Since the onset of the pandemic, labor shortages have rattled the food industry. While employment at food manufacturing facilities increased significantly in 2022, the crippling effects of the workforce gap persist — frontline employees are stretched thin and companies may hire less-experienced temporary labor, significantly augmenting food safety risks.

While attracting qualified workers with better compensation, flexibility, and working conditions can offer a straightforward solution, the food industry can maintain high safety standards in several ways. Here are four ways to manage and strengthen your food safety standards during a labor shortage.

1. Invest in food safety training programs and continuous education

Given the high financial and brand risks of poor food safety compliance, companies cannot afford to assume all employees are familiar with food safety standards. Training can help new workers understand food safety best practices while providing a refresher to their more experienced colleagues.

AIB International recently released a new comprehensive and interactive food safety and sanitation digital course geared to mid-level employees who are often tasked with onboarding new workers. By tackling that critical first line of defense, companies can consistently uphold their food safety standards throughout the food supply chain.

2. Review key workflows and protocols with an internal audit

Understanding food safety best practices is just the first step: to create a lasting impact, you need to transform knowledge into compliance.

The best way to approach this task is by reviewing your key workflows and protocols through an internal audit  : Form an audit team, choose a consolidated standard for assessing your facility, and review your findings to update any necessary food safety protocols and best practices.

The benefits of a strong internal audit program are significant — you can correct any food safety issues before they snowball, while also better preparing for future food safety inspections.

3. Hire an external expert to fill critical gaps

When your entire day is dedicated to managing day-to-day tasks and operations, zooming out to identify systemic food safety risks can feel impossible. Here’s where external trusted partners can come in.

Through AIB’s Assign an Expert service, food safety experts arrive at your facility and become a member of your team for as long or short as needed. Given their expertise, they can help you solve problems, such as:

  • Identifying food safety risks and gaps
  • Delivering on-site staff training
  • Providing solutions to various high-risk food safety issues
  • Building better food safety processes and habits

4. Explore new food safety innovations

In labor-intensive sectors, like the food industry, human error is sometimes inevitable, even with airtight processes. Luckily, embracing new technological innovations in the food safety space can help you minimize risks. Here are some examples:

  • Automated monitoring sensors (e.g., for coolers, freezers, and other food storage units) that eliminate the need for repetitive data collection and alert you to anomalies.
  • UV light-based decontamination robots that can disinfect large spaces and advance sanitation techniques. They were very useful during Covid-19.
  • Food safety automation software that reminds managers of cleaning and maintenance schedules, supplier monitoring, trend tracking, and more.

Maintaining food safety when struggling with a labor shortage can be stressful, but by empowering your workforce with the proper training, processes, and technology, you set the foundation for a strong food safety culture that, over time, can help ensure that all the food you deliver to consumers is safe for them. Find out how AIB’s in-person, online, and hybrid training programs can help you meet your food safety goals today.

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