Training employees in the safe preparation, cooking and handling of food is a legal requirement for food serving, preparation and manufacturing businesses and organisations. This guide outlines why it’s essential to understand food safety hazards and how food safety training can support your organisation.
Failure to comply with UK food safety rules can lead to serious consequences for organisations. Customers or employees may become ill or even die after eating contaminated food, and the organisation may be hit with unlimited fines, civil claims or be subject to prohibition to operate. In addition, the damage to the organisation’s reputation can be long lasting and in extreme cases, severe breaches of food safety regulations can lead to company closures.
With 2.4m cases of food poisoning in the UK each year, food safety training is essential. It’s a legal requirement for everyone involved in manufacturing, preparing, and serving food to understand food safety hazards and allergens and know how to prevent contamination.
Sending employees on a food safety course will provide them with the knowledge they need.
Every year thousands of people suffer illness as a result of poor food safety. Our online food hygiene course provides fundamental training for food handlers working in catering and other environments where food is prepared, cooked and handled.
Why is food safety training important?
Prevent cross-contamination from food safety hazards
If food is mishandled, bacteria and allergens can pass from one surface to another. Incidents of cross-contamination occur when food handlers do things such as using a chopping board to prepare raw meat and then use the same board to prepare vegetables or store raw meat in a way that allows juices to drip onto other food.
Cross-contamination can lead to food poisoning and people suffering from illnesses such as campylobacter, norovirus and salmonella. Allergens can pass between food which could be harmful to people allergic to allergens such as gluten or nuts.
Food safety training teaches employees how to understand food safety hazards, avoid cross-contamination and how to manage allergens.
Read our expert guide to managing food safety – five high-risk foods.
Protect vulnerable people
Everyone is at risk from food poisoning, but some people are more likely to suffer a serious illness if they eat contaminated food. They include:
- Adults aged 65 and above.
- Children younger than five years old.
- People with weakened immune systems.
- Pregnant women.
Food safety training will highlight employees’ need to protect everyone from food poisoning, but particularly the most vulnerable groups.
Improve business efficiencies
Employees trained in food safety can be more efficient. Teaching them how to avoid food safety hazards and handle and store food hygienically will ensure mistakes aren’t made, processes flow well, and customers are provided with a high level of service.
Reduce food waste
Poor food hygiene can lead to food going to waste. Training means employees will understand how to manage tasks such as achieving and then maintaining the correct temperatures for foods, understanding ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates and the proper storage procedures to use. This reduces the chances of food being thrown away, cutting waste and saving your business money.
Protecting your organisational reputation
Managing your organisational reputation is more important than ever in the modern world of social media reviews. Bad reviews due to poor hygiene can be hugely damaging.
The Food Standards Agency rate businesses on food hygiene in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with Food Standards Scotland doing the same in Scotland. The ratings are public information, so a poor score could put customers off from doing business with you.
Training your employees will ensure high standards are maintained and customers know that your food is safe.
Promoting a more positive workplace
Employee training is one of the ways employers can create a positive working environment. Training through a food safety course emphasises the importance of good practices and why food safety is essential. It ensures employees feel confident in their ability to do the job and prevents any bad feeling among teams.
Avoid closure, prosecution and fines
Organisations with poor food hygiene practices and allergen controls risk breaching food safety regulations. During an inspection by food safety authorities, an organisation can be shut down if it is considered a high safety risk. The organisation can face unlimited fines, while owners and managers may face prison sentences for gross breach of reasonable care.
In 2016, the Guardian reported that more than 100 companies were successfully prosecuted “with sentences including prison, suspended sentences, community service and fines of tens of thousands of pounds”.
Trained employees mean employers can feel more confident that food safety rules are being complied with and that their food safety management system is functioning.
What does food safety training cover?
Regulations and guidance requires that food handlers involved within the food supply, production and service chain should be supervised, instructed and trained in food hygiene measures. This means that all employees who come into contact with food should understand why food safety is essential. They must receive training that’s relevant to their job and the type of food that they handle.
There are three recognised levels of food safety training:
- Level one – General training for the safe preparation, serving and delivery of low risk and wrapped food. Relevant to waiting staff and food delivery staff.
- Level two – Training for people who prepare and serve food directly to consumers. Relevant to chefs, kitchen assistants and bar staff who prepare food and serve drinks.
- Level three – Training food supervisors and managers in a business preparing and serving food directly to consumers. Relevant to head chefs, general managers and owners of mobile catering businesses.
The specific content of a training course is dependent on the level, but in general, it should cover safe practices in the preparation, cooking and handling of food.
Subjects covered by food safety training include helping employees understand food safety terminology and food safety regulations, recognising food safety hazards, the importance of high temperatures for controlling bacteria, cleaning, allergens, pest controls, contamination and storing food correctly.
A food safety course should also teach the importance of good cleaning practices and, if relevant, the principles of Hazards Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) as it applies to food safety.
Ensure your employees are aware of the risks presented by reheating food with our online food hygiene course, including how to recognise food safety hazards and the importance of food temperature control.