Food Safety

We have a long-standing commitment to serve safe and quality food to customers in every single market, each and every day.

A McDonald's employee wearing a face mask holding a bag of food and a drink at the Drive Thru window

Strict food safety standards and protocols are embedded in everything we do, from food and product sourcing, menu development, packaging and distribution to the running of our restaurants.

 

Recent Progress

2,000+ farmers globally trained on McDonald’s Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) standards.

2,077 third-party audits performed through our Supplier Quality Management System (SQMS) in 2021.

93% of our audited suppliers fully met our SQMS standards in 2021.

46,241 restaurant food safety audits (announced and unannounced) conducted in 2021.

Our Strategy

Through our food safety strategy, we work to source and serve safe food and beverages each day, building trust as we strive to achieve food safety excellence across our industry.

The strategy is centered on three operating principles:

 

  1. Customer Obsessed: The safety of our food and that of our customers is non-negotiable and a top priority for McDonald’s.

  2. Better Together: Our food safety systems and decisions are based on science and validated by external third parties.

  3. Committed to Lead: We lead the advancement of food safety from farm to customer and deploy processes to anticipate risk.

 

Our standards and policies drive the implementation of our strategy. Through annual review, we identify opportunities for their improvement based on current food safety science and industry best practices.

 

Listening to Our Customers

We value customer feedback, operating multiple global social media accounts and toll-free numbers in the U.S. for customers to share their experiences with us. We use this feedback to identify opportunities where we can improve the quality and safety of our products and services. We look at customer reports to ensure programs are in place to address any issues and to continuously improve.

 

Partnering With Experts

Our McDonald’s Global Food Safety Advisory Council includes food safety and public health professionals and leaders from North America, Europe and Asia. Founded in the 1990s, the Council meets with our Executive Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer annually to discuss our progress and to provide recommendations for the advancement of our food safety practices and standards. In 2021, the Council advised on topics including Produce Safety standards and Restaurant Food Safety practices, which has enabled McDonald’s to continuously improve and enhance our standards.

Beyond the Council, we are a member of the Global Food Safety Initiative as well as the SSAFE Board. SSAFE’s goal is to bring together industry, government and nonprofit organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to solve issues that affect the integrity of the food supply chain.

 

Engaging With Our Supply Chain

Our commitment to food safety stretches back to the production of our raw materials. We maintain strict standards through embedded supplier policies and procedures. These procedures are reinforced through in-person training for our suppliers, farmers and local government agencies.

In collaboration with our suppliers and other stakeholders, in 2021 we updated our SQMS standards to improve food safety culture assessments and environmental controls, among other enhancements.

We also conduct annual independent, third-party food safety audits of our suppliers to verify their compliance with our strict food safety and quality standards. Audit performance is reviewed by our Global Supply Chain leadership team on a quarterly basis.

In 2021, 93% of our audited suppliers fully met our SQMS requirements. Where improvement areas are identified with a supplier, we require corrective action plans that are based on root cause analysis and mutually agreed timelines to act on the issue. After this, we implement verification steps to ensure the actions are effective and to prevent noncompliance from reoccurring.

How we engage with our supply chain partners:

 

  • Farmers – We work with various external partners, such as Global Good Agriculture Program (GLOBALG.A.P.), to improve food safety standards at farm level and train farmers on the best food safety standards. GLOBALG.A.P. is the internationally recognized standard for farm production, benefiting farmers, retailers and consumers. Over 2,000 farmers globally are now trained on our own GLOBALG.A.P. standards, which also cover topics such as soil health, water use and land management.

  • Processors – Our raw material and food processing suppliers must comply with our science and risk-based food safety and quality standards. These include the McDonald’s GLOBALG.A.P. standards, SQMS standards and the Distribution Center Quality Management Program standards. As well as meeting these requirements, McDonald’s also has approved suppliers for all raw protein sourcing that must meet additional rigorous standards. To be approved by McDonald’s, these suppliers must demonstrate compliance with our requirements and pass regular audits. To support these suppliers, we provide online and in-person training and regularly updated materials.

