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Now that the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs and the Grammy Awards are over, it’s time to announce the winners of some much more relevant awards. I’m talking, of course, about the Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards.

Launched in 2015, to coincide with our 25th anniversary, the Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards reward excellence in HACCP, Food Safety and Auditing. Additionally there are awards for Individual Excellence, Company Excellence and, for the first time, this year we have introduced an Ethical Excellence Award.

Awards Criteria

For the HACCP, Auditing and Food Safety Student of the Year awards, our course tutors nominate the delegates that they feel were outstanding in each relevant subject. These students demonstrated an exceptionally high level of competence and understanding during either our Level 4 HACCP, Level 4 Food Safety or Lead Auditor training. Moreover, the practical application of the skills they learned will have made a significant impact on their day-to-day operations. Their competence has been reflected in a set of impressive examination results.

And the winners of Verner Wheelock ‘Students of the Year 2018’ are ….

HACCP
Sophie Trussell – Avara Foods

Auditing
Dyana Webb – Aimia Foods Ltd

Food Safety
Paul Thackray – Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc

Individual Excellence Award

For this award the individual will have shown genuine enthusiasm and interest in the training provided. They will have an obvious passion for developing and maintaining a HACCP and Food Safety culture within their company and will have participated fully in the interactive elements of the training, sharing their knowledge and experience with fellow delegates.

And the winner is …..

Joshua Horrocks

Pladis, Halifax

Company Excellence Award

The recipient of the Company Excellence Award has demonstrated a commitment to a culture of continuous improvement in food safety throughout their organisation. This is extremely topical, given the new section in the BRC Global Standards for Food Safety Issue 8, which came into force this month. They have a structured approach to training to ensure that staff, from new starters to management, have an understanding of Food Safety, HACCP and Auditing skills at a level appropriate to their role. Delegates from the company have undertaken a variety of different training with Verner Wheelock to enable them to undertake their jobs to the best of their ability and progress their careers within the food industry.

And the winner is …..

Loscoe Chilled Foods

Ethical Excellence Award

This is a newly-introduced award to acknowledge the hard work undertaken by companies in terms of operating in an ethical manner. The winning company has demonstrated a commitment to a culture of continuous improvement in ethical trading throughout the organisation. It has performed strongly in ethical audits and ensures that staff, from new starters to management, have an understanding of the ETI Base Code and ethical practices.

And the winner is ….

Keelings Ltd – Finedon

Could you be the winner of a 2019 Verner Wheelock Excellence Award?

Congratulations to all our award winners. Watch this space for photos of the winning delegates and companies. We are already on the lookout for outstanding delegates and companies for our 2019 Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards. Perhaps the next recipient could be you? As well as receiving the award and a certificate, individuals receive a voucher for £250 against the cost of their next Verner Wheelock course. This amount is £500 for the company awards.

BRC Approved Training Provider at Verner Wheelock

Auditing against the British Retail Consortium’s Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 8 (BRC Issue 8) begins today. The Standard was last updated in July 2015 and since then there have been a number of significant changes.

BRC 8 is a detailed document which takes time to digest and interpret. That’s why it’s often simpler to attend a specialist course. Our trainers can take you through the changes between BRC issue 7 and BRC Issue 8 in a single day.

Approved training course

We have a BRC Approved Training Partner amongst our training team who has been delivering the official BRC Issue 7 to Issue 8 Conversion Course for Sites course at our training centre near Skipton, North Yorkshire.

The course helps companies to prepare for their next audit against the new BRC Standard by discussing the changes section by section. There are group exercises throughout concerning major elements such as Food Safety Culture, Raw Material Risk Assessment, Supplier Approval, Food Defence, Labelling and Environmental Monitoring.

Delegates are encouraged to ask questions during the training and will be given guidance as to how the new version of the Standard applies to their production facitlity. The aim is that they leave the course equipped with the knowledge and skills to implement the changes effectively once they return to site.

Official BRC certificate

Once the training is complete, delegates have the option to complete a 25 question online examination in their own time. If they attain 60% or higher they will receive an official BRC certificate. If they choose not to take the exam, they will receive a Verner Wheelock certificate of completion. For in-house training, delivered at your own site, we offer our own BRC Issue 7 to 8 Update course, which covers the same content.

