The Excellence Awards Winners 2021

Anybody attending a Verner Wheelock course – whether here in Skipton, in-house, or remote – has a chance of being selected for a Verner Wheelock Excellence Award. There are awards for HACCP, Auditing and Food Safety as well as Individual Excellence, Company Excellence and Ethical Excellence.

For the HACCP, Auditing and Food Safety Awards, our trainers and staff nominate delegates throughout the year who have been outstanding during their training and have performed well in examinations.

The Individual Excellence Award is given to a delegate who might not have achieved the highest examination marks but who impressed the trainers with their enthusiasm. Often it is a combination of the two.

Company Excellence and Ethical Excellence awards are presented to those companies which have shown a dedication to the training of their staff and have demonstrated a policy of continuous improvement.

The winners of the 2021 Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards are

Liam Smith

HACCP Student of the Year 2021

Liam Smith, Bradford Metropolitan District Council

Liam, who attended an in-house Level 4 HACCP course said, “I was extremely thrilled and it is an absolute pleasure to be awarded HACCP student of the year 2021. I felt the course was extremely insightful, interesting and applicable to my job role as an Environmental Health Officer. I would also like to personally thank both Verner Wheelock and the trainer Peter, who did a fantastic job of structuring the course to maximise the learning potential; through the application of theoretical content into real life practical examples.”

Kathy Mcconnell

Food Safety Student of the Year 2021

Kathy McConnell
Cranswick plc

“I’m absolutely delighted (and a little shocked!) to have won this award,” said Kathy. “I thought the course provided a good mix of theory and examples of practical applications in a variety of settings, giving everyone views outside of our own industries. Being a virtual course, didn’t deter from the discussions we had throughout the week, which is testament to our course trainers. I would highly recommend this course to others and am looking forward to attending other Verner Wheelock courses in the future.”

Vicky Davidson

Auditing Student of the Year 2021

Vicky Davidson
Thistle Seafoods Ltd

Vicky says, “It was a lovely surprise to win the award.  I really enjoyed the Lead Auditor course from Verner Wheelock. It was organised very well with the full training pack arriving in plenty time before the course with a bonus of some biscuits too! There was a good range of interactive sessions over the days which allowed everyone to get fully involved. Carrying out an actual audit as part of the assessment also gave me some experience there and then.”

Alec Witts and Monica White

Company Excellence Award

Fullers Foods International plc
Osborne Farming Ltd

Samantha Day, Ethical Co-ordinator at Verner Wheelock, says, “This award was well-deserved. Osborne Farming impressed us with their commitment to implementing the ETI Base Code and continuous improvement. They had a SMETA audit that resulted in zero non-conformances and had clearly put lots of effort into preparing for the audit.”

Laura Parham

Individual Excellence Award

Laura Parham
Pret A Manger

Laura said, “I’m grateful to Verner Wheelock for this recognition as part of our ongoing efforts to build the team’s expertise in allergens and food safety. At Pret, training has always been one of our biggest focuses, particularly when introducing new systems or in-shop changes, making sure that staff feel fully comfortable is essential.”

Osborne Farming Ltd

Ethical Excellence Award

Osborne Farming Ltd

Samantha Day, Ethical Co-ordinator at Verner Wheelock, says, “This award was well-deserved. Osborne Farming impressed us with their commitment to implementing the ETI Base Code and continuous improvement. They had a SMETA audit that resulted in zero non-conformances and had clearly put lots of effort into preparing for the audit.”

Congratulations to all our 2021 Award Winners!

Verner Wheelock Excellence Award Winners 2020

Verner Wheelock Excellence Award Winners

The Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards

We might have been in lockdown and in and out of tiers last year, but the pandemic didn’t prevent us from delivering their training courses to the food industry or providing ethical audit services. It certainly didn’t stop us from presenting our annual Excellence Awards last week.

The Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards were introduced in 2015 to coincide with our 25th anniversary and comprise six categories. These are HACCP Student of the Year, Auditing Student of the Year, Food Safety Student of the Year, Individual Excellence, Company Excellence and Ethical Excellence.

And the winners are…

  • HACCP Student of the Year 2020
    Sarah Eames, Group Technical Manager at World Wise Foods
  • Food Safety Student of the Year 2020
    Michelle Teape, Technical Compliance Auditor at Müller Milk & Ingredients
  • Auditing Student of the Year 2020
    Sue Nock, Technical Systems Manager at Saputo Dairies UK
  • Individual Excellence
    Helen Harris, Training Co-ordinator at Pladis Global
  • Company Excellence
    Pilgrim’s UK
  • Ethical Excellence
    Berry Gardens

Normally, the Awards are presented in person at the recipients’ premises, but this year they took place virtually via a Zoom conference call.

“This year has certainly been different,” said MD, Alison Wheelock, “but we were determined to continue to provide our customers with the training and audits they need and to recognise outstanding delegates and customers through our Excellence Awards.”

Awards criteria

The HACCP, Auditing and Food Safety awards are given to delegates who have shown a genuine interest, understanding and flair for their subject. They have engaged and interacted well with the course trainer and other delegates and demonstrated excellent knowledge through impressive examination results.

