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Safer food production – training is the key

The recent food safety breaches at 2 Sisters Group, exposed by The Guardian and ITV, highlight the fact that food safety is sadly not top of the agenda in some food manufacturing businesses. Corner-cutting when under pressure to reduce costs and increase productivity can have a serious effect on food safety. A basic ignorance of or neglect of safe food production practices often points to a lack of training commitment at all levels of a business. If companies wish to produce safer food, this needs to be addressed.

Date tampering affects food safetychicken legs

The undercover investigation at 2 Sisters revealed staff altering source and kill dates for chickens, putting dirty poultry from the floor into the production lines and mixing fresher poultry with older birds. These are extremely dangerous practices. Altering kill dates can lead to consumers buying product past its ‘use-by date’ and becoming seriously ill as a result.

‘Use by’ dates are there for food safety reasons and it is illegal for companies to alter them. There are also obvious food safety risks with allowing food from the floor to enter the production process. Not to mention traceability problems when source information is changed and fresh and older birds are mixed.

Reduced human contact equals safer food?

2 Sisters is the UK’s largest supplier of supermarket chicken. Conversely, the amount of the pathogen Safer food with the right trainingcampylobacter found on supermarket chickens has reduced considerably over the past 3 years. This is in part due to the introduction of new technology for safer food production. Sonostream systems which combine steam and ultrasound, or rapid surface chilling processes, are responsible for destroying 80-90% the pathogen on the skin’s surface. Other technology which reduces the level of human contact with food has helped to improve safety.

Benefits of online training

However, if companies are to produce safer food, the emphasis still needs to be on effective training. Some companies, particularly those with a high turnover of staff, opt for the more cost-effective option of online training. This type of training has its benefits, especially for basic entry-level training to meet minimum legal requirements. There is no major disruption to the working day since you don’t need to release large numbers of staff at a time. Staff have the option to study in their own time. There are no travel costs. Plus there is an electronic record of training progress, number of attempts to pass etc.

Recognition for sustained compliance

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) announced in the summer that they will be bringing in a new system for food regulation. This will come into effect by 2020. Within it there will be better recognition for those who demonstrate sustained compliance with the regulations. Those who don’t demonstrate compliance will be dealt with swiftly and severely.

Classroom-based training aids retention

classroom training is effective in producing safer foodCommitment from senior management should be clearly demonstrated in order to encourage ‘buy-in’ by staff in all departments and at all levels. By fostering a food safety culture throughout the entire business, with effective training at its heart, staff behaviours can be changed and food safety standards will rise.

For those in a managerial or supervisory role, achieving food safety qualifications should be viewed as far more than a box-ticking exercise. It’s really important that what’s been learned is retained in the minds of staff and is incorporated into everyday practices.

For this reason we believe that there is no match for face-to-face food industry training. Being in the same room as an experienced trainer means that you can ask specific questions relevant to your own business. The trainer gives real-life examples to illustrate key points. You can discuss ideas and participate in group exercises to aid retention of the information. There is the opportunity to share and discuss experiences with other delegates. If you have five or more staff to train, it is cost-effective to have an in-house courses  at your own premises, where the content can be bespoke to your particular business.

Top marks for face-to-face training

Our delegates win prizes from the RSPH for achieving the highest marks in their Level 4 Food Safety and HACCP examinations on several occasions. Here is what one of them had to say on the subject:

“I don’t think there’s any comparison. Classroom enables group discussion, question and answer sessions, real-world examples from both the lecturer and course attendees, and all of this helps to build understanding from the participants. 

There’s a place for on-line training but I don’t think it’s ideal for complex subjects such as HACCP and although you can ask questions of understanding at the end of an online course, as an employer, are you left feeling confident that your attendee understood the content? 

From a personal point of view, I retain information from a classroom course, but have a hard time remembering anything I’ve learnt from online training.”

You’ll also get the most out of training if your trainers have hands-on experience of the food industry. All our trainers have several years’ industry experience and understand the daily challenges of food manufacturers and food processors.  Similarly delegates on our auditing courses have the benefit of being tutored by people who actually do that job. They receive advice on what 3rd party auditors are really looking for so that they can ensure they are audit-ready.

In an age where the food industry is increasingly under the microscope, quality training is extremely important. Classroom-based courses either in-house or off-site are the key to continual improvement and the provision of safer food.

