Does Everyone Know Their Role?

Training and Competency in Food Safety

Marshalee Valentine

Thursday, December 13, 2018

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A few questions: Do you think all food establishment employees are aware of their roles and responsibilities in the handling of food? How many food handlers really know that the health and safety of others is their responsibility? As a food establishment owner or manager, do you ensure that all employees are made fully aware of the risks associated with handling food for human consumption? By the way, don't tell me they have a food handler's permit, because in my opinion that isn't enough — I know many will disagree.

Over the last few weeks we have been exploring critical areas of food safety — some of which I know have been very creepy (sorry for the scare) — and we have seen that all stages of the food production and supply chain are vulnerable to contamination from biological, physical and chemical hazards. But how many of the people actually working in restaurants, processing facilities, supermarkets, hotels, etc are familiar with the information being provided? All food handlers need to be aware, fully trained and competent in the management of food safety along the production and supply chain. Consequently, all establishments must ensure that a comprehensive food safety training programme is implemented in their facility, to guarantee that all food handlers have the professional skills and capacity to play their role in delivering safe food. Training in the safe handling, preparation and distribution of food will not only reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses but will also ensure that your number one asset — your consumers/customers — maintain a high level of trust in your product or service.

It is a legal requirement that all food handlers are trained in food safety, which is verified by the receipt of a food handler's permit. While I mentioned earlier that I don't think the food handler's training offered by the Public Health Department is enough, it nevertheless plays its role in ensuring that all food handlers are aware of the basic requirements of food safety. Additionally, once you are certified to a food safety management system it is a general requirement that a training and competency programme be designed, implemented, maintained and validated.

As a food establishment owner or operator, you may be thinking that it's an additional expense to get your employees trained or you sometimes assume that they know what is required of them. But it is imperative that you play your role in food safety and ensure that all your employees are aware of their duties and the risks associated with the mishandling of food. If you do choose not to invest in further training for employees based on the nature of your establishment, gaps will exist in the knowledge base of the employees. This may eventually lead to catastrophic food safety issues. Our employees are the first point of contact with our food, so I implore that we take a preventative approach to food safety as opposed to reacting when there is an outbreak of a food-borne illnesses caused by our products or food-handling practices. Think about this: it may cost a few hundred thousand to get all your employees trained, or even train one person in your organisation to become a trainer. On the other hand, you may be faced with millions of dollars in lawsuits if an employee decides to serve undercooked food, or carry out sanitation activities with contaminated water.

I would recommend that all employees be given an introduction to the critical areas of food safety, specific to their activities, and scheduled yearly refresher training be administered. Some of these critical areas include sanitation, pest control and worker health and hygiene. Additionally, every food establishment must ensure that managers and supervisors be certified in, or have knowledge of the basic Good Agricultural/Manufacturing Practices and HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) principles. Access to training institutions that offer technical skills and scientific knowledge is in no way limited, as local agencies such as the Bureau of Standards and other private consulting firms such as the one I operate have the facility to offer training in safe food practices, tailored to your food safety requirements. And of course there are online courses. Consumers who may want to be in the know can also expose themselves to these training opportunities. Remember, we all have a role to play in food safety. Let's ensure everyone is aware of their roles and how to execute them.

Marshalee Valentine

CEO-Quality, Food Safety & Environmental Management Systems Consultant

Vally Consulting

marshalee@vallyconsulting.xyz


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