≡ Menu
Ethical Team at VWA with certificates

Left: Samantha Day and Vicki Andrews with their certificates

Verner Wheelock are delighted to reveal that every member of their Ethical Team has recently passed their IRCA Social Systems Auditor/Lead Auditor examination. This qualification is seen as the industry standard for social auditors and is recognised worldwide.

MD Alison Wheelock explains, “Our Ethical Team, including myself, is responsible for organising and co-ordinating all our audits. We liaise with both customers and our team of experienced APSCA social auditors, providing pre and post-audit support, to ensure that the whole process runs smoothly.

SA8000 ethical audit training gives greater understanding

We decided to take the training, which is based on the international SA8000 Standard, so that we all have a really good, detailed understanding of all elements of carrying out an ethical audit from an auditor’s point of view. For example, the pressures facing companies and auditors and the legal context under which they are operating. Also standards, codes of conduct, specifications, social issues, the benefits of a social management system etc.”

The intensive 5-day course was delivered by SGS at Verner Wheelock’s training centre in Skipton, North Yorkshire. Verner Wheelock’s Ethical Team have now proved themselves capable of planning, conducting, reporting and following up an audit of a social system against SA8000, or the ETI Base Code on a SMETA audit.

“We aren’t planning to carry out any ethical audits ourselves, we’ll leave that to our team of professional ethical auditors,” adds Alison. “However, we do review Audit Reports and Corrective Action Plans within the team before they are published on the Sedex platform. This training will help us to answer even more customer and auditor queries. It has also given us a sound understanding of what our auditors do and the challenges they can face on a typical audit.”

Verner Wheelock are perhaps better-known for outstanding results in HACCP, Food Safety, Auditing and specialist training for the food industry. However they have been delivering ethical audits for over 20 years. Last year the company undertook 270 SMETA ethical audits for growers and manufacturing sites in the UK and Ireland.  Verner Wheelock is an Affiliate Audit Company (AAC) with Sedex and a member firm of APSCA (Association of Professional Social Compliance Auditors).

Could you be a social auditor for Verner Wheelock?

“We are extremely busy and always looking for more social auditors to join our nationwide team,” says Alison. “If there is anyone out there who has experience in this field and is interested in working with us, or becoming an auditor, please get in touch.”

Winners of Excellence Awards Revealed

Winners of Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards

2023 was a busy year for Verner Wheelock. We trained over 2000 delegates in HACCP, food safety, auditing and other specialist subjects and completed 250 SMETA ethical audits. There were therefore several standout delegates and companies to consider for the annual Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards. As you can imagine, it was a difficult task to select the eventual winners.

The Excellence Awards were first introduced at our 25th anniversary celebrations in 2015 and recognise outstanding students in HACCP, Auditing and Food Safety. In addition we award prizes for Individual Excellence, Company Excellence and Ethical Excellence. The winners are…

Excelling in Food Safety

The award for Food Safety Student of the Year 2023 went to Victoria Phipps, Product Launch Team Leader at AB World Foods. Victoria achieved an amazing 98.5% in her RSPH Level 4 Food Safety examination and was an excellent student. “I am extremely grateful to have been awarded Food Safety Student of the Year after completing my Level 4 course and achieving a great exam result, thank you again to all at Verner Wheelock for their support,” she said.

HACCP Student of the Year

HACCP Student of the Year 2023 was awarded to Sara Hardacre, a Technical Manager at Warburtons, who also impressed the trainers with her ability. Sara was “thrilled” to receive the award and said, “The Level 4 HACCP course was outstanding with great content and discussion led by Nigel Robertshaw. Nigel brought an energy and enthusiasm to HACCP which he supported with a breadth of industry knowledge. I really enjoyed it and I cannot recommend it enough.”

Prize for Auditing Excellence

Ben Morrison of Avara Foods was the recipient of the Auditing Student of the Year 2023 award, having attended the FDQ Lead Auditor course back in February 2023. He said, “It was a lovely surprise to win the award. I really enjoyed the course structure, content and delivery – the location, premises and staff at VWA only enhanced the experience further, encouraging me to relax, learn and contribute freely. Thank you to trainer Peter Clarke & the Verner Wheelock team for this award and for such a rewarding learning experience.”

Individual Excellence

The individual Excellence Award is given to somebody who has shown a real desire to develop through learning. This year it was awarded to Trevor Gane of Beatson Clark, who attended our Delivering Training course. At the start of the four days he was a little unsure of his capabilities but underwent a huge transformation in terms of self-belief. By the day of the final presentation he proved himself to be not only confident and competent but an excellent trainer too.

