ComplianceMate Blog

Incriminating Food Safety Data Is the Tool to Protect Your Brand

Here’s a secret: Sometimes it’s the bad news that truly empowers restaurants to prevent food safety (and potential coronavirus-related) crises.

Champion Email 2 May 2020 (1)

But not all brands and restaurant operators see it that way. Certainly, all restaurants and foodservice operations recognize the importance of food safety, and they all fervently pursue good news when it comes to reducing the risk of contamination.

However, many operations so thoroughly dread bad news related to their food safety standards that they neglect monitoring simply for fear of coming across incriminating data—even if in the long run it would prevent greater problems and help safeguard public health .

Flagging a potential violation can set a host of consequences into motion that could, potentially, result in the operation being cited, fined, or worse. “If a company has got data that could incriminate them in an outbreak, they get reluctant to look for it,” says David Acheson, former associate commissioner for foods at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Even worse, loss of customer trust at a moment when the restaurant industry is facing an unprecedented collapse in demand would be disastrous.

But that kind of attitude—fear of even seeing bad news—can be infectious. Frontline workers may learn to ignore or dismiss indicators of potential problems with the organization’s food safety culture. If managers and executives treat negative food safety data as failures and bad news, they will disincentivize accurate and upfront reporting. That could potentially increase the likelihood of a foodborne illness incident  and worsen its impact. Avoiding food safety data just makes a bad situation worse.

Re-thinking “incriminating” data: seeing bad news as good data that can fuel excellent decisions.

Many food industry professionals need to rethink their relationship with the food safety data they collect and analyze.

It might be tempting to bury one’s head in the sand—if they don’t know it, they don’t have to report it, and they can’t be held responsible for it, right? (Not true.) Instead, discovery of food safety problems, when detected early enough to do something about it, should be recognized as good.

This data, even if it seems incriminating, is the only thing that gives the organization the power to stop a food contamination issue in the early stages and prevent it from worsening. Even better, as long as the organization elects to act quickly, they can create a record of due diligence that demonstrates that the operation made a good-faith effort to protect their customers and the public. That’s vital to build trust and connect with consumers.

The flip is true too: a lack of data can lead to undesirable business outcomes.

So  restaurants that willfully neglect food safety monitoring and data collection deprive themselves of the power to fix problems before they turn into crises and blindside the organization. There’s another side to this equation, too:

Organizations that neglect food safety data-gathering may lack the information they need to defend themselves against unfounded accusations that can ultimately undermine consumer trust in the brands standards.

To illustrate this, a multi-store restaurant brand deployed the ComplianceMate™ temperature sensors and digital checklists at all of their locations.

Those ComplianceMate™ sensors automatically monitored, recorded, and transmitted the temperatures of the cold-holding equipment in real time. When the temperatures exceed safe thresholds, the system generated an automated alert.

This food safety system is also generated a consistent and reliable temperature log for audit and selection of corrective action. Similarly, the digital checklists incorporate those corrective actions into line checks so that users can immediately resolve any potential problems quickly to avoid any further issues.

In this scenario, one of this brand’s customers fell sick from a foodborne illness and identified that brand as the potential source. Health investigators contacted the brand for more information. By producing detailed logs from the ComplianceMate system that had been automatically generated, dating back to the specific day the customer visited, including any corrective actions that were taken, the logs validated those temperatures had been kept at continuously safe levels for food products and that all safety checks had been completed on time.

In other words, they were able to use the data they collected and produced to validate their own food safety processes and demonstrate their innocence. To learn more how ComplianceMate was able to help in this situation, read the Case Study on how Hattie B's was able to prove innocence.

In all cases: “Good” data must be both real time and actionable.

close up asian man holding tablet for checking order from customer on blurred coffee cafe shop background

Organizations can use food safety data for good purposes only if they capture the information in the first place. This requires a food safety management system and associated tools that can (1) generate and communicate accurate information in real time and (2) eliminate the possibility of staff trying to obscure food safety failures. After all, how can organizational leaders make good decisions if they don’t know what’s happening across the organization?

The right food safety program can create a direct pipeline of usable data from the frontlines to top-line decision-makers, while ensuring that team members who might try to hide or fudge data are stopped.  With good data in hand, these operations have the power identify and stop a food crisis before it even begins.

The result is a safer operation, fewer food incident scenarios, and robust documentation to shield the organization against accusations of health violations. It’s just an excellent brand-protection strategy.

It requires the restaurant to be willing to monitor and look objectively at food safety data, even if it’s not favorable. That, in turn, requires innovative processes and associated technology that can capture and communicate that information.

With ComplianceMate™, restaurants and all other foodservice establishments have ready access to a suite of high-tech tools that can uncover the root causes of contaminated foods, while also promoting safe food practices according to guidelines set forth by the (HACCP) system. In addition, restaurants can reduce the risk of lawsuits as well as sharply lower labor costs associated with food safety monitoring.

ComplianceMate™ streamlines HACCP compliance checklists and cooler monitoring for thousands of restaurant locations across the U.S. and globally. With award-winning wireless temperature sensors, mobile technologies, and easy-to-use tools, ComplianceMate™ gives users total control over food safety and compliance.