Why is Food Safety So Important?

Food safety is important in protecting the health of our guests, whether in our homes or a food establishment.

Food Safety is important in serving our guests

Customers are like personal guests in your home.

When we invite someone into our home, share appetizers we have made, dinner we have prepared or dessert we created and then feel appreciation from our guests we feel a sense of joy and pride. All of us have likely had that heart-warming experience. While I have never owned a food establishment, I have to believe there must be real pride in having people choose your restaurant. I am sure none of us would want our guests to go home sick. The good news is in a recent survey , 95% of chefs cite getting customers sick is a top concern. Food safety is important in protecting the health of our guests, whether in our homes or a food establishment.

Excellent food safety ratings increase revenue.

The data is clear. Better posted health department inspection grades improve revenue. Data from several sources confirm a 5-6% increase in revenue in those restaurants that are recognized for their food safety excellence. By itself, this should drive owners, managers and servers to strive to become the best they can be. Food safety excellence is rewarded with increased revenue.

A food borne illness event can severely tarnish a food safety image.

Alternately, we know that a food borne illness event(s) can tarnish a business image so badly it can take months or years to recover. Consider the case of Chipotle. The current severely tarnished image was from several episodes of Norovirus, Salmonella and E. Coli. Hundreds got sick in multiple states. We may never know all the causes. Perhaps it doesn’t matter because the image is so badly tarnished that apparently nearly 1/3 of those surveyed will never eat at Chipotle again. Poor food safety practices can severely, and perhaps permanently, tarnish a business’ image.

A food borne illness event and cause legal battles and impact insurance ratings, profits and credit ratings.

A typical bona fide legal battle over a food borne illness event can cost tens of thousands of dollars. The National Restaurant Association estimates the average cost to be $75,000. Insurance rates are likely to go up. Bankers may be less inclined to loan money to a business with a history of food borne illness events. And in the case of Chipotle the financial loss was devastating. Stock prices dropped nearly 40% and the company suffered one quarterly loss of $26.4 Million. Investors could stampede away. Suboptimal food safety practices can cost a lot of real money.

Everyone involved in a food safety breach may feel guilt and shame.

Instead of pride and successful reward, suboptimal food safety can lead to an embarrassing and sometimes shame ridden blemish on an admirable career. Chipotle’s CEO apologizes. Peanut Corporation of America owner says ‘I’m truly sorry’. While the leader of an organization assumes ultimate responsibility and while the leaders of a company are ultimately responsible, every employee may feel guilt and shame when guests suffer from a food safety breach and resultant food borne illness event.

Finally, people are getting sick and dying from poor food safety and illness.

The CDC estimates 250 people are so sick from food borne illness they will be admitted to the hospital for inpatient medical care and eight people will die each and every day in the USA. Sadly, I cared for a young man who died from the medical consequences of a food borne bacterium. My passion is driven by a intense desire to reduce such unnecessary misery and death.

In future blogs we will explore in detail each element of excellent food safety practices. We will tease out root causes of violations while increasing awareness of each item and suggest practical solutions.

Please accept my personal invitation to join me(us), share ideas and then share our collective message with colleagues. Together we will embark upon a journey of exploring food safety Excellence!

Dr. Stueven

Executive Director