Providing safe food is our number one priority and a responsibility that we take seriously. Our customers expect McDonald’s to maintain food safety standards and protocols and we’re working hard to ensure we always meet those expectations.
Food safety has been at the core of everything we do for decades. We integrate it into every aspect of our operations – from food sourcing and menu development to packaging, distribution and logistics, and the daily running of our restaurants. To mark our commitment to food safety, we celebrate World Food Safety Day in June, which was established by the United Nations to bring global attention to this priority topic.
Food safety is a collaborative effort that starts long before food products reach restaurants. We work closely with a robust network of farmers and suppliers to ensure safe food is the number one priority for everyone in our value chain. To do this, McDonald’s renewed and refreshed our Global Food Safety Strategy in 2019, which ensures we integrate food safety into the design of food, packaging, equipment and restaurants, as well as operational procedures and employee training. The strategy is centered on three operating principles:
- The safety of our food and that of our customers is non-negotiable and top priority for McDonald’s.
- Our food safety protocols are science-based and validated by external third parties.
- McDonald’s fosters a culture of food safety from farm to fork. This means working with farmers, suppliers, distribution centers and restaurants to ensure food safety at every step along the way.
We also developed a new Global Food Safety Structure, receiving support from McDonald’s leadership to add more resources to the global team in 2020 and 2021. Through the new structure, we have dedicated resources in the areas of global food safety risk management and food safety standard deployment and training. Our newly formed Food Safety Field Service Team supports our McDonald’s markets to ensure they have received training and are operating in compliance with our Company’s standards and expectations. The team also facilitates best practice sharing. The members of this team are strategically located in the Middle East, Europe and Latin America, enabling strong connection to the Developmental Licensee (DL) markets and helping to elevate our food safety culture globally. Despite starting its operations fairly recently, we are already experiencing enhanced communication between global and markets with updated food safety policies, standards and training programs.
To make sure our policies and procedures are upheld throughout our supply chain, we focus on assessing potential risks with our suppliers as well. This includes supplier selection/ approval and onboarding; training and calibration with suppliers and farmers; and third-party audits for suppliers, distribution centers and restaurants to ensure compliance with our high standards.
Elevating Food Safety Culture
We recognize the importance of having a strong food safety culture within our Company for everyone from crew members to the CEO. That is why we have ongoing programs to educate employees about safe food handling with our suppliers, and provide regular food safety trainings for restaurant operators and staff. Restaurant crew members receive training on food safety during the onboarding process, with managers undergoing a more robust learning program. Webinars are held to train our market food safety and quality leads on the most up-to-date food safety, hygiene and sanitation standards.
In 2020, McDonald’s developed training for all corporate staff as part of our e-learning modules. In the U.S., we also hold supplier calibration and trainings to ensure alignment.
As an example of this important work, in Latin America, our Franchisee Arcos Dorados launched the Be Safe Food Protection Program to reinforce Company culture and support the improvement plan for Restaurant Food Safety Audit Results. Be Safe is a foundational program reinforcing a culture of service to our customers and employees, and is sponsored by Arcos Dorados’ Chief Executive Order, Chief Operating Officer and divisional presidents. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Arcos Dorados has evolved this program to include Safety and Wellness.
In 2020, just over 62,000 employees in the Arcos Dorados region received food safety training. This is lower than the previous year, as crew and manager turnover decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2018 McDonald’s used a third party's food safety culture assessment tool developed by The British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standards to conduct a food safety culture assessment of our entire System on a regular basis, including representatives of restaurant owners and operators, suppliers and corporate staff globally. The results informed the ongoing development of our Global Food Safety Strategy. Addressing any gaps identified during the assessment, we are now focusing on four key areas where we can elevate our food safety culture:
- Continue to engage our corporate leaders on food safety.
- Increase visibility of food safety by having relevant food safety training and communications.
- Invest in innovative approaches to improve food safety practices.
- Reward excellence in food safety.
Collaborating With Stakeholders
We work with leading food companies, academia and regulatory agencies on advancing food safety standards and practices globally. In particular:
- We have a Food Safety Advisory Council (FSAC) formed of food safety professionals and leaders. The group meets annually to listen to progress made by McDonald’s and to offer guidance on areas for improvement and current industry best practices. Conference calls/virtual meetings occur between the annual meetings.
- McDonald’s participates in the Global Good Agricultural Practices (GLOBALG.A.P.) working groups and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to understand current and emerging food safety risks. We also contribute to the discussion and share best practices to benefit the food safety community at large.