Being a bit of a chocoholic, I can’t believe I’ve only just realised that it’s Chocolate Week. Yes, there is a whole 7 days dedicated to the appreciation of chocolate. So you have my permission to sack off the diet and gorge on a sharing (LOL!) bag of Maltesers , a whole bar of Green & Blacks or take a trip to Hotel Chocolat or similar.

Whilst you’re downing your Dairy Milk, here are some chocolate-related facts for you to ponder:

Death by Chocolate

To most ‘Death by Chocolate’ is an extremely rich, chocolatey dessert. But did you know that there was a Nazi plot to kill Sir Winston Churchill during World War Two, using bars of exploding chocolate?

winston churchillThe expensive-looking  bars, branded ‘Peter’s’ were actually made of steel and covered with a thin layer of real chocolate. They concealed an explosive which was designed to detonate when the bar was snapped. The plan was for double agents to place the bars amongst other luxury items destined for the War Cabinet dining room.

Luckily the plot was discovered by British spies who tipped off MI5 Senior Intelligence. Posters were issued and the public were told to remain vigilant.

Here’s another fact relating to this era. Did you know that Nutella spread was invented during World War Two? It happened when an Italian pastry maker wanted to make his cocoa supply go further, so he mixed in hazelnuts.

chocolateGood news: there are health benefits

Chocolate contains alkaloids which are linked to serotonin in the brain. This is why eating it can make us feel happy. Studies have shown that it can also lower blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease. There is ongoing research into whether it might contain anti-cancer properties. Other studies suggest it can improve our cognitive abilities. It’s also more effective in treating a persistent cough than codeine.

Of course, the above benefits relate to eating chocs in moderation. Plus, they relate to dark chocolate with a high cocoa content. Guzzling your own body weight in Galaxy bars will almost certainly do more harm than good.

Why you shouldn’t give chocolate to dogs

Interestingly, although the alkaloids mentioned above can be beneficial to human health, the same is not true for dogs. So, no matter how much your beloved pooch begs, don’t be tempted to give him any choccy treats. One of the alkaloids is called theobromine. It is this which causes the poisoning in canines. Unlike humans, dogs can’t metabolise theobromine effectively. This puts pressure on their nervous system or kidneys and can result in seizures, muscle spasms, vomiting and incontinence.

It is smaller dogs who are in the most danger of poisoning. For example a 25g bar of chocolate will have a more severe reaction on a Yorkshire Terrier than on a large Labrador. Even if dogs aren’t given chocolate, they have a way of sniffing it out, so make sure that it’s kept out of harm’s way.

chocolate coinsSweet salaries

These days we get a ‘salary’ which is a throw-back to the time when salt was highly prized. For the ancient Aztecs, however, chocolate (or, rather the cacao bean) was the currency of choice. Whilst some of us might dream of being paid in chocolate, it’s probably not that practical…

Tasty stamps

Gone are the days when you had to lick stamps to stick them to an envelope or parcel. That’s no bad thing, as the taste wasn’t exactly great. I might have been tempted to lick a Belgian postage stamp a few years ago though. That’s because in 2013 Belgium issued a limited edition of chocolate flavoured stamps.

Facts about films

Ever watched Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, Psycho? Me too! However the famous ‘shower scene’ becomes far less scary when you realise that the ‘blood’ is actually chocolate syrup! It’s consistency and rich colour works well because it’s filmed in black and white.

wonka barI absolutely love the film ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ starring the late Gene Wilder. Luckily for them the film was released in 1971, which was 19 years before the Food Safety Act 1990. It wouldn’t have been much fun if it had been storm trooped by an Environmental Health Officer! He would have been delivering non-conformances on the failure of Oompa Loompas to wear suitable clothing. The chocolate river would have had to be drained. Plus he would, no doubt, demand to see Wonka’s HACCP plan!

Enjoy the rest of Chocolate Week!

Well it’s harvest time again, so that can only mean one thing. It’s British Food Fortnight! We might only live on a fairly small island, but as a nation we produce literally tons of food. From meat and poultry to quality fruit, vegetables, fish, dairy products and cereal crops it’s all there to be celebrated (and eaten).

