Addressing the “culture” within your company can be a tricky thing — it is, by and large, in everything that everyone does and says, every day. It’s difficult to define, and to a large extent, out of any one person or group of people’s control. But it can be influenced, and when it comes to food safety, creating and maintaining a healthy culture of people who care is absolutely imperative.

“An all-encompassing food safety culture starts with raising awareness and providing food safety training for employees, but it’s also about engaging employees,” says Jeff Palmer, president of DayMark Safety Systems. “Leaders must implement meaningful ways to foster commitment among employees to do what is right at all times — even when management is not present. To do that, employees must be given the tools and motivation to meet those expectations.”

First and foremost, company leaders need to genuinely show their commitment to the cause. And according to Palmer, it’s not just by establishing and enforcing food safety codes.

“Senior leaders actively set expectations and reinforce the culture by putting in place rewards for proper food safety behaviors, and appropriate consequences for improper actions,” he says. “But these organizations also understand that there are fun ways — like monthly contests and prizes — to get employee involvement in safety planning committees, for example. They also set budgets to ensure these activities are ongoing, to continuously support the food safety culture.”

Maintaining that culture will always come down to best practices though, and a lot of food safety centers around date labeling, he says. As part of the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Code, employee training on date marking in commissaries is critical, and every employee should understand that it can literally be a matter of life and death.

“Proper food labeling is required to control the growth of listeria,” Palmer explains, “which can cause serious illness and sometimes death to the elderly, the young and pregnant women. Since these bacteria can grow at refrigeration temperatures below 41° F, the main factor in keeping listeria under control is time. Date marking identifies the day or date by which a refrigerated, ready-to-eat food held for more than 24 hours needs to be consumed, sold or discarded. The day of preparation is day one, and the maximum hold time is seven days.”

To aid in this prevention, DayMark introduced Dissolve-A-Way labels, which are adhesive and water-soluble, in 1997. They were the first of their kind, and remain one of the brand’s top-sellers. The company then automated the date marking process in 2013 with the DayMark 9700 Food Label Terminal. DayMark’s next generation label terminal, the DayMark PRO, was introduced this year. The PRO features a multi-lingual interface, dual printer mechanisms, batch printing capability, and an intuitive menu editor. “Its additional multimedia capabilities provide another dimension for training,” Palmer adds, “with the ability to link menu items to high resolution images and video of food preparation and plating instructions.”

“With respect to food rotation management,” Palmer says, “DayMark’s food labeling terminals can save food service operators significant labor dollars when compared to handwritten food prep and storage labels. At a minimum, one labor hour per day, and on average, 8.5 hours per week. In addition to the efficiencies the labeling system brings to the kitchen, we often hear that food service staff members become more aware and knowledgeable about the shelf life of various items, helping to eliminate mistakes and waste.”

And that, in turn, affects the overall culture of food safety within a company. “Our customers often use these savings to redirect employees to other critical tasks,” he says, “including employee engagement activities that advocate a culture of food safety. DayMark’s labeling systems increase legibility, accuracy of inventory and shelf life labeling when compared to handwritten date marking labels. This, in turn, helps decrease food spoilage and waste as well.