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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.

world cupUnless you’ve had your eyes and ears shut for the past few days, you’ll be aware that it’s the World Cup semi-final tonight – and England are playing!!! I’m no football pundit, so instead I thought I’d write a blog about the type of Russian food that England fans might like to try. Here are a few popular dishes…

Beef Stroganoff

beef stroganoffNamed after a Russian aristocrat. It is strips of sautéed beef in a sour cream sauce. There are different variations of the dish. Some include mustard, some include onions or tomato sauce. It is often served with rice or potatoes. “Simples”.

 

Russian Caviar

Who remembers Roland Rat? His favourite dish was, purportedly, caviar and chips. Caviar is, of course a famous Russian dish. It is the roe (eggs) of the wild Sturgeon fish, found in the Black and Caspian Seas. It is definitely an acquired taste since it is extremely salty. One suspects the cockney Breakfast TV puppet would smother his caviar in tomato ketchup. However the purists serve theirs on spoons made of Mother of Pearl to avoid tainting the natural flavour.

blini caviarBlini

Off to a fancy party? While you’re sipping on your prosecco and hobnobbing with a Russian oligarch, you might well be offered some caviar on a blini. This is just a fancy word for a Russian wheat pancake.

 

 

Rassolnik

Got a relative or friend who has seriously out-stayed their welcome? Tell them you’re getting into the World Cup spirit by serving them a bowl of traditional Russian Rassolnik. It sounds truly delicious. A soup made from pickled cucumbers, pearl barley and pork or beef kidneys. Guaranteed to make them head for the Urals without looking back.

Borscht

Whilst we’re on the subject of soup, perhaps the most famous Russian soup is Borscht. Its distinctive deep red colour comes from its main ingredient – fermented beetroot. This is combined with meat stock and sautéed vegetables such carrots, cabbage and onions.

Charlotte Russe

This is a yummy cake or trifle. Traditionally a mould was lined with stale bread dipped in butter and the filling made from a fruit puree or custard. Nowadays the mould is more likely to be lines with cake or sponge fingers. Mmmmmmm.

Zefir

This sweet treat is similar in consistency to marshmallows and is made by whipping berry and fruit puree with egg whites and sugar. A gelling agent is then added. In looks it is very like a meringue, but it retains a soft consistency. Because it is so light and airy it is named after Zephyr, the Greek god of the north west wind.

Ryazhenka

Ryazhenka is a fermented milk product. At first sight it sounds like it would appeal to those who actually enjoyed school milk which had been left by the radiator all morning. Having read a little more into it, it seems like it might taste a little more like condensed milk. Apparently, it’s made by pasteurising milk and leaving it simmering for over eight hours. This causes a Maillard reaction to occur, giving it a caramelised flavour (one of the main focuses for our Creating Thermal Process Flavours course, incidentally).

Vodka

vodkaPerhaps the most famous Russian drink of all! It is, of course made by distilling potatoes or wheat and is traditionally drunk neat and freezer chilled. At 40% ABV (alcohol by volume) it is guaranteed to blow your socks off – and probably your football boots as well.

As they say in Russian ???????? ? ??????! (Come on England!)

 

ice cream coneWell, it looks like this current heatwave will continue for a couple of weeks. I, for one, am not complaining. It’s nice to have some heat after months of feeling like you’re living in a fridge. Unsurprisingly sales of beer, cider, sun lotion and insect repellent have increased over the past week. So too have sales of ice cream and barbecue food, such as burgers, sausages and chicken, as well as salad ingredients.

Good weather means the opportunity for alfresco dining. But it also means that we need to be particularly mindful when it comes to food safety. Here are some tips to keep you on track.

Wash your hands

It might seem an obvious one, but always wash your hands before handling food. You also need to be mindful of washing them after you cough or sneeze into them. Or after touching pets or using the toilet.

Don’t overload the fridge

fridgeDon’t overload the fridge. If the air in the fridge isn’t allowed to circulate, it won’t keep the contents as cool as intended. If the salad and meat is fighting for space with a crate of beer, remove the beer. You can always put this in a bucket of ice to stay chilled. Cold beer is a ‘nice-to-have’ rather than something which is safety-critical.

Another point about temperature control in the fridge – if you’re planning on reheating hot food, keep it in the fridge before you do, but allow it to cool down first. Putting hot food straight into the fridge will raise the temperature.

Ensure food is cooked properly

barbecue meatIf you’re having a barbecue, be sure that the food is cooked all the way through. Always check to see if burgers, sausages, chicken etc. is not pink on the inside. Don’t give in to pressure to get food on the plates. If it takes a few minutes more, people will just have to wait – better to be safe than sorry.