British dishes to savour

Full English BreakfastThere are plenty of dishes that are quintessentially British. You could start the day with a Full English Breakfast, then have Cullen Skink* or a Scotch Egg for lunch. Why not have an Eccles Cake later on – or treat yourself to Afternoon Tea. Dinner could be Shepherd’s Pie or Steak and Kidney Pie with seasonal vegetables. Or you could have a traditional roast with Yorkshire Puddings and roast potatoes. Fancy a take-away? Good old British Fish and Chips with mushy peas.


If you’re following a low-carb diet, what about some British Black Pudding? Made with pork fat, onions, oatmeal and blood it’s also packed full of potassium, calcium, magnesium and protein. Apples, plums and pears are also plentiful in British orchards at this time of year. Blackberries, gooseberries and rhubarb all make delicious pies and crumbles. The British are experts at comfort food, but there are also scores of healthier dishes using a variety of fish and seafood from British shores.

Food traceability and authenticity

Plenty of restaurants, supermarkets and grocery stores are making a special effort to champion British food this fortnight. In many cases you’ll be able to find out exactly which farm the meat you’re buying was reared on, or which local dairy made the ice-cream.

You will also notice that there is now more information about food products in the public domain. The horsemeat scandal was uncovered over four years ago. Ever since then there has been a noticeable tightening up on traceability. Food manufacturers have to obtain certificates of authenticity from suppliers if they are to satisfy a BRC audit, for example. Training companies, like us, began to introduce workshops on TACCP and VACCP. This was to help identify any threats or vulnerabilities within the supply chain. Our legal labelling courses have also been incredibly popular. Manufacturers and producers need to ensure that their packaging copy correctly reflects the contents according to current food legislation.

Make sure the food you buy or prepare is safe

Post-Brexit there’s a chance that we might all be buying more food produced in Britain. This is because there is currently much debate about border controls and import tariffs. Buying British food, or locally produced food is not only good for our economy. It’s also better for the environment. The less distance food has to travel, the less fuel is used. It’s also fresher.

Food Hygiene Rating SchemeNo matter where the food is from though, you need to make sure that it is safe to eat. That’s why good Food Hygiene Ratings are so important in restaurants, take-aways and cafes. It’s also why Food Safety training and HACCP training is essential in food manufacturing environments. Remember, if you’re handling or serving food, you need to have basic food safety training as a minimum. This doesn’t just apply to large companies – if you’re serving cakes and tea in a church hall, you’ll also need food safety training.

*Cullen Skink is not the name of a weedy comic book hero. It is a smoked haddock, potato and onion soup originating in a place called Cullen in Moray, Scotland.

Root Cause AnalysisA stitch in time saves nine. It’s an old saying, but it still rings true. It’s generally easier to resolve a problem at the very beginning, rather than waiting until it escalates. Sometimes things get so far down the line that it’s hard to understand how they occurred in the beginning. That’s where Root Cause Analysis comes into play.

Root Cause Analysis is invariably used as part of a Six Sigma continuous business improvement programme. In food manufacturing it’s a very useful tool for resolving and reducing the number of incidents, issues, failures and complaints. It can be applied across all business departments.

In a nutshell Root Cause Analysis investigates:

  • What happened
  • How it happened
  • Why it happened

fishbone diagram5 Whys and fishbone diagrams

The ‘5 Whys’ is a tried and tested method of drilling down to the root cause of an issue. Exactly as it sounds, it uses five consecutive questions to get to the heart of the matter. Used in conjunction with a fishbone diagram, they can be used to improve productivity and efficiency. You’ll also have fewer product recalls or spoilages.

Also called a cause and effect diagram, a fishbone diagram has a spine, running left to right. This represents the problem. Then various ‘bones’ are attached to the ‘spine’. These are different elements which may have contributed to the issue. Generally they will be:

  • People
  • Methods
  • Machines
  • Materials
  • Measurements
  • Environment

There are several events to investigate in a food manufacturing and processing environment. Typical ones include food poisoning outbreaks and food complaints You can also examine premises and practices complaints. Training issues and ownership issues can also be addressed.

Why bother with Root Cause Analysis?

