An Interview With FlexCold’s Director of Safety & Compliance James Denmark

Q1) Tell us how you see your role impacting our FlexCold team members and customers alike.

Speaking specifically to Food Safety, the Food Safety Manager plays a crucial role in ensuring that all FlexCold teammates are properly trained and adhering to GFSI regulations and our industry best practices. Effective training and education empowers frontline associates ensuring that the food we feed our families is safe by mitigating the risk of foodborne illnesses and contamination incidents. These best practices not only reduce the risk of food recalls, but it also safeguards our customers reputation in the marketplace.


Q2) Tell me 3-5 key areas of focus that would help create a positive Food Safety culture:

I believe creating a positive Food Safety culture involves fostering a shared commitment to Food Safety best practices throughout our organization. Here are five key areas of focus we are working on to achieve this:

    1. Leadership Commitment: Senior management and leaders at each level must actively demonstrate their commitment to Food Safety by incorporating it into the company’s Mission, Values, and Policies. Leading by example reinforces the importance of Food Safety and sets the tone for the entire organization.
    2. Teammate Training and Education: Providing comprehensive training and education for employees at every level, from teammates to senior leadership. Ensuring that everyone understands the importance and value of Food Safety protocols, who know how to identify potential hazards, and are equipped with the necessary skills to handle food safely.
    3. Clear Communication and Accountability: Establishing open and transparent communication channels to encourage reporting of Food Safety concerns without fear of retribution. Establishing clear roles and responsibilities drives accountability for Food Safety practices across the organization.
    4. Regular Audits and Inspections: Conducting routine internal audits and inspections to identify potential gaps in Food Safety practices. Identifying and addressing issues promptly drives continuous improvement.
    5. Data-driven Decision Making: Utilizing data and analytics to monitor and measure food safety performance. Analyzing trends and patterns in Food Safety incidents can help identify areas for improvement and inform decision-making processes.

By focusing on these key areas, we can cultivate a positive Food Safety culture that prioritizes the well-being of our customers, team members, and the overall reputation of our business.


Q3) What are a few unique challenges in a cold storage environment with regards to Food Safety?

Working in a cold storage environment presents specific challenges concerning Food Safety. These challenges arise due to the low temperatures and specialized conditions required to preserve perishable goods. Here are a few unique food safety challenges in cold storage environments: 

      1. Temperature Management: Maintaining consistent and appropriate temperatures is critical safe food storage. Fluctuations in temperature can lead to the growth of pathogens or spoilage organisms, jeopardizing the safety and quality of stored food products. Ensuring proper calibration and functioning of temperature monitoring equipment is essential.
    1. Cross-Contamination: In cold storage facilities, various food products are often stored in close proximity. Cross-contamination can occur if there is any leakage, spillage, or improper storage practices. It is vital to segregate products properly, store them in sealed containers, and clean and sanitize storage areas regularly to prevent cross-contamination.
    2. Condensation and Ice Buildup: Condensation and ice buildup are common in cold storage environments. These can create slip hazards for employees and lead to contamination if condensation drips onto food products. Regular cleaning and maintenance are essential to prevent these issues.
    3. Receiving and Storage Procedures: Cold storage facilities should have strict receiving and storage procedures to inspect incoming products for quality and safety. This includes checking for signs of spoilage, damage, or temperature abuse before storing items.
    4. Addressing these Food Safety challenges is the reason we selected “BRC” (British Retail Consortium Global Standards) as our comprehensive Food Safety management system. This, along with regular audits and the monitoring of temperature, hygiene, and storage practices are essential to ensure the safety and integrity of food products within our storage environment.


Q4) Maintaining food integrity across the cold chain in paramount. How do you, in your role, ensure the safety and quality of refrigerated and frozen foods and compliance with industry regulations and standards?

Ensuring the safety and quality of refrigerated and frozen foods across the cold chain is indeed crucial. A Food Safety Manager plays a central role in implementing practices that maintain food integrity and comply with industry regulations and standards. In my role, the key strategies I use to accomplish this are:

    1. Establishing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): Developing comprehensive SOPs for all aspects of our cold chain management, including receiving, storage, handling, and transportation. These procedures outline the specific protocols for temperature control, sanitation, packaging, and record-keeping to ensure consistent practices throughout our operation(s).
    2. Temperature Monitoring and Control: Ensuring we have robust temperature monitoring systems throughout the cold chain is critical. We use temperature sensors, data loggers, and alarms to ensure that our customers refrigerated, and frozen foods are stored and transported within safe temperature ranges. And of course, rapid response plans should be in place for addressing temperature deviations promptly.
    3. Supplier and Vendor Management: Working closely with our suppliers and vendors to ensure that they adhere to Food Safety regulations and maintain the quality of products during transportation and storage. It is important that establish clear quality and safety requirements in contracts and conduct regular audits to verify compliance.
    4. Teammate Training and Awareness: Training all teammates involved in the cold chain on proper Food Safety practices. This includes educating them about the risks of temperature abuse, cross-contamination, and proper handling procedures for refrigerated and frozen foods.
    5. Traceability and Record-Keeping: Having a robust traceability system to track the movement of products through the cold chain is paramount. Maintaining accurate and detailed records of temperature data, handling procedures, and product information to facilitate swift identification and recall of potentially compromised products is of the utmost importance.
    6. Risk Assessment and Hazard Analysis: Conducting regular risk assessments and hazard analyses to identify potential points of failure. Developing risk mitigation strategies to address vulnerabilities and ensure that preventive measures are in place.
    7. Compliance with Regulations and Standards: Staying up-to-date with relevant Food Safety regulations and industry standards is also vital. Ensuring that our operation(s) are following GFSI requirements and working proactively to meet and/or exceed these standards.
    8. Internal Audits and Continuous Improvement: Conducting internal audits to assess the effectiveness of our Food Safety practices and identify areas for improvement. Regularly review and update team members, SOPs and procedures based on new information or lessons learned from incidents or near misses.
    9. Collaboration with Regulatory Agencies: Establishing a cooperative relationship with relevant regulatory agencies and participate in industry associations to stay informed about emerging trends, best practices, and changes in regulations.

Mitigating risks and ensuring compliance with industry standards and regulations is how we show our commitment to food integrity which enhances consumer confidence, protects our company’s reputation, and contributes to our overall success in the market.


Q5) What keeps you inspired in your role?

What a great question! Overall, I’d say a sense of purpose and the opportunity to make a positive impact on the teams that I support; helping others grow and develop is very rewarding. Additionally, I’d say that supporting the industry that I’ve served in for the past twenty-six years and knowing that my work directly contributes to the well-being of others and the success of our operations is incredibly inspiring.