 

Keep raw and cooked food separate

You also need to avoid the danger of cross-contamination by keeping raw and cooked food separate. Don’t offer up a cooked burger to somebody on a plate that previously held raw chicken, for example. The same rule goes for vegetables – wash them first and prepare them on a clean chopping board with clean utensils.

Keep it refrigerated until you need it

Additionally, I know it’s tempting to be well prepared, but don’t get things out of the fridge until the very last minute. Cheeses, anything containing cream, and raw meat should not be left out in the sun for longer than is necessary. Once outside, cover it until you need it. Also, check ‘use by’ dates before serving food up to your friends and family.

And finally…

sausages on barbecueDon’t forget to make sure that the barbecue grill is clean before you cook! Nobody wants to eat food cooked on a rusty dirty barbecue coated in last year’s grease. Give it a good scrub with soapy water and rinse and dry the grill well before you begin.

OK food safety lecture over! (But if you do want to know more about the basics of food safety, why not take our online Level 2 Food Safety course? It’s just £15 plus VAT and you’ll get a certificate at the end of it).

Enjoy the sunshine!

dogsDid you know that there are an estimated 51 million pets in the UK? From Great Danes to Goldfish, we Brits truly are a nation of pet lovers. As any pet owner will know, certain animals – especially cats – can be quite fussy eaters. Getting the right texture, flavour, appearance and aroma is therefore as important to pet food manufacturers as it is for those producing food for humans.

Feeding fussy felines

The UK’s most popular pets are cats and dogs. Whilst there are some vegetarian foods available on the market, they are essentially carnivores. In addition, cats apparently aren’t considered to be able to taste sweetness in carbohydrates, so the focus on meat and savoury flavours  in pet foods is important. We’ve all seen cats take one sniff of some food, turn their noses up and walk away. So how can we encourage them to accept and enjoy the food we are offering?

cat eatingUnsurprisingly it’s all about taste. As humans there are certain foods that we consider delicious or ‘moreish’. More often than not it’s foods that are said to have the ‘umami’ taste. Umami is an invented word, created by Dr Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo Imperial University in 1908. Its meaning, roughly translated from the Japanese, is ‘yummy deliciousness’ or ‘a pleasant savoury taste.’ It’s neither sweet, salt, sour or bitter.

 

Umami taste is pleasant to pets

pet foodFussy felines and other meat-eating pets are  also particularly attracted to the umami taste. It’s present in products like parmesan cheese, but can be created by cooking meat. The aroma of a steak frying or a burger being grilled might even make you salivate. This is because amino acids are released during the cooking process which makes it smell and taste great. It’s known as the Maillard reaction.

Of course, most pets aren’t fed on steak and burgers. Pet food is generally manufactured from surplus products from the human food chain. The bits we don’t fancy eating, such as chicken feet, udders, brains etc. are still very nutritious. However the challenge is to make these pieces of meat palatable. That’s the job of the flavourist.

Flavours course is  ideal for pet food manufacturers

One of the most well-known and respected flavour chemists is Professor David Baines. He has worked to develop flavours with food and ingredients companies all over the world. Together with flavour application specialist Mr Richard Seal, he tutors a specialist flavours course for us here at Verner Wheelock. Entitled Creating Thermal Process Flavours, it is the only course of its kind in the UK to focus mainly on savoury flavours, and this year runs from 29th October to 2nd November in Skipton, North Yorkshire.

The reason I’m mentioning Professor Baines in a blog post about pet food is that he has considerable knowledge in this area. In fact, one of his very first roles was developing savoury flavours in cat and dog foods. As well as attracting flavourists from snack foods, ingredients and convenience food companies, the course has also proved very beneficial to pet food manufacturers.

 

About Creating Thermal Process Flavours

Creating Thermal Process Flavours  gives flavourists a chance to step outside their normal daily activities and really focus on the components and construction of a savoury flavour, and now also covers sweet brown flavours such as caramel and chocolate. It’s lab-based, so delegates undertake experiments with process reaction flavours, enzyme modified flavours and topnotes. These are combined with in-depth lectures and application and evaluation of their creations. Delegates leave with a toolkit to enable them to recreate the flavours in their own working environment.

Food safety and HACCP applies to pet food manufacturers too

trainingPet food not only needs to be tasty, it also needs to be produced safely. You may not be aware of this, but there are more than 50 items of legislation covering pet food manufacture. There are strict rules governing the ingredients that can be used in pet food. For instance, the levels of pesticides in cereals and residue levels of veterinary products in animal products must be monitored. Also, the EU Feed Hygiene Regulations cover food safety and hygiene, HACCP, storage, personnel, facilities and record-keeping.

