Article - How SMART is your Food Safety Training? | Highfield International

How SMART is your food safety training?

By Euan MacAuslan

Effective food safety training should be SMART
: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound.

Specific: Decide what trainees need to know. For example, using a probe thermometer correctly, recording temperatures and corrective actions.

Measurable: After an explanation and demonstration encourage the trainees to practise taking temperatures and ensure the results are recorded accurately.

Achievable: Ensure that what must be taught can be done in the time allocated and that the target audience has the ability to achieve it. In a 45-minute session (for example) five minutes for introduction, 10 for explanation and demonstration, 20 minutes for practice and the remainder for the conclusion, questions, etc.

Realistic: Trainees need to be taught about issues relevant to their work and shown documents or set targets that apply to their place of work.

Time-bound: Practice makes it perfect! Know the length of the session and stick to it.

A classroom-based course that is only intended for candidates to gain a qualification may not provide ‘adequate training.’ Training is the practical application of theory gained through knowledge and an understanding of the specific subject to enable an individual to perform a specific function. There will be barriers to overcome if the training is to be successful. A few examples of what the trainer and manager must consider include: lack of academic skills, first language, special learning needs, different values, cultural or religious beliefs, etc.

Once the training has taken place, a competency assessment must follow. Accurate and current training records will have to be kept. Refresher training should take place if the knowledge has been lost. This does not necessarily mean going on a course again. However, on-the-job training, instruction and effective supervision are important to ensure knowledge is kept up-to-date and implemented – so avoiding the need for refresher training. A notice may have been served on the business requiring training, a customer complained, equipment or ingredients changed, individuals promoted, or an identified failure in the food safety management system will require urgent training interventions. Preferable on-site and supervised. Competency and the type of training required can be assessed in the workplace. All staff, including managers, need regular motivation if they are to make a positive contribution to food safety. A training needs assessment should be carried out prior to refresher or higher-level training where this is considered necessary.

The reader should now consider the SMART principles of any future training interventions. How are the barriers of individuals and the group as a whole to be overcome? Who is going to check that the theory taught is put into practice? Under what circumstances will refresher training be required?

Vaccination of food handlers: The panacea to better hygiene?

In November 2021, nearly 4,000 residents in New Jersey may have been exposed to Hepatitis A from an unvaccinated worker in Starbucks. In 2001, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health was notified that a restaurant food handler was a likely source. In 1994 in Kentucky, another food handler with Hepatitis A infected 29 people. Since 2016, 39,000 cases of Hepatitis A have been notified in the USA. Some Counties or urban areas in the USA have imposed mandatory vaccination of food handlers to protect them against Hepatitis A. There may be ethical considerations, many of which have been raised with the topic of Covid-19 vaccinations. These are not discussed in this article.

The World Health Organisation states ‘Two key reasons to get vaccinated are to protect ourselves and to protect those around us. Successful vaccination programmes depend on the cooperation of every individual to ensure the wellbeing of all.’ In the USA, the FDA does not mandate vaccinations for food handlers. Similarly, in the UK, the Food Standards Agency does not mention the role that vaccines may play. In some countries, there is either law or advisory campaigns in place urging food handlers to have typhoid or Hepatitis A vaccines. Research into the extent is hampered by the wealth of information on the internet that covers Covid-19.

But vaccines alone will not control food poisoning. They may even instil a sense of false security amongst food handlers. It is well documented that one of the most critical personal hygiene habits for food handlers at work and in the home is hand washing. Hand hygiene is a 24-hour business no matter where one works or lives. It could be said that hand washing is not just for a pandemic; it is for life.’ Too true! But there are other practices such as storage, chilling, cooking, cleaning and disinfection which all have important roles to play.

Do some research in the country where you work. On the LinkedIn Highfield Food Safety Forum, publish your findings and comments about vaccinations for food handlers, or other initiatives to raise standards and to reduce the risks of food poisoning.