Health food buzzwords are everywhere, labeling products “organic” and “all-natural”—but are we facing a day when consumers would rather see the words “safely prepared” on advertisements? With foodborne illness as the most prevalent food safety concern, perhaps the most important marketing would be the reassurance that food safety training is taken seriously. Would such an approach to marketing be seen as a step in the right direction or would it open a door for misleading advertising? Let’s consider both sides of the debate.
Reasons to use food safety as a marketing tool:
When customers go out to eat, they need to know that the food they consume will not be harmful to them. According to Food Navigator-USA, consumers are more concerned about food safety now than they have been in the past five years. This is no surprise when you consider recent food safety challenges. The year 2015 alone included major Listeria, E-Coli, and Salmonella outbreaks. After such widely publicized outbreaks, food safety is on the brain.
Following bad publicity, it is typical for food producers and restaurants to reassure the public of a commitment to practice safe and responsible food sourcing and handling. Of course it is acceptable to reassure the public after food safety violations have occurred, but is that the only appropriate time to mention food safety training? Perhaps not. In an article written by LGMA (California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement), the assurance of food safety in restaurants is something that consumers “should be happy to learn.” Dr. Steven Lyon, Manager of Supply Chain Safety at Chick-fil-A feels that “food safety is critical to the dining experience.” Lyon reassured customers of the fast food chain that they “don’t need to worry about the safety of the items that come into the back door of their restaurant.” One way to help customers feel comfortable entering your restaurant is to market the safe food training and practices that your team diligently follows.
Concerns about using food safety as a marketing tool:
Though using food safety as a marketing tool could benefit your food establishment, there is definite room for concern. Failure to market food safety should not exempt a food producer or restaurant from practicing food safety. According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), “Consumers have a right to expect that the foods they purchase and consume will be safe and of high quality.” In other words, all food should be responsibly prepared and safe to eat. STOP Foodborne Illness, a nonprofit public health organization, promotes a similar message, stating that “food safety should NOT be used as a competitive advantage.” Rather than using food safety as a marketing tool, food safety should be an expectation for all.
Where food safety is promised, food safety is expected. Take a look at the complexity facing Founder and CEO of Chipotle, Steve Ells, for example. Following several food safety incidents, Ells stated that Chipotle would be the “safest place to eat.” Though the restaurant’s food safety program has been considerably enhanced, Ells acknowledged, “In the end, it may not be possible for anyone to completely eliminate all risk with regard to food […] but we are confident that we can achieve near zero risk.” Despite Chipotle’s efforts to go above and beyond standard food safety, the company was sued for allegedly misleading investors about the restaurant’s ability to protect the health of consumers. Ultimately, using food safety as a marketing tool could complicate the integrity of your food establishment.
Importance of food safety:
Whether or not you choose to market food safety, the most important thing to remember is that food safety should be practiced. Food managers and food handlers must be properly trained and work hard to make food that is delicious and safe for customers. Consider implementing a training program with StateFoodSafety.com. The goal of StateFoodSafety.com is to provide individuals and organizations with “A Better Learning Experience,” which means delivering the best courses, the best technology, and the best service. It’s up to you to make the commitment to take food safety seriously.