Disney’s cast members are regularly provided with a food safety score card that heralds their accomplishments and notes areas that they need to improve upon.
“Imagine going bowling and not keeping score,” Yiannas says. “Would the bowling experience be motivational? How would you measure your performance?”
Training, he reiterates, is only one piece of the puzzle and recognizing it as such is important.
Equally important is the use of information technology, and Disney’s food service cast uses two platforms, the CAFÉ and CHEF systems.
“We’re strong believers in information technology,” Yiannas says. “As a food safety professional, you need information technology and more importantly, you are only knowledgeable when you have information to act on. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
CAFÉ, which stands for “creatively analyzing and foods and environments,” is a HACCP-based system.
“It’s the central nervous system of the food safety and health department,” Yiannas says, adding that CAFÉ was developed internally at Disney.
Disney’s team food safety professionals are all armed with PDAs that come equipped with built-in thermo-couplers for temperature monitoring. “The device replaces the clipboard and paper and pencil,” Yiannas says, adding that there is still too much of a reliance on paper.
The other information technology platform, the CHEF System, is for auditing and inspections and was also developed in-house. CHEF stands of “computerized HACCP for enhanced food safety.”
“We’re doing HACCP totally on PDAs,” Yiannas says. “The CHEF PDA will actually give you a visible and audible alarm when it’s time to do a HACCP check. For example, I put the probe into the chowder, and if I’m below critical limits, it alerts and guides me through corrective actions, whether it’s reheating it or discarding it.”
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All of the information is then uploaded to a Web site and accessible from a PC. “And it’s almost in real time,” Yiannas says.
A key emerging technology for the 21st Century that greatly interests Yiannas is pulse field gel electrophoresis, or PFGE, which enables scientists to determine the relatedness of infectious strains of bacteria.
While this technology is presently only available in a limited number of state public health laboratories, it opens a pathway to prevent future foodborne outbreaks. The benefit is that it can identify microbial isolates from varied parts of states linking what could connect to a common food source or process.
Yiannas’s contributions to food safety extend beyond his employer. He is council chair of the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP), In 2001, Walt Disney World Co. received the IAFP’s Black Pearl Award in recognition for the company’s “outstanding achievement in corporate excellence in food safety and quality.”
Yiannas says their satisfaction for “receiving an award for a job well done is a great honor anytime, but the … Black Pearl Award was especially meaningful because of the enduring ideals it embodies.”
Said Walt Disney once upon a time, “Courage is the main quality of leadership, in my opinion, no matter where it is exercised. Usually it implies some risk – especially in new undertakings.”
Disney also said that it also takes courage to “initiate something and to keep it going – pioneering and adventurous spirit to blaze new ways, often, in our land of opportunity.” –FQ
Dorothy O is a freelance writer based in Richboro, Pa.
Editorial Director Mark A. DeSorbo contributed to this report.