- We are a member of SSAFE, a not-for-profit organization that aims to foster continuous improvement and global acceptance of internationally recognized food protection systems and standards through public-private partnerships. What makes SSAFE unique is its focus on driving collaboration between the public and private sector to enhance the integrity of the food supply chain. In 2020-2021, McDonald’s participated in a collaboration to develop a simple food safety culture assessment tool for companies to use globally. This tool is free for all users and will benefit the entire food industry to elevate food safety culture. On behalf of the SSAFE board, we have been actively sharing learning with industry and government agencies to strengthen food safety culture.
- We hold a membership with the research organization Campden BRI and Center for Food Safety at University of Georgia, USA. This enables us to remain up to date with the most current science and industry best practices. We also contribute information related to food safety by sharing our own best practices through Campden BRI and Center for Food Safety.
- McDonald’s has a team of internal food safety professionals who keep abreast of leading science and risk management around food safety by participating in external meetings and collaborations with academia, government and industry. Several team members hold advanced science degrees in Food Microbiology, Food Science and Food Safety, and are members of the International Association for Food Protection, an organization with a mission to protect the global food supply.
Putting Standards Into Practice
McDonald’s has developed and implemented science- and risk-based food safety and quality standards through collaboration with internal and external experts. These standards include the McDonald’s Global Good Agriculture Program (GAP), Supplier Food Safety and Quality Management Systems and the Distribution Center Quality Management Program. Our raw material and food processing suppliers, as well as logistic partners, must implement and document compliance with these standards.
Annual third-party food safety verification audits are conducted with our suppliers (including grower locations for produce and slaughter and deboning facilities for protein products), distribution centers and restaurant locations. Performance measure indicators are published and reviewed by our leadership team on a quarterly basis. Most McDonald’s suppliers, distribution centers and restaurant locations meet or exceed our expectations. However, where our requirements are not met, corrective actions are implemented and verified.
Food safety standards are also implemented at every McDonald’s restaurant. Restaurant food safety and quality management procedures are integrated into the McDonald’s Operations and Training Program and based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point principles. Daily checks against key food safety standards and procedures are conducted in all restaurants, while implementation of these standards is verified through internal or third-party audits. We host calibration sessions with our approved third-party auditing firms to ensure audits are as robust as possible. In 2019, we updated our restaurant food safety auditing standards and supplier food safety and quality audit guidance.
The COVID-19 pandemic showed us that hygiene and safety are important drivers of brand trust for our customers as well as our employees throughout the supply chain.
We have identified opportunities to develop our hygiene and safety protocols. We are now using our experience, these learnings and scientific expertise to further strengthen our standards and processes and integrate enhancements into our review process.
We annually review our policies and standards to identify opportunities for improvement based on current science and industry best practices. We engage our stakeholders during the review process to gather their input before granting approval for any new or revised standards and policies.
Helping Support the Sustainable Development Goals
Our work to ensure food safety helps support the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a global agenda to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all, in particular:
Ensuring Food Safety From Source to Destination
We’re working closely with the produce industry, as well as relevant experts, to lead the effort on establishing best practices for on-farm activities, including those related to Water Stewardship and soil management, and on-farm food safety risk assessments. In sourcing protein, McDonald’s has developed an Approved Supplier List. In order for our suppliers to be part of this preapproved list, they have to demonstrate compliance with our requirements and be able to pass audits. We provide online McDonald’s Global GAP training, and regularly update related materials for our suppliers and farmers. We also host in-person training for our suppliers and farmers, as well as local government agencies, in various regions, such as in Asia, Latin America and Europe.
We engage with our global logistics partners to implement continuous temperature monitoring systems in the trucks that move our produce and ingredients. This gives us complete visibility of product temperature during transportation and helps us monitor food safety and quality in real time.
Bringing Supplier Training Online in China
In order to maximize supplier engagement and participation in food safety trainings, in June 2020, we launched the first in a new e-learning series for suppliers in China. The McDonald’s Supply Chain Immerging Course is open to all suppliers and cross-functional teams at McDonald’s, and is taught over seven modules through training videos and tests. The modules cover important information on issues ranging from global product quality and food safety standards to risk management systems and contingency plans. To date, over 856 suppliers, supply chain members and cross-function team members have registered for the program, with 268 already completing all seven modules.
McDonald’s China has conducted annual food safety e-learning and certification with all company employees (including office staff) for the past seven years. In 2021, 170,000 employees went through the e-learning and were certified.
Digitizing Food Safety
We are always looking for new opportunities to harness technology to improve efficiency. Since 2017, we have launched an interactive global food safety website to connect our people all over the world to learn more about hygiene and safety in a fun way, with McDonald’s CEO, Owner/Operators and suppliers sharing their commitment to food safety. For our corporate employees, we have developed a food safety e-learning module to learn more about safe handling of food at home.