Here is some recent feedback we’ve received for both courses

“The tutor was excellent in putting the information across. She made the course interesting and varied.”

“Good clear information provided to bolster BRC requirements when training. Loved the venue!”

“The course gave a thorough overview of the changes, including expected evidence and interpretation of the new clauses.”

“Well paced, practical, interesting and relevant.”

Our next BRC Issue 7 to 8 Conversion courses

The courses have proved incredibly popular, so early booking is recommended. Our next dates are

  • 28th February – FULL
  • 26th March
  • 4th April

Click here for more information, or why not view our latest training calendar?

Verner’s View – Food for Thought

Dr Verner Wheelock, the founder of training consultancy Verner Wheelock and former head of the Food Policy Research Unit at the University of Bradford, now spends his retirement researching the latest ideas on Nutrition & Health. Here he presents his own thoughts on the recent EAT – Lancet Commission report.

Dr Verner Wheelock


No doubt you will have seen some of the recent food related headlines such as:

“Brits must limit meat intake to QUARTER rasher of bacon a day”

“A bit of meat, a lot of veg – the flexitarian diet to feed 10bn”

“Eating Red Meat Is Wreaking Havoc on Earth. So, Stop It!”

These headlines are based on a recent report entitled ‘Food in the Anthropocene: The EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems’ (Walter Willett et al.). 

The EAT–Lancet Commission is the first of a series of initiatives on nutrition led by The Lancet in 2019.  In a nutshell, the Commission brings together over 30 contributors across the globe to reach a consensus as to what constitutes a healthy and sustainable diet.

Their reference diet advocates the reduction of red meat and sugar consumption globally by 50% and an increase of 100% in the consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Essentially it would be primarily a plant-based diet.

As the respected medical journal, The Lancet is involved, then you would probably assume that the conclusions of this report are based on sound scientific evidence. In fact, it does not take a great deal of effort to discover that, in my opinion, this report is not worth the paper it is written on. However, you may choose to disagree and come to your own conclusions after reading the report and the various critiques.

You can read a summary of the report here:  www.thelancet.com/commissions/EAT

The full report can be accessed here: www.scimex.org/__data/assets/file/0008/387296/Food-production_LANCET_paper.pdf

1. Firstly, I believe there are massive conflicts of interest:

EAT was established by a very wealthy Norwegian animal rights activist who promotes veganism.  There seems to be no doubt that the primary objective is to demonise meat. Several multinational plant-based food businesses are closely involved in EAT as shown in these articles:

www.efanews.eu/item/6053

https://isupportgary.com/articles/is-the-eat-lancet-vegan-rule-book-hijacking-health

2. Second, implementation of the recommendations would result in a diet that is deficient in a range of nutrients.

For example, just 5% of the recommended Vitamin D intake, 55% of the calcium requirement and 17% of retinol, as Zoe Harcombe explains:

www.zoeharcombe.com/2019/01/the-eat-lancet-diet-is-nutritionally-deficient/


3. Third, doing away with food producing animals, especially ruminants, would be an ecological disaster.

Where it has been attempted, the result has been desertification, as Allan Savory explains in this video presentation:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpTHi7O66pI&t=21s

Please note: The views in this article are those of Dr Verner Wheelock and do not necessarily reflect the views of Verner Wheelock Associates Ltd.

2018 Round-up blog

A Bumper Year

Vernr Wheelock offices

2018 was yet another bumper year for Verner Wheelock. We ran more in-house courses at customers’ premises than ever before. Plus, demand was such on certain open courses that we were running two, and even three, courses concurrently here in Skipton. You certainly kept us busy! But that’s just the way we like to be.

This year’s courses are already filling up quickly, so don’t forget to check out our 2019 training calendar to book your place.

Ethical Acquisition

Last year was a great year for the ethical side of our business too. Our team of professional auditors undertook several ethical audits and provided Ethical Trading Workshop and Works Council training. Perhaps the most exciting news in this area, though, was our acquisition of the Keith Stamp Social Auditing (KSSA) company.

Alison Wheelock and Keith Stamp

Keith had worked with Verner Wheelock for several years as a Lead Ethical Auditor, and will continue to do so, but was looking to take a step back and spend more time with his family. We purchased KSSA in March 2018 and have been delighted with the feedback received from customers both new and existing.