  • Distribution Centers – We work closely with our global logistics partners and distribution suppliers, who implement continuous temperature monitoring systems in the trucks that move our produce and ingredients, particularly for frozen or refrigerated products that require a consistent temperature to be maintained during distribution.

 

Product Traceability From Ingredient to Restaurant

Ensuring traceability is a key step in McDonald’s food safety protocols. To achieve this, we work closely with our suppliers, through standards like the SQMS and our Distributor Quality Management Process. To align with these standards, suppliers must establish, implement, document and maintain food safety and quality management systems, and meet all applicable laws, regulations and McDonald’s requirements. This includes demonstrating food safety best practice throughout our processes, such as manufacturing, personal hygiene, employee training, pest management and water quality.

 

Advancing Restaurant and Food Safety

Restaurant food safety and quality management procedures are integrated into the McDonald’s Operations and Training Program, which is based on our Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point principles and are followed in every restaurant.

Daily checks against key food safety standards and procedures are conducted in all restaurants. Third-party audits verify that these standards are implemented. In 2021, 46,241 restaurant food safety audits (announced and unannounced) were carried out. To ensure audits are robust, we host calibration sessions with our approved third-party auditing firms.

In addition, our Food Safety Field Service team supports our markets to ensure they have received training and are operating in compliance with our standards. 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.

 

Embedding Technology

We are always seeking ways to integrate food safety requirements into equipment designs and use modern technology to support automation, improve both food safety and quality and facilitate the integration of data into our operations.

For example, we have started implementation of our Digital Food Safety (DFS) initiative in 90% of our restaurants. DFS is an initiative comprised of several phases to digitize Food Safety tasks in restaurants. It simplifies Restaurant Food Safety management while mitigating risk by implementing automated systems.

The first phase of DFS converts paper lists of daily and monthly food safety tasks into digital checklists on a tablet, e.g. it captures product temperatures via a Bluetooth-enabled thermometer and automatically transfers the daily checks to the digital list. Real-time reports help identify potential food safety risks and prompt immediate remedial action. Currently 84% of our restaurants have fully implemented the digital food safety checklist.

In a second phase, we will deploy the automation of temperature measures for products in storage areas. In some markets, McDonald’s restaurant managers are considering how, with the help of their digital food safety system, they can identify any potential issues with cold storage equipment early. In this way, the system can help ensure food safety, reduce energy waste and improve shift efficiency.

With an implementation rate of 21% of our restaurants already, we are now deploying the system to more markets. Having overcome the challenges faced during the pandemic, we are planning to finalize deployment of phase 1 in 2023.

 

Building on Our Food Safety Culture

Running great restaurants and serving safe food is the basis for building strong brand trust. To achieve this, we have created a robust culture around food safety, where every employee knows what to do, cares about what they are doing and will always do the right thing.

We have ongoing programs to educate employees about safe food handling with our suppliers and provide regular food safety training for restaurant operators and staff. We train restaurant crew members on food safety during the onboarding process, while managers complete a more robust educational program. We use webinars to train our market food safety and quality leads on the most up-to-date food safety, hygiene and sanitation standards.

Our interactive global food safety website brings worldwide users together to learn more about hygiene and safety, with McDonald’s CEO, owner/operators and suppliers sharing their commitment to food safety.

 

Sharing Best Practices

Collaboration is important for standardizing food safety practices and requirements, and we have been actively sharing food safety best practices at global conferences and meetings with industry, academia, government agencies and consumer groups for decades. We also participate in advancing food safety practices in countries where we do business as part of our local engagement. Our recent activity in this area includes the following:

 

  • We have shared our farm-level best practices ‒ for example, on water management, land use assessment and pre-harvest food safety risk assessment ‒ with GLOBALG.A.P. working groups and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to understand current and emerging food safety risks.

  • McDonald’s participated in the Global Food Safety Initiative Board from 2008 to 2020, providing leadership in global food safety in the food industry, government and academia.

  • McDonald’s collaborated with SSAFE to develop a simple food safety culture assessment tool for companies to use, elevating food safety culture around the world. We also ran food safety webinar sessions with our suppliers throughout 2021.