For starters, the ability to perform Root Cause Analysis and take corrective actions is a requirement under Version 7 of the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety. Also, with an Ethical Audit. the SMETA Best Practice Guidance recommends auditors should ensure that corrective actions address the root cause of an issue. But aside from this, it can help to ensure that your products are safe and fit for purpose. It highlights training needs as well as documents and procedures which need modification. Moreover, it prevents recurring failures. You can also use it as part of a Due Diligence defence.

One of the main reasons for performing Root Cause Analysis is to protect your business’ reputation. Employing it should avoid any costs associated with product recalls or withdrawals. You can also save money by focusing resources where they are most needed.

Broughton Hall EstateWhere can I take a Root Cause Analysis course?

Verner Wheelock run regular Root Cause Analysis courses, either at our training facility in Skipton We also deliver courses in-house at your own premises. The courses last a single day but will give you the skills necessary to implement a Root Cause Analysis strategy within your own company.

The course is particularly beneficial for food technical managers and those working in production and quality control. It will also be of interest to HR Managers dealing with corrective actions following an ethical audit.

Our next Root Cause Analysis course takes place in Skipton on Wednesday 4th October. Please click here to book your place .

Fancy becoming a trainer in food safety? If you have industry experience and a relevant food safety qualification, there’s really nothing stopping you. Nothing, except for a training the trainer qualification. Training the trainerIn mainstream teaching, that always meant a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), which took a year to complete. The good news is that, if you hold a Level 4 Award in Food Safety, you just need to complete and pass a 4-day course. Then you will be qualified to train others in both Level 2 Food Safety and Level 3 Food Safety.

The training course in question is the HABC Level 3 Certificate in Education and Training. It’s often shortened to ‘EAT’, which seems very appropriate. We started running the EAT course a few months ago as a substitute for the CIEH Level 3 Award in Training Skills and Practice (TSP) course. This is because this CIEH course is no longer available.

What’s the difference between the old Training the Trainer and EAT?

In many ways the HABC Level 3 Certificate in Education and Training has similar learning outcomes to the previous Training the Trainer course. It’s just the course structure that is slightly different. Delegates must achieve 12 points across three modules in order to pass the course. The modules are as follows:

  1. Understanding roles, responsibilities and relationships in education and training.
  2. Understanding and using inclusive teaching and learning approaches in education and training.
  3. Understanding assessment in education and training.

As in our previous Training the Trainer course, the final day of the EAT course includes a practical training session. Each delegate must plan and deliver a 15 minute micro-teaching session. This is then assessed by themselves and their peers, and the course tutor. The final day of the training takes place some days after the initial sessions, to allow delegates time to prepare.

Why take a training the trainer course?

People have varied reasons for attending a training the trainer course. Some are currently assessors who are looking to become trainers. Some are wishing to train staff within their own company. Others are attracted by the flexibility that becoming a self-employed trainer brings. It’s a very good option for people who are semi-retired, for instance. Plus, some people are looking to refine their existing training skills.

In the past year, one of the delegates from our Level 4 Food Safety, Level 4 HACCP and Training the Trainer course has started to do some training for Verner Wheelock. She has over 20 years’ experience of the food industry. As well as delivering Food Safety courses, she is also training up to Level 3 HACCP and Auditing Skills. Our delegate feedback and exam results show she and is proving extremely successful as a trainer. She really enjoys it too.

Another previous Training the Trainer delegate is Head of Catering at a secondary school. Now that she has passed the course, she is able to become an official trainer of her kitchen staff. Not only that, but she impressed our tutor so much that she received our Verner Wheelock Individual Excellence Award.

Take our next HABC Education and Training course

So if you think you’d like to become a trainer, why not enrol on our next HABC Level 3 Award in Education and Training? Our next ‘training the trainer’ course runs from 8th – 10th November, with the final day on 16th November. All training takes place at our premises in Skipton, North Yorkshire. We look forward to seeing you!

Don’t forget that we also run a Trainer Skills Refresher course.

You get what you pay for.” “Buy cheap, buy twice.” Or, “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.” How many times have we heard those comments in our lifetime? Everyone likes a bargain. Often we’re tempted into parting with money because “it seemed like a good deal at the time.” Sadly, it’s rarely the case that you get good value for money. Especially where training is concerned.