To find out more about our ethical audit offering, please click here.

Verner’s Book

Healthy Eating Book
Verner with trainer Paul Bache

Dr Verner Wheelock, our chairman, turned 80 years old in November, but retirement couldn’t be further from his mind. He has spent the past couple of years writing and researching a new book about the benefits of a low carb diet. Entitled ‘Healthy Eating: The Big Mistake’, it was published in January and has been very well received. You can buy a copy on Amazon. Verner also runs a regular Low Carb group in Skipton for people with diabetes.

New Faces

Rhyanna Pearson

If you’ve been to one of our courses in Skipton, the chances are that you’ll have met the latest addition to the Training Support team. Rhyanna Pearson joined in August as Training Support Assistant, working closely with Amberley. She has taken to the role like a duck to water and has proved herself to be a real asset to the team. Like Amberley, she previously worked as a baker, so has been rustling up some delicious treats for us too.

We also welcomed a new trainer in 2018. Julie Ryan actually won our Verner Wheelock ‘Auditing Student of the Year’ award for 2017. She took the plunge to become a trainer after several years working in the technical department of a bakery and already had plenty of experience of in-house training. Customer feedback has been great and as well as being a really good trainer, she’s also a lovely person.

Julie Ryan
Julie Ryan accepting her award

Customer feedback has been great and as well as being a really good trainer, she’s also a lovely person.

If you like the idea of becoming a trainer, our Level 3 Award in Education and Training course is a very good starting point.

BRC Issue 8 – New Course

In August the British Retail Consortium published the latest edition of their BRC Global Standard for Food Safety. There were some significant additions in the new Issue 8 so, as we have done in previous years, we began running BRC Issue 7 to 8 conversion courses, so companies would know what to expect when they are audited against it from February onwards.

Eleanor Nicholls, one of our longstanding auditing trainers, is an Approved Training Partner who is able to deliver the official BRC Food Safety Issue 7 to 8 Conversion for Sites course, so delegates can now receive a BRC certificate when they pass the examination.

Our next BRC Issue 8 courses are on 28th February and 26th March. 

It’s Awards Season

RSPH Hygeia Awards

RSPH Food Safety Award winner

We’re happy to report that once again a Verner Wheelock delegate won the prize for Food Safety & Hygiene at the RSPH’s annual Hygeia Awards. Lynn-Anne Allinson, a Raw Material Specialist from Symington’s in Leeds, attained the highest marks in the Level 4 Food Safety & Hygiene examination.

Lynn-Anne was unable to attend the Awards in London, so Rachel, our Marketing Manager, received the Award from TV personality, Natasha Kaplinsky, in her place.

Verner Wheelock Awards

It’s almost time for our annual Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards. You know that Julie Ryan won the 2017 Auditing Excellence Award, but here’s a reminder of who won the other awards last time:

Alison presents the Verner Wheelock Company Excellence Award to Katie Matten of Shepherd’s Purse Cheeses

HACCP Student of the Year

Nattakan Pinyopat, Warburtons

Food Safety Student of the Year

Kerrie Borthwick, Loch Fyne Oysters

Individual Excellence Award

Brandon Green, Ornua Ingredients

Company Excellence Award

Shepherd’s Purse Cheeses

The 2018 Award winners will be announced in a couple of weeks’ time, so watch this space.

BRC Issue 8 – Make sure you’re prepared

supermarket shelves

Anyone who supplies the larger retailers will be well aware of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standard for Food Safety. The Standard is designed to provide the basis for certification for food manufacturers who implement good manufacturing practices and have supporting quality management systems. It can be applied to any food processing or food packing operation where food is handled, processed or packed.

The BRC Standard is updated every few years to take account of new manufacturing practices, areas of concern and often to clarify or simplify points in the previous version. For example, Issue 7 of the BRC standard took into account the ‘Horsemeat Scandal’ of 2013 and included a section on traceability and product authenticity in response.

