Food

Food Service Establishments — Invest in Food Safety Training!

Marshalee Valentine

Thursday, May 30, 2019

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I know I've mentioned the importance of food safety training for employees in the food and beverage service industry, but how many people operating a food establishment really take this matter seriously?

We need to understand that knowledge gaps of food handlers in areas of food hygiene and handling practices in food service establishments can and have been contributing to outbreaks of food-borne illnesses. Over the past few weeks I've engaged with three individuals who had to seek medical assistance due to food poisoning as a result of eating out. The World Health Organization (WHO) advised that all food-handling personnel play important roles in ensuring food safety throughout the chain of food production and storage. Additionally, there have been studies conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which indicate that poor knowledge and practices in food handling are sources of microbial contamination in food sold by vendors. Consequently, food service establishments need to place more emphasis on continuous training, mentoring and development of employees who come in direct contact with food being sold to the wider population.

As mentioned in previous articles, the food handlers' permit does not mean employees are fully aware of all critical aspects of food safety as food safety practices are not “one size fits all” solutions for all establishments. Employees need additional exposure and training to food safety risks and best practices specific to their position in the food production and supply chain. Furthermore, as food establishment operators, stop expecting employees upon hire to know what to do to prevent food-borne illnesses – that is unless you have recruited all your employees with the requisite knowledge requirements. It is your responsibility as a food establishment operator to assess the risk areas and ensure that all employees are aware of best practices and are monitored periodically.

Once you have made the decision to train or retrain your employees, there are numerous things you will need to consider before investing in this very important activity. As mentioned earlier, food safety practices are not one-size-fits-all when it comes to preventative measures. While the basic control requirements remain the same — clean, cook, chill, separate and use clean water — control measures may need to be specialised for different processes along the food production and handling chain. With that said, it is quite possible that you will get a better return on your investment along with playing your role in food safety when you consider the following:

1. Identify all critical food safety risk areas in your establishment and the personnel responsible for and working in those areas.

2. Conduct an initial evaluation of the knowledge base of those employees, along with this you can also find out which method — online, workshops, webinars, on-site — they prefer along with their style of learning — visual, aural, reading/writing. Let's face it: it makes no sense investing in training employees who are unable to implement best practices because they did not completely grasp the concepts being shared.

3. Find a training provider that offers flexible options to meet your establishment's needs; I know how difficult it is for you to release employees for days of training exercises.

4. Request an overview of training to be delivered from your training provider and ensure it meets your specific requirements.

5. An important part of food safety training for employees is ensuring that each training exercise is able to initiate behavioural change, so I suggest that you choose your training institution/trainer wisely. Keep in mind that sometimes it's not all about the message you deliver; it's how you deliver it. Do employees understand the concepts? Do they care about food safety? How do you ensure that they do? This is why it is important to conduct an initial evaluation of employees. At Vally Consulting, not only do we ensure that training programmes are tailored specifically for our clients, but we also create training programmes that are geared at creating positive attitudes and intentions towards food safety.

6. The training programmes selected must include methods for verifying the effectiveness of training.

7. Have an internal mentorship programme in place for food safety and ensure that the food safety message is communicated in company policies and programme.

As food establishment owners/operators, you need to be mindful of the fact that public health is your responsibility. Supermarkets, restaurants and hotels need to pay closer attention to food safety systems. Your food and beverage and operations managers are not the only ones required to have in-depth knowledge of food safety best practices; you need to adapt a culture of ensuring that all employees know and buy into the importance of providing safe food for our population.


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