How to improve food handler compliance

The level of food handler compliance can mean the difference between success or failure. From time to time I have to deal with staff who have not followed the correct business procedures.  This can be a frustrating position to be in, but a position that I am sure some of you have experienced.  In this article find out some basic strategies to improve food handler compliance in your food business.

Food handler compliance behavior

Getting people to change their behavior is tough – especially when they have been doing things a certain way for a long time and, from their point of view, it’s working for them.  In a nutshell, there are two choices you can make:

  • You can make it more appealing to change, or
  • You can make it less appealing to continue to behave in the way that they have been behaving.

Actions to improve compliance

When deciding on your action, keep in mind, that a simple non-conformance with say a labeling procedure, can potentially harm or injure your customer or cost the business tens of thousands of dollars in product recall and/or withdrawal action.

The action that you therefore take, to address the level of food handler compliance, could be based on the overall risk to the customer, your organisation or the food handler themselves. Read on understand some basic actions that you can take to improve food handler compliance.

Explain business procedures

Food handler compliance starts with education. Explain what the procedure is, why it needs to be completed, and what the consequences are if the procedure is not followed. Don’t be afraid to use emotive language when explaining the potential consequences.

Verify implementation

Check that the process or procedure is being implemented correctly. This may mean that every day and during every production shift you as the QA manager, walks the production line and observes the workers implementation of the procedure.  When you consistently observe no issues, you can cut back to less frequent checks.

Human engineer the process

Build in a stupidity factor into the procedure.  The more you can remove the need for staff to make a choice, the better.  For example, rather than having five (5) different labels available on the line at once, just have the one for the product that is being packed. Limiting choice can greatly increase the level of food handler compliance.

Performance Management

Have a strong performance management system in place.  You will most likely need to talk to your HR (human resources) department about this.  If you are consistently finding that the level of food handler compliance is poor for certain individuals, it may be time for them to move on or have them relocated to a less risky section of the business.

Have your say!

I would love to hear from you regarding this issue. Do you have trouble with some of your staff not following business procedures? Let me know how you deal with poor food handler compliance by leaving a comment below.


23 thoughts on “How to improve food handler compliance”

  1. Hi Amanda, thank you for sharing in my case the staff would work without wearing coats so we had an agreement that whoever walks in the production area including myself and does not have a proper coat on, will have to pay a specific fine which will be used to buy refreshments for other staff members and so far it works wonders.

  2. Timely post as hand washing has become very popular in the last few weeks 🙂 Who would of thought it would be so hard to train people how to correctly wash their hands and when to wash them, it has taken just over 2 years but I think I am finally getting the message across. I get accused of “picking on them or being in a bad mood”, my response last week was “I was in a good mood until I saw you wearing your hairnet as a beret. This was the same staff member that was observed wearing a hairnet incorrectly at out last audit. Forms are another issue! But Rome wasn’t built in a day and a few of the staff members have only been here for almost 10 years!!!
    Love your posts and the responses from members, I now know I am not the only one with staff that don’t follow procedures.

    1. Amanda Evans-Lara

      Thanks Serena for your comment! You gave me a laugh for the morning with your ” But Rome wasn’t built in a day and a few of the staff members have only been here for almost 10 years!!!” observation. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  3. I really enjoyed your articles throughout the year, thanks for this beautiful massage, this is actually one of the issues I was facing to change the culture or behavior of the staff, washing hands by following the correct procedure was the measure problem, now we have introduced to the staff that if they do not wash their hands properly by following the correct procedure they won’t get their year bonus as well as the
    weekly performance bonus. Guess what it works.

    1. Amanda Evans-Lara

      Thanks Rebecca for sharing your experience. It is amazing the change you can achieve when there is the threat of losing a bonus.

  4. I am now working in a company where documentation rarely happened. I have introduced forms all over the place which has not gone down well. I explained to them that we need to document the daily happenings and have on file and as I know that they resented filling out forms I asked them if they had a better way to document everything I would love to hear it. I even said that maybe we could have white boards every where but we had to store them for evidence to which they looked at me stupid. Needless to say its now 12 months later and yes I wouldn’t say it has been easy but we are getting there and are a long way from when I first started.

    1. Amanda Evans-Lara

      Sometimes it can be a very slow process Carol. This is where management commitment becomes so important. Getting staff engaged and involved in the decision making process around what forms and what information needs to be captured can also be helpful. If you target the key people in the organisation to be your champions, implementation and ongoing compliance become easier.

  5. Thanks, Amanda, I realized that verify implementation are important part for QA management. Worker will forget the procedure after they worked fluently and they break the procedure. What will you do?

    1. Thanks for your comment Thien. Refresher training becomes an important part of your overall food safety management program.

  6. Thanks, Amanda, for sharing again practical inputs in ensuring full compliance of food handlers.


  7. kayode Balogun

    Many thanks for the subject of discussion. Obviously its a major bottleneck ensuring Food handlers comply with set standards.

    Over the years there is one method in-addition to those you mentioned that have worked personally for me like magic. After training on a particular aspect, I usually on a serious note make participants especially PIC- people in charge or process owners to sign an “Attestation form” that they have taken this training which they fully understand what is expected of them in reality and that they stand to be penalized if violated which include salary deductions depending on the gravity of non-conformance. Somehow the consciousness of this constantly ring alertness to them. It works like magic!!


    Kayode KFC Nigeria.

    1. A good suggestion, I had in my mind too for my staff but still hesitate to do it due to felling sympathy as their salary not so much. But if I didn’t do it, I’m the once that will be sympathy and stressful.

  8. Dear Sir/Madam,

    Greetings of the Day!!!

    The given tips for food handler which are very essential to dive the process without any hesitation.


    Ramesh Babu.V

  9. ige oladimeji amos

    Comment…Hi I must say I have really enjoy all your articles over the years. Thank you very much. My question is what are the hygiene
    standard staffs cooking patients food should work with a Dietitian in a federal hospital in Nigeria west Africa.

    1. Thanks Ige for your kind words. For specific standards in your country of manufacture I suggest you refer to your own governments food safety legal requirements. I would also suggest asking the relevant authority at the hospital you work at.

    1. Hi Abigale, regardless of your staff turnover, all staff should be trained appropriately prior to starting work with your organisation.

  10. Wearing hairnet correctly is a big challenge when dealing with young employees; changing gloves after handling cash.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get free HACCP advice and updates

Find out how to better implement and manage your HACCP, legal and food safety compliance requirements by joining the HACCP Mentor newsletter.

Scroll to Top