Product safety and security is high on BRC Issue 8 agenda

Product vulnerability and threat measures are still very much on the agenda in Issue 8.  There has been a major revision of Section 4.2 relating to Site Security and Food Defence. The risk of malicious contamination from internal or external threats must now be assessed at all stages when the product is under the management control of your company – not just through the supply chain. There should be monitoring and control of risk in areas such as storage and intake points; and only authorised personnel should have access to production and storage areas. All staff need to be trained in site security procedures and food defence. A VACCP and TACCP course is ideal for alerting employees to potential risks and advising how to put measures in place to avert them.

Food packaging and labelling

There have been key changes too relating to product labelling and packaging, which is still a major issue. New to BRC Issue 8 is a requirement to ensure that there are processes in place to prevent any obsolete packaging from being used inadvertently. This also includes controls for the disposal of obsolete packaging and other printed materials.

Making sure that the correct packaging and labelling is used for a product is essential, especially where products contain allergenic ingredients. In certain instances, it can literally mean the difference between life and death for consumers. It is also imperative that the correct ‘Use by’ dates appear on the packaging if illness and spoilage are to be avoided.

Food safety culture

Perhaps one of the most significant changes is the addition of a new clause regarding food safety culture . It requires the site to assess its current food safety culture, plan and implement  activities to improve it, and review the outcomes of these activities. The Senior Management of a company will be expected to present their food safety culture plan to the auditor during the audit.  

Plans can cover a number of years but should have activities spaced across it not front and/or end loaded.  Auditors will not be making a judgement on the type of culture, they will be looking for an understanding of the current culture, planned activities, implementation of some activities and a review of their effectiveness. If no plan or implementation is effected, it will represent a major non-conformance against a BRC audit.    To be effective, there needs to be buy-in from everyone in the company and it needs to be led from the top.

Food safety and quality need to be viewed as being as important as hitting delivery schedules and profit targets. Measurement and monitoring can take the form of training, surveys and staff retention.

Whistleblowing and environmental monitoring

Also in Section 1 is another new clause requiring  companies to have a confidential reporting system for  employees that have concerns relating to product safety, integrity and legality to be able to report them anonymously.

Another new clause is the requirement for sites to have a risk based environmental monitoring programme in place for pathogens or spoilage organisms. Because this includes all production areas with open and/or ready-to-eat products it makes it applicable to all sites – high risk, high care, ambient high care and low risk.

This article has highlighted just a few of the many changes between the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety issues 7 and 8. For a detailed examination of all the changes, their interpretation and implementation, Verner Wheelock is running a number of BRC Food Safety Issue 7 to 8 Conversion for Sites courses. The course is tutored by official BRC Approved Training Partner, Eleanor Nicholls, an experienced auditor and longstanding VWA trainer.

Other courses which are ideal preparation for BRC Issue 8 include Managing Food Allergens, Root Cause Analysis, VACCP and TACCP and Legal Labelling as well as Auditing Skills, Supplier Auditing and Lead Auditor.

  

 

Lynn-Anne Allinson is the latest in a number of Verner Wheelock delegates to win the Food Safety prize at the Royal Society of Public Health’s (RSPH) annual Hygeia Awards.

A Raw Materials Specialist at dried foods manufacturer, Symington’s in Leeds, Lynn-Anne received the award for achieving the top marks in the RSPH Level 4 Award in Managing Food Safety and Hygiene (Manufacturing) examination this year.

RSPH Food Safety Award winner

Lynn-Anne Allinson of Symingtons with her Food Safety award

She took the examination after completing an intensive 5-day training course at food industry training specialist, Verner Wheelock, based on the Broughton Hall Business Park in Skipton, North Yorkshire. The prizes were presented by broadcaster Natasha Kaplinsky at a ceremony in London recently.

This is the fourth time that a Verner Wheelock delegate has received the RSPH Food Safety prize in the past five years. Last year it was won by Justyna Pupiec-Adamowicz of Nestle and in 2015 and 2014 it was won by other Symingtons employees Sarah Jolly-Hart and Liane Davis (shared with Verner Wheelock delegate Peter Smith). Verner Wheelock delegates have also won the HACCP prize twice during this time.

After the event, Lynn-Anne said: “I am delighted to have received the RSPH prize. Taking the Level 4 Award in Food Safety & Hygiene has given me added confidence in my knowledge in this area, as well as providing a useful insight into other areas of food manufacturing to which I’ve not yet had exposure.”

