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The 5 Awesome Things I learned at the QA Executive Study Group Meeting - October 2016.

written by:Bruce Perkin


Another great meeting, and congratulations to The National Restaurant Association and organizing team that put this all together. Excellent speakers in a great venue, with a wonderful cross section of highly talented industry professionals in attendance. As was said during the meeting, this was the biggest one so far, and I am sure that given the quality of the event that the numbers will increase again next time.

With so much great content, I decided to challenge myself to limit the highlights and learning for me to follow up to just 5 key things. I know that if I try to do everything I will surely fail to do much of anything, and 5 seems like a reasonable list that I can keep top of mind. If it’s good enough for Frank Yiannas to have the Walmart High Five to make sure that the Walmart teams know what the top five food safety things they need to focus on, then surely I can learn from that.


  1. Food Safety Equals Behavior

Frank really was awesome as usual, with practical commonsense advice on leveraging the principles of human behavior to improve compliance to food safety programs. Consistency and commitment; we know that humans want to behave in a way that is consistent with their beliefs, and secondly if we can get our teams to make a written personal commitment to complying with the food safety rules (small commitment up front so that they come on board, followed by the big ask later on) then the compliance will be much higher. The principle of homophily; to encourage everyone to buy into food safety by using someone who is part of your target group as the spokesperson to communicate it. Make food safety the norm; how to use group pressure for good. Learning the wrong way; providing real life examples of what happens when you do it the wrong way helps drive home the message more powerfully than lots of words about the right way. Making it Rhyme; once you have heard and seen it there was no forgetting the Walmart Food Safety Rap.

I am reading Frank’s books again to refresh all the great messages, and would highly recommend anyone who has an interest or responsibility in leading food safety to also read these.


2. Active Managerial Control

Hal King gave a master class in restaurant food safety management covering topics like; providing proof that the proactive preventative steps are actually being done, locating hand wash sinks at the point where the intervention is needed, how to stay on top of employee illness by keeping it simple, logging any illness to reinforce the importance, offering to make up team member hours lost due to illness, and that even when you are using GFSI audits to verify supplier quality programs you will still need a secondary program to ensure that they are really doing what they say they are. It all really pointed to the need for lots more documentation than many operators in the restaurant industry have been using up to now.


3. Multistate Outbreak Panel

Lots of good stuff in these presentations, however the standout here was the graph that was used by CDR Matthew Wise that showed the big step up in the identification of the causes of the outbreaks with Pulse Net and the use of PFGE. Then came the big reveal as he showed us how with WGS the accuracy increases by up to 100 fold. Now that WGS has become somewhat common place and significantly more simple and cost effective, we should expect to see much more accurate and rapid identification of the causes of outbreaks. That surely encourages us to really make certain our food safety program is as rigorous as it can be.


4.How to Sell Food Safety to Management

Gary Ades has given us another book for our “must read” list as he stepped us all through how we get the support we all need from our senior leaders to elevate food safety and drive for continuous improvement. I am sure we can all relate to the quote that “we work hard so that nothing happens”, however Gary was clear that this quote may not get us the incremental funding we think we need. A better way to drive engagement with our senior leaders is to know how food safety contributes to business finances, results, customer satisfaction and what it all costs.


 5.Handwashing for Life

Some great reminders and wake up calls by Jim Mann  and Pam Ritz in this session! While we all know how important hand washing is, I am sure that even we industry professionals don’t wash our hands as often as we prescribe for others. It was very timely to be reminded that only 4% of food safety incidents are attributable to suppliers, while up to 96% are attributable to employees. Also the reminder that with Hepatitis A, a carrier will begin to shed the virus up to 2 weeks before they have symptoms really was helpful in reminding us to diligently dig back for two weeks to find and offer vaccinations to all those who may have come in contact with the individual diagnosed with this. Thanks also to everyone who contributed to the discussion at the end of that session as we all learned together that while technology can be useful, the touch screens definitely need to be on our sanitation program.


Of course there were lots more valuable presentations and great dialog during the meeting than just these five areas that I have highlighted, and I am sure that there is lots of room for debate and discussion about what the universal top 5 take-aways were.

We at AQA would like to hear from you as to what you thought.

Please feel free to reach out to myself or Eric Graves at any point and we would be happy to hear about what resonated for you and why.


We would also like to hear from you as to what the food safety and quality management challenges are in your business. With our deep industry experience we are sure we can offer solutions.

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