Let down by a training provider?

cancelled training coursesDelegates sometimes book on to our Food Safety, Auditing or HACCP courses because they have been let down by another cheaper provider. Many have found their course cancelled at the eleventh hour. This is mainly due to lack of bookings. Another was sold a single day FDQ Auditing Skills course.  In effect, the course lasted just over half a day. It started at 9am and  finished at 2pm. There was an hour for lunch. The delegate in question didn’t receive the training they required. They didn’t get value for money and the course was not fit for purpose.. We’re happy to report that they have now completed our 2-day Auditing Skills course. They passed with flying colours.

Some training providers exclude examination fees from the advertised course price. This is another way in which they appear to offer value for money. With our open courses there are no extra surprises. The price we advertise is the price you pay.

True value for money is not just about fees

We’re aware that we’re not the cheapest training provider. However we do believe we offer true value for money. Delegates can book open courses at our training facility and be confident that they will run on the scheduled dates. We know that our customers often need to undertake date specific training. For example in preparation for a BRC audit or similar. They might also need a Level 3 HACCP qualification to be able to move to a more senior position.

Food industry training courses delivered by experienced professionals

Verner Wheelock trainer Peter ClarkeMoreover, every tutor delivering our training courses has previous food industry experience. They know the ins-and-outs of food manufacturing and processing. They understand the challenges faced on a daily basis because they have already ‘been there, done that!’ People attending our Auditing Skills, Supplier Auditing and Lead Auditor courses are trained by active auditors. In the Lead Auditor course they get the opportunity to put their skills into practise by performing a mock audit.

Having tutors with hands-on food industry experience means that delegates get better value for money. They get much more out of the training. We know this from reading the comments on our feedback forms. They appreciate the examples provided. Plus the anecdotes and the practical exercises help everything to make sense and sink in.

Nationally-recognised qualifications in HACCP, Food Safety and Auditing

Another thing to consider is the quality of the training. We are an accredited training centre for RSPH, HABC and FDQ courses. We’re also a member of the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink. The courses we provide are recognised within the food industry and beyond. We don’t deliver ‘off-the-shelf‘ courses. Our courses are written by our experienced trainers. This means that the syllabus of the awarding body is covered. However it’s delivered in a manner which is relevant and interactive. It includes additional information and exercises so that the training is memorable. It’s also of practical use once the delegates are back at work. For in-house courses, the training is tailored to the type of business. Also, up to 15 staff can be trained at one time which reduces the cost per head compared to the individual open course fee.

Excellent exam results and top quality customer service

 Verner Wheelock courses offer value for moneyFinally – look at the level of service you receive. We believe our delegates deserve good quality refreshments and a decent lunch. We’re fortunate that we’re located in the beautiful grounds of the historic Broughton Hall. Instead of providing a sandwich buffet in the training room, our delegates choose from a menu. They then enjoy a freshly prepared meal in the estate’s award-winning restaurant. We aim to make training an enjoyable experience situated in a comfortable environment.

As the former England Rugby Coach, Sir Clive Woodward, said, it is the ‘critical non-essentials’ that make a real difference – those little extras that give us the winning edge! Good customer service is paramount. We pride ourselves on being friendly and helpful. That’s from the first phone call to despatch of certificates and beyond. It’s one of the reasons why we have so many longstanding customers, who come back time and again. That, and our excellent examination results.

To find out more about our value for money courses for the food industry, please click here.

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find it hard to remember what I did yesterday. Trying to recall what I learned several years ago would be something of a challenge. As the saying goes: ‘use it, or lose it.’ That’s why refresher courses are so helpful.

refresher courses in HACCP, Food Safety and AuditingWhy do my skills need refreshing?

Within the food industry, guidelines and regulations are constantly changing. The Food Standards Agency publishes regular campaigns and strategies in relation to new and emerging food hazards. There will be various implications for food importers and exporters once we leave the EU. TACCP and VACCP need to be considered as part of effective HACCP plans. Auditing standards and practices are updated periodically… A lot can change in just a short space of time!

When is the best time to take a refresher course?

If it’s been three years or more since you last took a HACCP, auditing or food safety training course, refresher training is a good idea. It ensures you have the latest information and techniques to help you perform better in your job. It demonstrates competency to external auditors (e.g. BRC or the major retailers) and that your skills and knowledge are current. It also shows a commitment by your company to CPD.

Where can I find refresher training courses food industryWhere can I take refresher training?