Since the methods by which pet food is produced are similar to other food manufacture many of the same rules apply. Personnel still require food safety and HACCP training and need to be ready for audits. Please see our latest training calendar for details of these and other courses we are running throughout the year. Alternatively, why not enquire about our in-house training courses?

Special HACCP course for pet food manufacturers

Did you know that there is an RSPH Level 3 HACCP qualification specifically for animal feed manufacture? If this is of interest to you, please get in touch by emailing claire.lennon@vwa.co.uk  

fresh fruit

It’s finally summer time, so it’s out with the stodge and in with the fruit and salad!

When you’re preparing lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries and the like, you might encounter the odd creepy crawly. However, these can be removed easily. it’s the microscopic bacteria you can’t see that can cause serious food poisoning. That’s where having food safety and hygiene knowledge is important.

Contaminated fruit causes death

pomegranate Hepatitis AThere were reports in the news recently that eating contaminated fruit had killed a 64 year-old woman in Australia. She and 24 others had contracted Hepatitis A from consuming frozen pomegranate seeds. The virus takes around 15 to 50 days to develop. Symptoms include nausea, fever, vomiting and yellowing of the skin.

Hepatitis A and other types of illness linked to fruit and vegetables is often caused by traces of faeces. These can be transferred to the food from a number of sources. Generally it is in the water used to wash the produce. It can come from manure which has got into the water stream if fresh water has not been used.  Alternatively it can come from the hands of staff at the processing facility.

Continual re-use of processing water can result in a build-up of microbes (including pathogens) which have been left behind in the water from the previous load. Therefore final rinse water should always be of drinking quality.

The importance of personal hygiene

hand washingGood personal hygiene is vital if you are involved in processing, packing or handling produce – and also if preparing it at home. You should wash hands thoroughly including under your fingernails and between your fingers. Cough or sneeze away from food and always cover your mouth. Then wash your hands immediately.

If you have cuts, sores, or lesions on your hands, make sure that they are effectively covered and wear clean gloves. Finally, if you are suffering from a virus or diarrhoea, don’t handle food – it’s just not worth the risk.

Cantaloupe melonMelons and Listeria poisoning

One fruit which seems particularly prone to harbouring food poisoning bacteria is cantaloupe melon. It has been responsible for numerous cases of Listeria food poisoning, especially in the USA. Reasons why include the number of times they are turned during maturation. Another is the potential for human pathogens reaching the flesh via the stem scars.

If you’re preparing a melon you should clean the skin using fresh water and a clean scrubbing brush. This is to prevent bacteria from the outside from reaching the flesh when you cut into it. In fact you should wash all fruit, even if you plan to peel it.

raspberriesIf you can’t scrub the skin of a fruit, for example berries, the best thing to do is rinse then in fast-running water. This is better than soaking them since the friction helps to remove bacteria more efficiently.

It goes without saying that you also need to follow the usual food safety rules.  Wash your hands. Prepare it with clean utensils on a clean surface which has not been in contact with raw meat to avoid any danger of cross-contamination and potential illness.

For more information about food safety and hygiene, please click here.

Training Support Assistant, Skipton, North Yorkshire  

If you’ve recently left school or college or are looking for an apprenticeship position or entry level role, you could be just the person we’re looking for!

Verner Wheelock has a fantastic entry level opportunity to join our successful food industry training consultancy based in the beautiful surroundings of the Broughton Hall Estate, just outside Skipton.

We’ve been established since 1990 and train hundreds of delegates every year in subjects such as Food Safety, HACCP, Auditing and other specialist areas. We have an excellent reputation for training and customer service.

This full-time, permanent, Training Support role is an ideal first or second job.  You’ll be taking care of admin duties to make sure everything runs smoothly for our training courses and exams.

What will I need?

  • We’re looking for someone with good levels of literacy, numeracy and attention to detail.
  • You’ll also be an organised self-starter, with the ability to multi-task
  • A flexible, ‘can-do’ approach is necessary as you will be working as part of a small team.
  • You’ll have excellent IT skills and will ideally be  familiar with databases, spreadsheets and PowerPoint.
  • You’re always polite and professional when dealing with clients, both face-to-face and over the telephone.
  • You’re  reliable.

What will I be doing?

This role has loads of different duties to keep you busy, from helping prepare course material and keeping it updated, to booking locations for courses. You’ll be involved with the chasing of purchase orders and ordering office supplies, as well as dealing with post and incoming phone calls.

When courses are running the role will also include setting up the training room, providing refreshments and meeting and greeting delegates.

Full training will be given.

How much will I get paid?