  • We are members of the research organization Campden BRI and Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia (UGA), USA, enabling us to keep up to date with the latest science and industry practices. Our Global Food Safety team shared our approach to DFS at the annual UGA meeting in March 2021, and the team also presented at the Campden BRI industry meeting about food safety culture best practices in spring 2021.

  • We collaborated with the Philippine National Department of Agriculture in their training program on food safety risk management in March 2022.

  • We have been a strong supporter of consumer food safety education with the Partnership for Food Safety Education, a not-for-profit organization advancing consumer food safety education by collaborating with government, the food industry and academia in the U.S. One of our Global Food Safety team members was a co-chair for the 2021 Consumer Food Safety Education Conference in the U.S.

 

Evaluation and Intervention

Our Product Withdrawal Process

Each market is required to do annual product withdrawal exercises. Some of these exercises are carried out by third-party companies, and others by internal staff members. In our European markets, we have started this practice using third-party companies. It is essential that we conduct this product withdrawal process verification annually, continue to ensure the process is current and that people are trained in this area in every market.

 

Responding to Incidents Within Our Global System

We have global supply chain incident management processes in place that are reviewed and updated periodically. Each market is required to comply with the process. If an incident involves multiple markets, our global and market teams collaborate to manage the issues in a timely manner. Our incident response process is also in place as part of our wider crisis management approach.

 

Monitoring Food Safety Complaints

At global and market level, we track food safety incidents and aim to capture root causes of any issues. Our markets and global product category leads are responsible for tracking the number of complaints and incidents, which we strive to reduce year over year by putting relevant targets in place. We strive to continually improve our practices and processes as part of our ongoing improvement plans.

Our Actions

Continuing Supplier Food Safety Audits When Faced With Lock-Down Restrictions

During the pandemic, we faced the problem of not being able to perform in-person audits. When this occurred, McDonald’s Global Food Safety Strategy provided guidance to markets, suppliers and audit firms on how to conduct audits during times of restricted movement.

Based on previous auditing performance and to maintain compliance when in-person audits were not possible, we selected suppliers to partake in virtual audits.

McDonald’s provided audit firms with specific guidance to minimize disruptions during audits while ensuring audit quality. On evaluation of the 2020 and 2021 results, we found our virtual audit process to be comparable with on-site audits, highlighting the potential to use virtual audit processes more broadly in the future.

 

Bringing Supplier Training Online

To maximize supplier engagement in food safety training, we launched the first in a new e-learning series for suppliers in China in 2020. The 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-functional 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.

 

Market Focus: Continuous Improvement in Egypt

McDonald’s Egypt sets food safety objectives for their restaurants on an annual basis, aligning with cross functional teams to agree on KPIs. Restaurants are continuing their work to improve the overall food safety culture, becoming ambassadors for the McDonald’s brand. Regular training, training refreshes, sharing challenges and communicating with global teams all drive progress toward their goals. In 2021, McDonald’s Egypt rolled out digital food safety to the whole market which includes 155 stores.

Since rolling out ISO 22000 guidelines in 2017, McDonald’s Egypt aims to have all stores accredited by the end of 2024. The Food Safety team participated in the organization of the first National Food Safety Conference to develop and enhance the country’s food safety network. In early 2022, McDonald’s Egypt was named as a Food Safety Leadership Award winner.

Annual goals and objectives are also set for suppliers during business review sessions with each vendor, establishing a wider expectation of high food safety standards. Attaining these goals includes second-party visits, third-party audits, feedback on customer complaints, compliance with regulatory authorities and quarterly reporting. McDonald’s Egypt also works with suppliers to maintain effective crisis management procedures, such as responding to the Omicron COVID-19 variant with support from our medical consultant. In 2021, the team achieved a 72% increase in suppliers achieving A grade ratings compared to 2019.

McDonald’s Egypt Food Safety Department has continued working with suppliers to build a culture of trust. In total, 69 restaurants in Egypt are accredited by ACERTA Middle East, receiving governmental authority for accreditation from the Egyptian Accreditation Council.

