welcomed and used to support the continual improvement of the system.

    Adding sustainability into the mix

    We change our menus regularly, introducing seasonal produce and exciting new flavours to delight our guests. As consumers increasingly look for unprocessed, nutritious and sustainable food, we’re also introducing fibre-rich and functional ingredients to support gut health and reduce the impact on the environment. 

    Each menu change is planned with safety and sustainability in mind, from early supplier engagement to updated colleague information. That means guests and clients can trust that the dishes we serve are created, sourced and prepared with care, ready to support their health and the health of the planet.

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