Trevor said, “I would like to thank Verner Wheelock for giving me the confidence in myself from feeling that I could not achieve what was required to pass the Delivering Training course and very much out of my comfort zone to delivering a presentation that even I was amazed by, and will be using for future customer visits here at Beatson Clark.

This award just gives me more confidence to carry out what I have set out to do and deliver training to a very high standard. For anyone considering any course through Verner Wheelock, just go for it. What an amazing place to do it!”

As well as a trophy and certificate, the individual winners received vouchers for £250 towards their next training courses with Verner Wheelock.

Company Excellence

The award for Company Excellence went to James Hall & Co. Ltd, who have trained with Verner Wheelock for several years across different subjects. They have shown a commitment to continual staff training to ensure that the products they produce and distribute are safe and compliant. Lee Smith, HR Director at James Hall & Co. Ltd, said, “We’re extremely pleased to be recognised by Verner Wheelock as the winner of their Company Excellence Award for 2023. We have a fantastic working relationship with them, and they play an integral role in ensuring our workforce are skilled in their roles, enabling our business to maintain exceptional standards.”

Ethical Excellence

The Turmeric Co. was awarded the Ethical Excellence Award for 2023 following their first SMETA ethical audit. Not only did they have a good audit, but the auditor and VWA’s ethical team were extremely impressed with how proactive the company was throughout the entire audit process. “We are very proud and delighted to have been named the winner of the ‘Ethical Excellence Award 2023,’ as voted by the Verner Wheelock team!” said Virginija Antanaviciute. “We are looking forward to using our voucher for training courses this year”.

Each company winner received a certificate, trophy and £500 towards their next training courses with Verner Wheelock.

Congratulations to all our winners!

Vegan sandwich

So, we’re part-way through January and in recent years it has become synonymous with ‘Veganuary.’ This is where people are encouraged to try a vegan diet for the month. In many ways January is the perfect month for this. Several people make new year’s resolutions to eat more healthily, shed pounds, eat less fast food or cut back on meat.

How easy is it to be vegan?

Pardon the pun but if you want to ‘go the whole hog’, it’s not the easiest thing to do. Do you wear leather footwear? Sit on a leather sofa? Have a designer handbag? All of these would not be acceptable for a vegan. However, let’s stick with a vegan diet. According to The Vegan Society: ‘In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.’

That means no meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, insects (should you find them palatable), snails or similar, milk, cream, cheese, yogurt, eggs, honey or any foods containing gelatine. In addition there are ‘hidden’ ingredients which appear in several manufactured foods, or are used in food processing, which are derived from animals. Red food colouring E120, for example, is cochineal derived from beetles. Lactose, casein, some flavourings, whey, shellac… even some wine is clarified using animal products.

How do you navigate this minefield?

As a consumer you can scrutinise product labels. As a manufacturer you need to make sure that not only are your own products vegan, but also those ingredients from your suppliers. You also need to evaluate your production methods and production schedules to ensure there is no contamination.

Unlike having a food allergy, following a vegan diet is a choice. Eating non-vegan food is unlikely to kill a vegan or make them ill. Nevertheless, there is an ever-growing number of vegans in the UK who want to have the confidence that any food they buy does not contain any animal part or derivative. The same applies for any vegan meal served in a restaurant, café, bakery or catered in any other way.

How can manufacturers and caterers ensure their food is vegan?

Managing Vegan Requirements course

The simple answer is that it all starts with training. Vegan products need to be treated in a very similar way to food allergens. To assist manufacturers and caterers we developed a specialist course. Managing Vegan Requirements is written and delivered by a food industry expert. It’s a comprehensive 1-day course, certificated by FDQ, which takes you through all aspects of producing vegan products.

From the definitions of and differences between vegetarian and vegan, to making vegan claims, everything is covered. You will find out how your products can become Vegan Society approved, why we need to control vegetarian and vegan products and how to do it. There is also a section on avoiding cross-contamination together with risk assessments and control measures.

The day culminates in a short multiple-choice examination and successful candidates will receive an FDQ certificate.

Who should attend the Managing Vegan Requirements course?

The course is particularly suited to Technical Managers and those working in Quality Assurance but is of equal value to anyone in food manufacturing or catering who wishes to ensure that the food they produce or serve meets vegan expectations.

When is the next available course?

The next course takes place on 14th May 2024. You can attend face-to-face at our training centre in Skipton, North Yorkshire (conveniently located close to the town centre and train station) or remotely via Zoom.

You can find more details here, or alternatively please contact Claire Lennon on 01756 700802 or claire.lennon@vwa.co.uk

We are sad to report that one of our trainers, Liz Soutar, has decided to retire due to ill health. Liz, who many of you will recognise from our RSPH HACCP and Food Safety courses, made the difficult decision last week and has thanked “everyone at VWA for all the support over the years.”