 

Market Focus: Driving High Standards in Portugal

McDonald’s Portugal has a record of maintaining the highest food safety standards, receiving APCER 3002 certification for the past 14 years and the McDonald’s Global Food Safety Leadership Award in early 2022. In 2021, the BSV-Unannounced Food Safety visit was conducted, with all restaurants in the market receiving one unannounced visit from a third-party company. To maintain the high-level results of these unannounced audits, the Quality Assurance Department conducted follow-up visits for lower scoring restaurants.

Since 2018, McDonald’s Portugal has been regularly communicating food safety goals though a newsletter, establishing the objectives of third-party audits and updating employees on progress. The Quality Assurance Department defines these goals, considering third-party audit results. In partnership with the Training Department, Quality Assurance updates food safety training courses and continue to reinforce implementation of food safety procedures.

Maintaining high standards extends to suppliers and, in 2021, McDonald’s Portugal developed a Supplier Evaluation form to help suppliers to quantify their annual performance and implement action plans to improve results. They also conduct biannual mock recall exercise with local suppliers to boost the resilience of our supply chain.

 

Market Focus: Strengthening Food Safety Through Technology and Training in the Baltics

Driving a culture of high food safety and quality in our restaurants is a top priority across our Baltics markets. To target continuous improvement, all 40 restaurants across Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia have yearly goals for food safety and quality assurance, which are reviewed monthly to drive progress. They are expected to communicate updates and implement corrective actions wherever further improvements are required. Performance is measured on an ongoing basis to advance food safety across the markets.

Demonstrating their commitment to high standards, McDonald’s Baltics was named as a Food Safety Leadership Award winner for 2021.

Also in 2021, Premier Capital ‒ our Developmental Licensee in the Baltics ‒ received an ISO 50001:2018 certificate and recognition of digital food safety (DFS) usage in all 40 restaurants.

All restaurants across the Baltics are using a DFS system alongside other technologies such as temperature monitoring loggers. By working closely with the system provider, they modernized daily tasks such as product safety checklists, shift management tasks and weekly equipment calibration checklists, all in the local language for each country. The hand in hand collaboration of Food Safety, Operations and Restaurant Management ensures continuous improvements of all measures. These actions have enhanced food safety practices at restaurants by elevating the usage of the tool from a pure checklist to a management tool.

McDonald’s Baltics understand the importance of rigorous training to support their staff to learn and implement the advanced tools that the system provides. To enhance a culture of excellent food safety, they went even further by creating, testing and improving the annual recalibration process for DFS users (loggers) in 2020 together with the DFS provider. In 2021, the first calibrations were complete. McDonald’s Baltics continue to expand and digitize employee training options and shifted their ServSafe food safety training course online to enable greater flexibility, with 244 people from across 40 restaurants completing the course throughout 2021.

In Latvia, during 2021, the Food Safety and Quality team worked together with the Operations and Training Department, to launch a new multi-level Food Safety training. Additionally, detailed development plans have been created for Food Safety Managers at each restaurant, including online seminars. Lithuania and Estonia will implement the same project in 2022.

Virtually Celebrating Food Safety Week

In June 2021, we celebrated food safety week virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The chosen theme was “Food Safety Matters Everywhere.” Leaders from different functions and markets shared their perspectives on why food safety is an important issue for everybody and how it relates to McDonald’s core values. We engaged with suppliers and markets during the week, and held a successful “Ask the Experts” session that provided an opportunity for direct dialogue between market food safety leads and global food safety experts.

 

Supporting Digital Connections for Food Safety

During the pandemic, we hosted two global supplier virtual events, one in October 2020 and the other 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 was well received. In addition, we also ran seven global food safety training and education webinars for suppliers in 2021, with 2,286 participants. The events covered a range of food safety topics, including:

 

  • Clean packaging and equipment hygienic design.

  • Allergen management.

  • Anticipatory issues management.

  • Integrated pest management.

  • What to look for when evaluating a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan.

  • Mitigating and preparing for supply chain disruptions.