Speaking of her experience at Verner Wheelock, she said, “I thoroughly enjoyed the course delivered by Verner Wheelock. The training materials were of an excellent standard, and the tutors extremely knowledgeable in their field. There was a great collaborative learning environment in which both tutors and students all shared their experiences from their different areas of the food industry, which I found beneficial.”

Verner Wheelock has been providing food safety, HACCP and auditing courses to the food industry since 1990. The company also offers specialist courses such as Managing Food Allergens, Legal Labelling, Root Cause Analysis and Ethical Trading Workshops.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is the UK’s longest-established public health organisation in the UK. Its qualifications are highly regarded within the food and other industries. It was formed in October 2008 through the merger of the Royal Society of Health and the Royal Institute of Public Health.

Food pests and how to control them effectively

mice are food pestsNot so long ago we had an adorable House Martin family nesting outside the window. It was super cute, but what wasn’t not so great is the build-up of droppings on the window sill.  Bird droppings and the faeces of other animals are highly toxic. It’s bad enough outside a domestic property but you can imagine the damage that this type of mess can make in a food processing, preparation or packing environment.  That’s why food manufacturers and caterers need to take steps to keep food pests away from their premises.

Food pests carry pathogens

The trouble is that pests are resilient and persistent critters, they travel easily and they breed like crazy. Allow pests into your premises and they have the potential to spread such pathogens as listeria, Salmonella, E.Coli, toxoplasmosis, tuberculosis and gastroenteritis.

The main pests are rats, mice, birds and insects.  They spread disease by defecating and urinating, regurgitating food, and by shedding casings and dying.  The discovery of rat droppings, roosting birds or an infestation of flies can spell disaster for a company if they are discovered during a third-party audit.  The risk to food safety is extremely serious too.

Were you aware, for example, that filth flies can carry over 100 pathogens that can cause disease in humans. Filth flies include drain flies, flesh flies and house flies.  As their name suggests they move from filth to food indiscriminately. They feed on decaying and rotten food, carcases of animals and faecal matter as well as on fresh and stored food and ingredients.

Mice can squeeze through holes the size of a pencil and under the smallest gaps in doorways or skirting.  Rats can gnaw through hardwood wires and cabling (as well as cardboard boxes and other packaging).  Pigeons can get into premises and build roosts. Insects can fly into premises through minute spaces and make themselves at home in nooks and crannies behind and under equipment or in drains.

Warning signs that you might have a pest infestation

Even if you can’t see the pests (many are nocturnal) there are various tell-tale signs that you have unwelcome visitors:

Droppings and urine

Rat and mouse droppings are small, dry and look like brown grains of rice.  Vermin such as these urinate frequently when eating, so the chances are you’ll smell that they’re about too.

Grease marks

Greasy smears and paw prints are another sign of rodent infestation.

Evidence of nesting

Pests build their nests from whatever is to hand e.g packaging. So look for signs of this.

Structural damage

As I mentioned before, they can gnaw through wood and plaster, so look for gnaw and scratch marks.

Damaged goods

Look for signs of nibbled packaging on raw ingredients and spillages. Certain pests, such as weevils, can live within dry ingredients, so always give a good visual inspection before adding to product mixtures.

You know some of the signs, but how do you keep food pests out?

There are some simple things you can do to try to discourage pests in your facility:

  • Make sure all doors to production areas are secured. This means at all times. If you need to go out, close the door behind you. In addition, you should ensure that any doors leading to outside remain closed.
  • Keep insects out by installing window screens. If the window is open to let air in, that’s the only thing it should be letting in.
  • Cover all bins, especially any containing food waste. Empty bins regularly and tie bin bags securely before taking them out to external bins – which should have closed lids.
  • Check the building regularly for any holes and plug them up to stop rodents having access.
  • Make sure any vegetation around the building is cut right back. This will discourage rodents ad insects
  • Don’t allow birds to nest under the roof or eaves of the building.
  • Don’t put fly units over food surfaces. If they are too shallow the insects will drop out of the tray.
  • Ensure that you clean down equipment properly. Remember insects thrive in damp environments and will breed in the smallest of spaces.