Salary will be commensurate with experience, plus bonus scheme and company pension.

How to apply

If you feel you have the desired skills and enthusiasm for the role, and would like to join our small, friendly team then we would love to hear from you.

Contact Mitch Morrison or Alison Wheelock on 01756 700802 in the first instance, or email your CV to office@vwa.co.uk

You can find out more about Verner Wheelock and what we do at  www.vwa.co.uk

BRC Issue 8 – what’s new?

BRC Issue 8 auditingThe much-anticipated BRC Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 8 is published in August this year. It is 3 years since the Standard was last updated and there have been a few major changes in that time. The new Issue 8 is still in draft format although it’s likely that most of the changes put forward will be adopted. This includes greater focus and responsibility on Senior Management. Managers will need to demonstrate a commitment to continual improvement through the establishment of a strategic plan for a robust food safety culture.

What other changes will there be between BRC Issue 7  and BRC Issue 8?

In addition there will be new environmental monitoring clauses and a requirement for root cause analysis procedures. Following the 2 Sisters scandal, companies will also need to implement a confidential whistle-blower reporting system.  This will enable staff to report concerns relating to product safety, integrity, quality and legality.

Other changes likely to be approved concern the creation of a new section where all high-risk, high-care and ambient high care requirements are centralised. There will also be a focus on cyber security and greater clarity for sites manufacturing pet food.  Another area concerns global applicability and benchmarking to the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).

Where can I find the BRC Global Standard documentation?

You can view both the current BRC 7 and the draft version of BRC 8 by using the links below.

BRC Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 7

BRC Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 8 DRAFT

BRC 8 will be effective from February 2019. Therefore, anyone who has an audit after the end of January 2019 will need to familiarise themselves with the differences between BRC Issue 7 and BRC Issue 8.

For information on all our auditing courses, please click here.

training for food safety cultureIf you work in the food industry, it’s essential that you have the correct training. As a minimum, anyone handling food for public consumption needs to have basic food safety training. Poor food hygiene can lead to unsafe food being sold or served. Unsafe food can result in serious illness or, in extreme cases, death. In addition, it can damage your business reputation, incur hefty fines and even put the future of the business in jeopardy.

In some instances training is simply seen as a box-ticking exercise. But what’s the point of that? Sure, you can demonstrate that the training has been undertaken, but how is that really of benefit?

Training is only truly effective if you understand the reasons why you need to perform a particular task in a certain way. It’s also only effective if you take what you have learned and use it in the workplace. Doing ‘just enough’ doesn’t really help anyone, and now business managers are realising there is a case for going ‘beyond compliance‘.

Create a food safety culture within your company

The ideal situation is to achieve a food safety culture where food safety and continuous improvement are a way of life. To achieve this you need buy-in from all members of staff in every department. It needs to be led and championed by senior management. They need to demonstrate that food safety is of the utmost importance and must be taken seriously. As seriously as productivity and profits. That means by everyone in the company, during every shift.

You should write the importance of food safety into the company’s mission statement. Ensure it is part of the company’s vision to continually improve. Encourage staff to be proactive rather than reactive. For example, has a prominent food manufacturer had a serious food safety recall recently? Keep abreast of the facts. Also keep your ear to the ground for any industry innovations and any updates in legislation.

handwashingIn a busy and competitive working environment there are inevitably production pressures and tight deadlines. However, it’s vitally important that employees follow SOPs correctly. Failure to do so can compromise food safety.

That’s why as part of a training programme it should be explained clearly not just which tasks need to be performed, but the consequences of not performing them, or of performing them out of sequence. Supervisors need to be trained to ensure that SOPs are being followed and to monitor performance. Ongoing staff training is important, but so is the provision of the correct tools to do the job – and the requisite PPE.

Ensure all staff are engaged in making food safety a priority

One of the major hurdles to be overcome when developing a food safety culture is staff engagement. If the staff currently have no say in decision-making, or are disengaged from work in any other way, they are likely to have the ‘not my problem’ attitude when things go wrong. The way to counter this is by involving them in decisions regarding food safety policy.  Make them feel valued, give them ownership of their tasks/area and providing training. You can reward them for positive food safety behaviour and get them to realise that food safety is an important part of their jobs.

Feel comfortable during audits

Another positive to come out of a food safety culture is that you should feel comfortable during an unannounced audit. You can enrol some staff in  Auditing Skills or Lead Auditor training to ensure you’re fully prepared and carry out regular internal audits and inspections.

It should get to a point where food safety protocol is followed as a matter of course. It just becomes part of a daily routine. Going over and above to ensure food safety should become the norm instead of doing the bare minimum and hoping for the best.