We have started a process to implement digital food safety at restaurant level. The initiative helps restaurants more efficiently complete daily and monthly food safety tasks, such as temperature checks for cooked meat, monitoring product temperatures in freezers and chillers, converting paper lists to digital checklists and recording important food safety information. This Digital Food Safety system will be implemented in all markets by the end of 2022 and will make it easier and faster for our restaurant employees and managers to follow procedures and demonstrate compliance.
Sharing Food Safety Best Practices
We believe food safety should be a key consideration for every company in our industry, not a competitive advantage. That is why the McDonald’s Global Food Safety Team continues to be actively engaged with a variety of external stakeholders to share best practices and learnings related to the mitigation of food safety risks. In February 2020, at the Global Food Safety Initiative's (GFSI) Global Food Safety Conference in Seattle, USA, a team member shared best practices of the steps McDonald’s takes to better target food safety trainings to restaurant employees and how we are leveraging technology to ensure our food safety standards and procedures are communicated and implemented.
In July 2020, a member of the Global Food Safety Team who serves on the board of stakeholders for the BRC spoke on a panel about business resilience in the food industry. Another team member attended a virtual event at the Institute of Food Technologists in June 2020 to present findings on the presence and control of the parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis. He took to the virtual stage with leading academic and regulatory experts, sharing information with food safety professionals regarding the monitoring and mitigation strategies McDonald’s is implementing to mitigate the prevalence of this organism in produce.
In the first half of 2021, our team members have continued to participate and speak at conferences. These include the BRC Food Safety Conference and the IAPF Asian Conference in January. Throughout March, they attended the GFSI Global Virtual Conference and the Center of Food Safety at University of Georgia, USA Annual Conference, engaged with EFSA emerging risk taskforce and Consumer Food Safety Education Conference and acted as co-chair for the Consumer Food Safety Education Conference, USA.
Enhancing Support for Food Safety
Our newly formed Food Safety Field Service Team supports McDonald’s markets to ensure they have received training and are operating in compliance with Company standards and expectations. The team also facilitates best practices sharing, covering needs from farm to restaurant. The members of this team are enabling strong connection to all McDonald’s DL markets and helping elevate our food safety culture globally. Despite starting its operations fairly recently, we are already experiencing enhanced communication between global and markets with updated food safety policies, standards and training programs.
Virtually Celebrating Food Safety Week
In June of 2020 and 2021, we celebrated food safety week virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For 2021, the theme was “Food Safety Matters Everywhere” with additional focus on hygiene and foreign material prevention. Leaders from different functions and markets shared their perspectives on how food safety matters to everybody and how it is connected with McDonald’s core values. We also engaged with suppliers and markets during the week, with successful features such as “Ask the Experts” which provided an opportunity for direct dialogue between market food safety leads and global food safety experts.
Recipe for Success
Our Recipe for Success program is designed to promote and elevate food safety and quality culture and was launched in the U.K. and Ireland in 2019. Through this program, our food and packaging are produced to exacting specifications and high standards of food safety and quality. In order to meet these standards, they need to be fully understood and practiced daily by everyone in our System, no matter what position they hold. Along with suppliers, McDonald’s has developed best practice processes to drive consistency and improvement.
Supporting Digital Connections for Food Safety
During the pandemic, we hosted two global supplier virtual events, one in October 2020 and another in April 2021 to share best practices on elevating food safety culture, controlling food safety hazards and mitigating food safety risks. Each event hosted over 650 global attendees and were well received.
We continue to host food safety training webinars for our suppliers and market food safety leads virtually in 2021. Between January and June 20 of 2021, we hosted four webinars with over 800 attendees.
Taking a Risk–based Approach to Supplier Audits During COVID-19
During the pandemic, McDonald’s Global Food Safety Strategy provided guidance to markets, suppliers and audit firms regarding a risk-based approach to conducting food safety audits. The advice focused on conducting audits during times of restricted movement or lockdown situations in countries or regions where suppliers operate. A method of risk quantification was used to allow for certain suppliers to be subjected to virtual audits. McDonald’s provided audit firms with specific guidance and recommendations to ensure pre-planning and remote assessment, and reporting/ post-assessments were conducted to minimize disruptions in conducting audits and maintain audit quality. In addition, best practice sharing and learning sessions were conducted where audit firms were able to exchange information on their challenges and successes. Reporting procedures were also changed to differentiate between on-site and virtual audits.
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