Call the pest professionals

You can find out more about pests and pest control on our Level 3 Food Safety and Hygiene or Level 4 Food Safety and Hygiene courses.  If you think you have a pest problem, it’s often best to call in a professional pest control company.  The majority are aware what BRC auditors and Environmental Health Officers are looking for.

Following an initial visit, the contractor will produce a report of their findings.  This will detail current and potential sites of breaches or infestations and their recommendations.

Many also offer comprehensive silo cleaning and deep cleaning of food equipment and production spaces as well as the supply and fitting of insect screens, PVC curtains and doors, brush strips and other proofing solutions such as electronic rodent capture and electronic fly killers.  Given that they will be operating in a food production environment, many also offer pesticide-free solutions to pest control and chemical-free fumigation services.

 

cruise ships have been linked with Norovirus

There have been more than six outbreaks of viruses, especially Norovirus, on cruise ships so far this year.  This might seem a large number, but in actual fact the likelihood of contracting Norovirus on a cruise ship is just one-eighteenth of a percent. You are far more likely to contract Norovirus on dry land.

Nevertheless, cruise liner operators are particularly scrupulous about hygiene.  Ascend or descend any of the stairways and you will find staff cleaning the handrails.  Walk into a restaurant or buffet area and there are hand sanitation stations.  On some ships, they even have a member of staff standing at the entrance with spray gun dispensing sanitiser directly into guests’ hands.  It’s a similar situation before you board the vessel.

To illustrate the point; I was having dinner on a cruise ship recently. The lady on the table adjacent was about to order, but just before she did, she sneezed.  The waiter immediately whisked the menu out of her hands, put it in a cupboard, sanitised his hands and handed her a new menu. The woman was astonished at his reaction, but he was, of course, quite correct to do so.

Norovirus spreads rapidly

Why are they so hot on hygiene? The answer lies in the fact that there are thousands of passengers and staff in close proximity.  An illness such as Norovirus, which causes sickness and diarrhoea, can therefore spread rapidly.

toilet rolls for diarrhoeaNorovirus can be transmitted directly or indirectly.  In other words, person-to-person, or through contaminated water or food.  So, for example, if you touch a door handle, surface or utensil (or menu for that matter) of someone who contracted the virus, you can become infected yourself.  It can also spread through eating contaminated food prepared by infected food handlers.  Norovirus can become airborne via toilet flushing or you can catch it by being nearby somebody vomiting. It takes fewer than 20 virus particles to cause an infection.  Scary stuff!

 

Which foods are best to avoid?

shellfish and saladFood-wise the most likely candidates to be implicated in a Norovirus outbreak are salad ingredients and shellfish.  If shellfish have not been heated above 75?C, they pose a serious risk.  If infected water is used to wash fruit and vegetables, or to make ice, that will also cause the virus to spread.  But it’s not only potable water that can become contaminated.  Waterborne outbreaks of Norovirus have also been sourced in swimming pools and recreational lakes.

Norovirus can survive for long periods outside the human body. Contaminated fabrics can hold the virus for up to 12 days.  It can live for weeks on hard surfaces and potentially for years in contaminated still water.  So, food safety and general hygiene are obviously of paramount importance.

How can we protect ourselves against contracting the virus?

One of the most effective things you can do is wash your hands properly with soap and water. This is actually more effective than using an alcohol rub. You can also ensure all surfaces are sanitised with a solution of bleach and water or other disinfectants. You might also want to side-step the salad and shellfish to be absolutely sure.

What is Shigellosis?

Shigellosis, a highly contagious diarrhoea caused by Shigella bacteria, is often confused with Norovirus. It also has a similar make-up to E.coli bacteria.

Shigella can spread in schoolsShigella bacteria is most commonly seen in schools and child care environments.  It can spread quickly and is generally spread through people not washing their hands after using the toilet or changing a nappy.  They then touch other surfaces or food. All someone has to do is touch the same surface/utensils and then touch their mouth and they can fall victim to Shigellosis.  It can even be spread via sex with an infected person.

The bacteria can affect any food which has been washed in contaminated water.  That’s why it is often referred to as ‘travellers’ diarrhoea’, since it is contracted through contaminated food and water in developing countries.

Did E-Coli kill holidaying couple?

