Who’s Responsible for Food Safety in a Food Business?

Understand the roles and responsibilities of workers in a business when it comes to food safety.
November 11, 2021

According to Health Canada, food-borne illness affects 4 million Canadians every year. Of those, over 11,000 need to be hospitalized and more than 200 people die. The unfortunate reality is that improper food handling, poor personal hygiene and cross-contamination in food preparation areas cause the majority food-borne illness outbreaks in the country.

A food safety incident at a food business can cause irreparable damage to the company and endanger the health of customers and the general public. That’s why food businesses must comply with federal, provincial and municipal food safety regulations and are held to high standards by Health Inspectors. If a business does not follow proper food safety and hygiene standards, they can face fines and even business closure.

Owners, managers and workers in a food business are all responsible for ensuring the food they produce, sell or serve to the public is safe for human consumption. Learn more about each position’s responsibilities when it comes to food safety.

Responsibilities of owners and managers

Food business owners, managers and supervisors need to know the food safety laws in their province or territory and ensure that everyone in the organization is following all regulations in their area. They are responsible for fostering a strong culture of food safety by ensuring that safe food handling practices are incorporated into the business’s everyday work routines and operating procedures.

Not only should they know the rules and make sure workers are following them, top-level staff at a food business must also set an example for all employees by showing that no one is above following food safety rules. By creating business procedures that prioritizes food safety, and always following them, they are nurturing a positive culture of food safety that only benefits the business.

To accomplish this, owners, managers and supervisors must:

  • ensure the business is staying compliant with food safety laws
  • provide food safety training for Food Handlers, and make sure the business is complying with their region’s Food Handler Certification requirements
  • create policies and procedures that make it easy for staff to perform food safety tasks
  • provide a safe working environment with equipment and tools that are in good condition and easy to clean and sanitize
  • evaluate the effectiveness of the company’s Food Safety Plan and make updates as necessary
  • work with staff to identify opportunities for improvement in food safety procedures
  • monitor staff behaviour and hold them accountable for following food safety rules
  • encourage staff to raise food safety concerns

Responsibilities of Food Handlers

Food Handlers must be trained in safe food handling practices to help prevent food-borne illness outbreaks. It’s required by law that all Food Handlers are adequately trained in food safety, and in certain provinces or territories, Food Handler Certification may even be a legal requirement.

Comprehensive food safety training provides Food Handlers with the knowledge and tools they need to ensure the food they sell or serve is safe to eat. Their responsibilities include:

  • understanding the causes of food-borne illness
  • effectively cleaning and sanitizing surfaces, equipment, dishes and utensils
  • practicing good personal hygiene
  • following proper time and temperature control, storage practices and procedures for thawing, prepping, cooking and serving food
  • preventing food contamination and cross-contamination
  • knowing how to handle potentially hazardous foods and how to provide food service to vulnerable persons
  • protecting customers from allergy-related incidents by practicing allergen management

All employees are responsible for food safety

Ultimately, everyone in a food business has a role to play in ensuring food is safe to consume. The best way to protect your customers, along with your business, from food safety hazards is ensuring all staff are trained in food safety. Investing time and resources into training and certification helps:

  • protect the business’s brand and reputation
  • prevent bad reviews and customer complaints
  • reduce costs due to food waste, pest eradication or meal comps
  • avoid health inspection infractions, fines or business closure
  • protect your customers from food-borne illness outbreaks

The Canadian Institute of Food Safety’s (CIFS) nationally recognized Food Handler Certification Course provides the comprehensive training food workers need to practice safe food handling. Set your business up for success by providing training to all Food Handlers and by nurturing a strong food safety culture within the organization.