At Verner Wheelock we run regular HACCP refresher courses, Food Safety Update courses and Auditing refresher courses. These take place either at our training centre in Skipton, or at a customer’s own premises. Many of the delegates attending did their original training with us. However, we also refresh the skills of people who’ve trained elsewhere. For those who’ve taken our Train the Trainer course in the past we offer a training skills refresher course.

Some people book the refresher courses because they feel their knowledge or skills are a little rusty. Perhaps they have a BRC audit coming up and it might have been a while since they last performed an internal audit. The training course will help them with auditing techniques to ensure they get the best result. All our refresher and update courses last a single day, so they are ideal for those trying to fit training around a busy schedule.

Here are a few examples of delegate feedback from recent refresher courses:


“Just the right content and length of time for the course. Very well presented and with a clear objective.”

“I enjoyed the course and it covered a full update. It covers everything in 1 day instead of a full retrain.”

“Lots of ideas for making my training courses more interesting. Challenging my thoughts on what contents are important and ways to get colleagues to learn.”

“Really enjoyed the course. I thought the course content and delivery were very good. Peter was excellent.”

“Well-structured and easy-to-follow programme. Relevant food safety tips refreshed and updated – thank you.”

If you’re a supervisor, manager, HACCP team member or trainer, or if you’re responsible for auditing within your company, you might like to consider updating your skills. Whether you’re in food manufacturing, catering or hospitality, retail, packaging, or if you’re a grower or producer, you need to ensure that you are compliant and efficient. Refresher courses can give you the tools to help you achieve this.

Verner Wheelock refresher courses entry requirementsWhat are the entry requirements for refresher courses?

To attend our Auditing Skills refresher course, you need to hold an Auditing Skills or Lead Auditor qualification. For Food Safety, you need to have achieved at least a Level 3 Food Safety qualification. For HACCP, you should at least have attained Level 3 HACCP. For the Training Skills refresher, you will already hold a training certificate.

As ever, you can find more information such as the training programme, learning outcomes and next course dates here





insects on the menuInsects might be on the menu at certain ‘avant garde’ restaurants. Indeed, there are now insect farms breeding crickets etc. as an alternative to meat protein. However, if they’re not an intentional ingredient in your products, you need to take all steps to eliminate them from your premises. In fact, food safety pest control is a prerequisite for any HACCP plan and essential for food safety.

An effective food safety programme relies on being able to produce food that is safe for human consumption. It is imperative that any form of contamination is identified and controlled. Anyone who has been on our Level 3 Food Safety course will know how to do this.

Flies are a danger to food safety

Amongst the most common pests are flies. Filth flies (which include drain flies, house flies and flesh flies) can carry over 100 pathogens that can cause disease in humans. These include Salmonella, cholera, Shigella, Campylobacter, E. coli, Cryptosporidium, parasitic worms and fungi. All are a huge threat to food safety.

Other types of fly include Blowflies, fruit flies, houseflies and moth flies. The fact that flies can fly makes them difficult to contain. They can go from area to area depositing filth on to food. They don’t care whether they feast on faecal matter, decaying and rotten food, animal carcasses or on fresh and stored food and ingredients. They’ll just flit happily between them all.

flies are food safety hazardsHow flies feed

The way flies feed is pretty revolting and a hazard as far as food safety is concerned. They break down solid food by depositing saliva onto it and regurgitate juices containing digestive enzymes. This process turns the food to liquid which they then suck up. Normally they will defecate at the same time. Nice!

Don’t be fooled into thinking that just one or two flies that have got in to your premises. Flies breed quickly. As well as areas where food and ingredients are present, they will also find other homes. Favourite place are bins, drains, floor traps (where they feed on the slime that accumulates) and cracked damp flooring.

How to keep flies out

Keeping flies out of food manufacturing, storage and preparation areas can be a real challenge. Obviously, cleanliness is of paramount importance to ensure food safety. Here are a number of steps you can take to keep them away:

overflowing garage attracts pests

Don’t leave garbage containers overflowing like this one. Lids should be shut at all times.