Post-mortem tests carried out on the bodies of a couple from Burnley who died suddenly whilst  holidaying in Hurghada, Egypt, showed high levels of E.Coli  The E.Coli bacteria causes very similar symptoms and is transmitted in similar ways to the Shigellosis virus.

E. Coli is present in the guts of humans and animals and can be transferred through not washing hands after using the toilet, eating undercooked meat, drinking unpasteurised milk and fruit juices or drinking contaminated water etc. You are also more susceptible to illness from E. Coli and other bacteria if you have a weakened immune system; are elderly or very young; or are taking medication to decrease stomach acid levels.

Most strains of E. Coli are harmless and may cause a little discomfort. However severe strains can cause fever as well as stomach cramps, diarrhoea and nausea and can lead to a condition called Haemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). In HUS the red blood cells are damaged and this can lead to kidney failure. This can occur in 5 -10% of people infected with E. Coli.

Learn about food poisoning bacteria and their control

You can find out all about cross contamination and the various bacteria which cause food poisoning on our Food safety courses.  We offer all levels from basic Level 2 Food Safety & Hygiene, Level 3 Food Safety & Hygiene for supervisors to advanced Level 4 Food Safety and Hygiene. All are available as open courses at our training facility.  Alternatively, if you have 5 or more people to train, a cost-effective option is the same course run in-house at your own premises.

 

Click here for more information.

exam techniques

If you left school, college or university several years ago, the chances are you won’t have sat an exam for a very long time. However, exams are a necessary evil if you want to gain qualifications for career progression; or improve your skills in your current role.

It’s natural to feel a little anxious before your exam or test, so here are some top tips to help out.

1) Read the questions

This might seem really obvious, but before you put pen to paper, make sure you read the question. Not just once, but 3 times. This should ensure that you have understood it correctly. When you’re nervous and up against the clock, it’s easy to misread something. For example, if the question says ‘Which of the following are not food safety prerequisites?’, you don’t want to read it as ‘Which of the following are food safety prerequisites?’

Some of the questions in HACCP and Food Safety examinations can seem ambiguous and there can seem to be more than one relevant answer. Reading through carefully often helps to clarify this.

2) Understand what is required

It’s a good idea to search Google for ‘exam questions glossary’ before the big day. This will tell you what is meant by particular words and phrases and what the examiner will expect to see in your answers. E.g. “List the 7 principles of HACCP” is a very different question from “Describe the 7 principles of HACCP.” The first will have fewer marks and you will just be able to provide a simple list. The second will carry more marks and requires a more detailed answer.

3) Allocate your time efficiently

Level 4 Food Safety, Level 4 HACCP and Lead Auditor exams are written papers rather than multiple choice. Each question shows the maximum amount of marks awarded. It’s common sense that you should spend more time on the questions for which you can get more marks.  Don’t waste time writing hundreds of words on a question worth a few marks, even if you could wax lyrical about pests for hours. Spend more time on a question worth 10 or 20 marks.

If you know that the exam is 2 hours duration, allow 5 to 10 minutes reading time and the same again at the end to go over your answers. Then split the remaining time according to the marks structure. Don’t feel you have to answer the questions in the order they appear. It might be sensible to answer the high-ranking questions first, then tackle the rest.

4) Tips for a multiple choice exam

Exams such as Level 3 HACCP, Level 3 Food Safety and Auditing Skills are in multiple choice format. You have a separate answer sheet which is marked electronically. A good tip is to go through the question paper and mark all your answers on there first. You can tick the answers to the ones you know and for ones you’re not sure about you can eliminate the answers you know are correct. Then, once you’ve made your choices, carefully transfer the answers to the answer sheet. You can use a sheet of paper or ruler under the corresponding questions and answers to make sure they’re entered correctly.

5)Blue or black ink?

The answer to this one is that we would always recommend that you use black ink. Exam papers are scanned for marking, so black is much clearer and easier to read. When you sit an examination at Verner Wheelock we provide black pens as standard.

On the subject of writing, try to make your handwriting as clear as possible. If your handwriting is difficult to decipher, you could print instead.

6) Make sure you’re prepared

One of the best ways to prepare for an exam is to try to replicate examination conditions. Make sure you are somewhere quiet with no distractions, then attempt a mock paper within the given time. Study in short bursts of 20 -30 minutes at a time and memorise facts using mnemonics wherever possible.

