Food safety culture relies on a learning environment and managing behaviors.
Looking at other companies’ recalls, specifically a competitor’s beef primal recall related to E. coli O157:H7 contamination in 2010 can serve as learning lessons. “We took a really deep look at how we were managing our beef processes and the understanding of E. coli in trim and how it impacted us relative to the management of our beef primals,” Siemens says, adding that companies including Cargill now have programs in place to systematically pull primals out of the supply chain based on food safety results of beef trim.

“We learned, and the entire industry learned,” she says.

Cargill’s Salmonella-related recall of about 36 million lbs. of ground turkey in 2011, was another unfortunate but beneficial learning experience. “Looking closer at how Salmonella works its way through the process, from the live side to the plant and the characteristics of that organism,” Siemens explained, is what caused the company to examine the processes and procedures it needed to put into place.

Much of the focus after that recall was on understanding the implications of levels of Salmonella and not just the prevalence of it but how it might exist throughout the production process. “We can continue to decrease overall levels of Salmonella while we are working to get rid of it and have very positive public health outcomes. We’ve put some practices in place and use some metrics to continue understanding how Salmonella is coming through in turkeys,” she says.

To that end, she says Cargill’s food safety culture is reliant on a learning environment with a goal of improving and learning without relying on a mistake or recall being made.