AMSA Report: Walmart's Yiannas promotes adoption of food safety culture

by Kimberlie Clyma
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MANHATTAN, Kan. – “The food system is in a race,” according to Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety for Walmart Stores, Inc. "A race to detect food safety outbreaks and a race to prevent them." Yiannas discussed the value of establishing a culture of food safety with attendees of the American Meat Science Association's 2011 Reciprocal Meat Conference. "Prevention has to outpace protection," he explained during the June 21 keynote address.

Addressing the large number of meat science students attending the event from universities around the country, Yiannas referred to the students as tomorrow's meat- industry leaders, explaining that food safety will continue to be a top concern for everyone working in any facet of food production.

Traditional corporate food safety strategies have always included training, inspections and micro-testing, Yiannas said. "HACCP is a step in the right direction but it's not the final destination."

He further explained that companies need to establish food safety cultures that spread throughout the entire company, instead of just setting up food safety programs from one department to the other. A food-safety culture is "a shared pattern of thought and behavior," he said. Walmart has established a food safety culture and uses it as a guideline throughout the company.

The five attributes of Walmart's food safety culture are:
1. To create defined food safety expectations.
2. To educate and train associates on food safety.
3. To communicate food safety frequently.
4. To establish food safety goals and measurements.
5. To establish consequences for food safety behaviors - preferably rewards for positive food safety behaviors rather than punishments for poor behavior.

Yiannas closed by iterating that when it comes to food safety, prevention- as opposed to protection- is the key. He added, "Prevention needs to be a shared responsibility with everyone in the food chain - from farm to table."
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