What if English is not your mother tongue?

You need to let the examination centre know well in advance if English is not your first language. In some cases the examination paper might be available in different languages. Remember that this will need to be ordered in specially, so give them plenty of notice. If the examination paper is only available in English you will be allowed to take a dictionary and thesaurus in with you (paper version only) and you will probably be allowed extra time.

After the exam

Don’t overanalyse the questions and your answers with your colleagues. What happens in the exam stays in the exam. Just take a deep breath and enjoy the rest of the day. The chances are you’re worrying about nothing. As long as you’ve listened to the tutor during your training you should do fine. For example, the pass rate for Verner Wheelock delegates is 98% for Level 3 Food Safety and 97% for Level 3 HACCP.

Good luck!

HACCP principle

The 7 Principles of HACCP are:

  1. Conduct a Hazard Analysis
  2. Identify Critical Control Points
  3. Determine Critical Limits
  4. Establish Monitoring Procedures of CCPs
  5. Establish Corrective Action Procedures
  6. Establish Verification Procedures
  7. Establish Record-keeping and Documentation Procedures

Principles 1 & 2 – Hazard Analysis and CCPs

So we’ve made sure our prerequisites are in place and we’ve got a HACCP team together. What next? Next we need to go through each procedure and look for any potential hazards that might affect the safety of the food we’re producing. We’re looking for physical hazards, microbiological hazards, chemical hazards and – in some cases- allergenic hazards.

Once we’ve identified these, we need to decide which of the steps in the process constitute Critical Control Points (CCPs). These are defined as ‘a step at which control can be applied to reduce, eliminate or prevent the possibility of a food safety hazard, or reduce it to an acceptable level.’ A common CCP in food manufacturing is the cooking stage.

What is a Critical Limit?

HACCP Principle 3 tells us to ‘determine critical limits.’ These limits need to be applied to the  CCPs. For instance, we have already established that cooking is a CCP. A critical limit for cooking would therefore concern temperature and time. E.g. the product would need to be cooked at a minimum temperature of X°C for a minimum time of X minutes in order to be sure that all potential pathogenic bacteria had been killed or reduced to a harmless level.

When the critical limits have been set, you need to monitor them (HACCP Principle 4). How do you do this? The answer is through observation and measurement. You need to decide WHAT will be monitored, HOW it will be monitored, WHEN it will be monitored and WHO will do the monitoring.

In Principle 5, corrective actions, you must decide how you are going to put something right which has gone wrong. In other words, if there has been a deviation from the critical limit. As an example, you should firstly stop the line or process and segregate the affected product. You then need to get the process back under control within the critical limits you have established. The deviation and its corrective action need to be documented.

What’s the difference between Verification and Validation?

Now we come to the verification and validation of the HACCP plan. Since they sound similar and there is often confusion about what each means, I’ll try to explain. In a nutshell, Verification is defined as the process of establishing the truth, accuracy or validity of something. So, basically, if we’ve said that we’re going to heat a product to X°C for X minutes to kill bacteria, the verification is checking the time and the temperature to make sure we’re actually doing what we say.

To verify the HACCP plan, you need to undertake regular audits of the plan to ensure that it is being followed correctly. This is particularly important if any aspect of the procedure, process or ingredients has changed which could jeopardise the safety of the product – e.g. a reduction in sugar or salt. You also need to review CCPs, your monitoring procedures and any records you’ve kept of corrective actions.

Validation is the assessment of an action, decision, plan or transaction to establish that it is correct, complete, being implemented (and/or recorded) as intended and is delivering the intended outcome. It is asking how you know/can prove something.

For example, how do you know that cooking the product for X minutes at X°C will kill harmful bacteria and make the product safe? You can validate this by using scientific data from journals which have found this to be the case. Additionally, you can undertake in-plant observations, measurements and evaluations or seek expert third party advice.

Find out more on a HACCP course

Verner Wheelock runs courses from basic Level 2 HACCP to advanced Level 4 HACCP. You can attend HACCP training at our training centre in Skipton, North Yorkshire. Alternatively, you can train a number of staff all together with an in-house course at your own premises.