  • Check supplies on delivery to ensure they’re not rotting
  • Ensure they’re not stored in a rotting state
  • Clean and inspect food preparation areas regularly
  • In particular check cracks, crevices and hidden spaces where liquid and food traces could accumulate
  • Dispose of garbage regularly – more frequently in hot weather
  • Make sure garbage container lids are shut at all times – this will also keep other pests out
  • Garbage containers and other equipment used to handle garbage should be kept clean
  • Keep drains free from accumulating organic matter and use an appropriate cleaner

cracks in building fabric attract flies food safetyPremises design and maintenance assist food safety

Food safety is about so much more than the actual preparation of the food. Other factors come into play including the design and maintenance of the building. This can help to prevent the entry of flies and other insects.

  • Use well-maintained screens on windows and vents
  • Use UV light traps or pheromone traps
  • Keep doors shut when not in use
  • Keep the premises well-maintained to avoid cracks or gaps appearing in the building’s fabric
  • Use appropriate doors for the purpose, e.g. vinyl strip, automatic, roll-up, air curtains etc.

Exterminate! Exterminate!

Pesticides should be used as a last resort. Only those suitable for use in food premises should be acquired. They should also only be applied by a qualified pest controller.

You can learn more about a variety of pests on our Level 3 Food Safety course. You’ll also discover how to control them as well as various other elements that can affect food safety. Click here for details of the next course.


We’ve all reheated food at one time or another. Perhaps it’s leftover curry. Maybe it’s the remnants of last night’s Chinese meal. Or soup or stew. We can reheat food in the oven or on the hob. However, we often use the microwave instead. After all, it’s fast, simple and convenient.

Manufacturers of ready-prepared meals give precise instructions on how to cook their products. Cooking times vary dependent on the wattage of the microwave. They will often require you to stir the product part way through the cooking process. And all will specify a standing time. Nevertheless, not everyone leaves the product to stand. Instead they tip it out onto their plate and set about consuming it.

microwave reheating foodWhy is microwave standing time important?

Like all reheated food, microwaved food needs to be piping hot when served. This is to ensure that any harmful bacteria which may have developed in the food is destroyed. Since we can’t see bacteria with the naked eye we can kill it off by cooking it. The recommended temperature is 75 degrees C or above for two minutes. For reheating a temperature of 82 degrees C is recommended.

For food to be safe, all parts of the product must reach this temperature. That’s why we stir sauces, soups and stews in pans, so that the heat is distributed evenly. The snag is that microwave ovens heat food unevenly. So even though it might be piping hot around the edges, the food could be much cooler in the middle. Bacteria could still survive in these cooler areas. It’s therefore always important to allow the heat to reach them. Stirring partway through assists in this, but the standing time is equally important in ensuring that the heat travels through the entire product.

chicken and rice salmonella food poisoningAn often-cited salutary tale concerns the microwave cooking of a frozen chicken and rice meal. 44 people contracted salmonella food poisoning in America. Although they had followed the cooking instructions on the packaging they had not left the product to stand. As a consequence, the product was not steaming hot throughout. Hence the Salmonella enteritis bacteria had not been killed. Standing time is part of the cooking process and should not be ignored.

High-risk foods

reheated pastaOf course, rice and chicken are particularly high-risk foods. Pre-cooked rice is prone to the Bacillus cereus bacterium. This is a persistent little critter. It can be destroyed by heating to a high temperature, but it also produces heat-resistant spores. To reduce the risk of the bacteria multiplying and producing spores, cool the leftover rice as quickly as possible and keep in a refrigerator. On no account leave it out overnight.

Other foods which have hazard potential if reheated incorrectly are:

  • Sauces containing milk or cream
  • Any cooked meats or cooked food containing meat e.g. lasagne, chilli, curry, casserole, stew
  • Seafood, including stews, fish patties, fish stock etc.
  • Cooked pasta and pasta dishes
  • Protein-rich foods such as eggs, beans, quiche, lentil burgers, nuts and so forth

Hot holding and reheated food in catering

Anyone who has had HACCP and Food Safety training will know that time and temperature are Critical Control Points in the quest to prevent microbiological contamination of products. We can control the growth of pathogenic bacteria by the heating, chilling or freezing of food. Ensuring that the temperature at which food is stored or held remains constant is extremely important.

We have already stated that food should be cooked to 75 degrees C or above (or at e.g. 70 degrees C for two minutes if higher temperatures are detrimental to the food’s quality). As far as chilling is concerned, the multiplication of most bacteria can be controlled at 8?C or below. However, best practice is to store food at 5 degrees C or below. Frozen products should be kept at -18 degrees C or below.