VWA Trainer Liz Soutar

Liz became a trainer for Verner Wheelock in 2017, having spent almost 40 years at Scottish salmon and seafood processors, Pinney’s of Scotland as a Training & Recruitment Co-ordinator.  We have had a longstanding relationship with her over several years, as Pinney’s were one of our first clients when we started Verner Wheelock Associates in 1990.

Her wealth of industry expertise coupled with her training qualification and experience meant that she slipped into the role of trainer effortlessly and was popular with delegates.

This is typical of the type of feedback we received following one of her courses:

“Fantastic. Liz engaged well with the whole group. She clearly knows HACCP through and through and used her experience to enable me to feel at ease with the learning process. I would happily send further staff members onto this course as and when the need arises. I began the day with no real knowledge of HACCP and left the day confident I can play an active role in my HACCP team.”

“Liz is very knowledgeable, experienced, friendly and open.”

VWA’s Business Development Executive, Claire Lennon, said, “Liz is a lovely lady and very good trainer. Myself, Alison and the team at VWA want to thank her for her hard work and dedication over the years. We are sorry to see her go, but obviously her health must take priority.”

Liz lives in a beautiful part of the world, Dumfries and Galloway, and we wish her the very best in her retirement. She will be taking it easy and spending time with her husband, Rob, young granddaughter, Bethany and German shepherd dog, Sinika.

Remote food industry training from Verner Wheelock

Some people say that there is no substitute for face-to-face training, with all delegates and the trainer in a classroom environment. However these days remote training comes very close. As a forward-thinking organisation, Verner Wheelock already had the infrastructure in place for remote training even before the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns hit. In fact we had delivered some training to companies in Turkey and Holland via Zoom without our trainers having to leave their homes.

There’s no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote training throughout the food industry, but what initially began as a necessity has now become a preference for many organisations and individuals. There are several reasons for this.

Accessibility of remote training

All that students require to attend remote training are a stable internet connection, a webcam and a suitable device such as a PC, laptop or tablet. They can access the training course whether they are at work, at home or anywhere else for that matter. All they have to do is log in to the Zoom or Microsoft Teams platform using the information supplied by the Verner Wheelock Training Support Team.

Train from anywhere around the UK – or the world!

The beauty of remote training is that there are no geographical barriers. Delegates from across the globe can participate in Verner Wheelock’s courses without incurring hefty travel or accommodation costs. We have had delegates from as far away as Brazil and the Netherlands attending one-day courses – which is something that is just not practicable for face-to-face courses.

The option of remote courses has also opened up our training to delegates in the UK who might not have considered attending a face-to-face 1 or 2-day course because of the distance. Now we have delegates from Scotland, London and beyond benefitting from specialist 1-day courses such as Legal Labelling, Product Authenticity & Food Defence and the new Enabling a Positive Food Safety Culture course – as well as 2-day courses like Auditing Skills and Level 3 HACCP.

Remote in-house training is also available

Remote training can also be an ideal solution for companies needing to train employees from multiple sites in the same subject. Instead of each site sending one or two delegates to an open course, an in-house course can be arranged where they can log in to the training instead. As mentioned above, as long as all delegates are within a similar time zone, employees from overseas sites can also join the training course.

By eliminating the need for travel and accommodation, companies can save substantial sums of money. Another bonus is that they get to choose training dates that are convenient to them, rather than waiting for scheduled open course dates. Courses can also be designed bespoke to customer requirements if required.

How do remote courses differ from classroom courses?

The answer to this question is, aside from the fact that the delegates are not in the same physical place as the trainer, there is no difference. All course materials are the same for face-to-face and remote delegates. Face-to-face delegates have the course materials set out for them in the training room on the first day. Remote delegates have their course materials delivered to them by courier ahead of the training.

Remote courses are delivered live, so the trainer appears on screen in real time. Delegates are encouraged to interact throughout the course, in the same way they would within a classroom environment.

Often, our scheduled open courses are ‘hybrid’ meaning that delegates in the training room and remote delegates attend the same training course. The AV technology in Verner Wheelock’s training facility means that the remote delegates appear on a large screen and a set of cameras and strategically located microphones allow the remote delegates to see and hear the delegates in the training room as well as the trainer. All can participate and interact with each other easily.

Any course from practically anywhere

With the exception of our Introduction to Flavours, Creating Thermal Process Flavours and Delivering Training courses which all have practical elements, all Verner Wheelock’s training courses can be delivered remotely. Choose from RSPH certificated courses in HACCP and Food Safety from Levels 2 to 4 or our suite of Auditing courses certificated by FDQ. There are also several specialist and refresher/update courses available.

For more information about remote courses, please call 01756 700802 or email claire.lennon@vwa.co.uk