For hot-holding, the core temperature of the product must remain at 63 degrees C or above. Any reheated food product should have reached a temperature of 82 degrees C prior to being placed in a hot cabinet or bain-marie. The temperature of the cabinet or bain-marie must itself have reached 63 degrees C throughout before it can accept food.

How to monitor the temperature of hot-held food

It goes without saying that regular monitoring of the temperature of the food is essential for food safety. For food such as rotisserie chicken and other hot meats this can be achieved using a digital probe. It should be inserted into the thickest part of the meat to check the temperature. Stews, soups etc. should be stirred before being checked with a digital thermometer. Regular mercury/glass thermometers should never be used. If they should break the food would become contaminated.

For hot cabinets, the temperature can be monitored by reading the temperature dial. Probes can be used as a back-up. You should also set a maximum time limit on the display of products.

You can find out more about bacteria and microbiological contamination on our Level 3 Food Safety course. Understanding of hazards and Critical Control Points, monitoring, validation and verification is covered in detail on our Level 3 HACCP course.

Ah! I think I just heard the microwave ping. Better leave it a minute or so….

Cheese store What is HACCP?

Quite simply, it stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point. It is an internationally-recognised food safety management system that applies to all in the food industry, except primary producers. HACCP is concerned with food safety, not food quality. It is about identifying Critical Control Points where there is a potential risk of contamination and putting measures in place to control those risks.  You can learn more about this on a HACCP course.

An effective HACCP plan will include all 7 Codex principles:

  1. Identify hazards and control measures
  2. Identify Critical Control Points (CCPs)
  3. Establish Critical Limits
  4. Establish a CCP monitoring system
  5. Establish corrective action procedures
  6. Establish verification procedures
  7. Establish documentation and records

But in order to be truly effective, a comprehensive prerequisite programme must already be in place. This addresses such areas as pest control, cleaning, waste control and good laboratory practice.  Incident management, quality management systems, traceability and operator training are also prerequisites. So is calibration, preventative maintenance and supplier safety assurance.

salmonella bacteriaWhy take a HACCP course?

First of all, it’s a legal requirement for any food and drink production company. Moreover major retailers also insist on HACCP being implemented throughout the food chain. This is because they need to be certain that the food they sell to their customers has been produced under strict controls to ensure safety, especially if it has their own name on it!

The whole point of a HACCP plan is to identify Critical Control Points (CCPs) in a process.  A CCP is a point, step or procedure at which controls can be applied and a food safety hazard can be prevented, eliminated or reduced to acceptable (critical) levels. This step-by-step process increases confidence from those buying your products. In addition it demonstrates management commitment to safe food practices.

HACCP systems, when implemented correctly, can reduce wastage or product recalls on food safety grounds.  In addition, an up-to-date plan will demonstrate that you have taken all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid a breach of food safety and hygiene laws.

Who needs to take HACCP training?

Ideally everyone involved in the planning, production and maintenance of your product should be aware of potential hazards and Critical Control Points. For operatives this means a basic understanding and knowledge of Food Safety and HACCP. A 1-day Level 2 HACCP course should give them the basics.

HACCP team leaderLevel 3 or Level 4 ?

For managers and key supervisors, the HACCP Level 3 course will give them an excellent grounding in HACCP principles and methodology. Our RSPH Level 3  HACCP course will give them the skills to design and implement an effective system. The course includes group exercises. Process Flow Diagrams are produced and Critical Control Points (CCPs) are identified using the Codex CCP decision tree. The course also covers monitoring of CCPs, corrective actions and defining responsibility.

Level 4 HACCP is an advanced course perfect for HACCP Team Leaders, Technical Managers, Consultants and Enforcers. It covers the longer term and management issues of HACCP which are essential for the effective functioning of the system.

Many major retailers now require HACCP team leaders and managers at their suppliers to have advanced HACCP qualifications. Our Level 4 HACCP course will ensure you meet their exacting standards.

Find out more information about our HACCP courses

We run regular Level 3 HACCP and Level 4 HACCP courses at our training centre in Skipton, North Yorkshire. To view our training calendar, please click here. Alternatively, if you have 5 or more staff to train, why not ask about one of our in-house HACCP courses run at your own premises?