VWA HACCP Award Winner

“Verner Wheelock and our trainer, Julie, did a fantastic job”

Sarah Eames, World Wise Foods

Sarah Eames, recipient of the HACCP award said, “It was a lovely surprise to hear that I’d won the HACCP student of the year award!  When we scheduled the training course last April, I wasn’t too sure how well it would work – we were all remote (including two of my team based in Bangkok!) and we had both level 3 HACCP and level 4 HACCP students in the same classes.  Verner Wheelock and our trainer Julie did a fantastic job of tailoring the course appropriately and we all thoroughly enjoyed having some time together as a team whilst completing some of our training needs.  Thank you!”

Sue Nock attended a Verner Wheelock FDQ Lead Auditor course last year. As part of the course, the delegates perform a mock audit of Verner Wheelock’s Quality Management System (QMS). The entire course and audit was delivered remotely and Sue’s natural auditing style really impressed the Verner Wheelock team. She said, “I was absolutely thrilled and surprised to be awarded Auditing Student of the year.  It was a privilege to be nominated and to be recognised for the hard work.  I found the delivery of the course to be inclusive, interesting and thoroughly enjoyable especially in the current climate.”

An exception to the rule

All previous Individual Excellence award winners have been course delegates. However, this year the decision was made to present the award to Helen Harris, Training Co-ordinator at Pladis UK’s Ashby de la Zouch site, who had been outstanding in her efficiency throughout the year.

Helen said, “I am truly honoured to have won this award. I have been in this role nearly four years and have been working with Verner Wheelock during that time. I have always found the Verner Wheelock team extremely professional, helpful, accommodating and a truly lovely, friendly bunch of people to work with.

I have to organise training for approximately 80 people from 11 different sites, so co-ordinating this many people can prove challenging, but between myself and the Verner Wheelock team we have always seemed to manage it.  2020 was obviously a different year for everyone and Verner Wheelock stepped up to the mark once again and helped me arrange remote training for team members that needed it.” 

Michelle Teape of Müller Milk & Ingredients was thrilled to receive her Food Safety Award.The skills I have are testament to the development I have received within Müller, and the encouragement I have received from colleagues on a daily basis,” she said. “I would like to especially thank the Müller Milk & Ingredients technical team for supporting my progression and the excellent training given by Verner Wheelock.”

Ethical Excellence

Andy York, Responsible Sourcing Manager of Pilgrim’s UK, the largest pig farming business in the UK, summed up the feelings of many on news of his Company Award, saying, “Thank you so much, it’s so nice to have some positive news for a change!” Pilgrim’s are an ethical auditing client of Verner Wheelock who are committed to ensuring that audits take place and the continuous improvement of environments and workplaces for their workers.

Lizzy Nuttall VWA Award Winner

“It’s lovely to receive news like this, in all this misery”

Lizzy Nuttall, Berry Gardens

Lizzy Nuttall of Berry Gardens, another of Verner Wheelock’s ethical audit customers, echoed his sentiments. “It’s lovely to receive news like this, in all this misery,” said Lizzy.

Berry Gardens, the UK’s leading berry and stone fruit production and marketing group, has won this year’s Ethical Excellence Award. Lizzy said, “This award demonstrates the work that has gone into improving our management and post audit follow up of ethical auditing internally. Also the work that our growers have put in to all aspects of worker welfare on their farms, as seen by the reduction in numbers of non-conformances raised in ethical audits in recent years. This can also be demonstrated by the positive feedback received from growers with regards to the way the whole process is managed.

We have worked with Verner Wheelock for a number of years and over that time, the relationship has improved greatly. They are our first point of contact for queries on matters relating to worker welfare. The team understands our business and the challenges presented by ethical auditing for our growers. They are willing to adapt and communicate fully with us when issues arise which may affect our ability to complete audits and also follow ups within the timescales we would like. The auditors that visit our farms are understanding of the issues our growers face, and this has been particularly evident in 2020 with the restrictions and concerns that our growers have had regarding on farm physical audits.

Verner Wheelock also have a good relationship with retailers which gives us confidence that issues we are facing are communicated to the right people, therefore aiding resolutions where they might be required.”

Staying strong in 2021

We are committed to providing high quality training and ethical audits for the food industry, even during Covid-19. Our courses are offered face-to-face (subject to social distancing requirements) and remotely and cover all levels of HACCP, Auditing and Food Safety as well as specialist courses such as Legal Labelling and Managing Food Allergens. Live SMETA audits are also going ahead wherever possible.

More information can be found at

Food safety culture – it’s not enough to do ‘just enough’

training for food safety culture

If 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.


In 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.

Excellence Awards winners announced

So, the time has finally come. After much ‘deliberating, cogitating and digesting’ (as Lloyd Grossman used to say on Masterchef), we have pleasure in revealing the winners of the 3rd Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards. They have been chosen from nominations by our course tutors and as ever it has been a very difficult decision to make.

Awards recognise excellence

trainingThe Awards recognise the hard work, enthusiasm and flair of our delegates and their respective companies. All individual winners attended our classroom-based courses here in Skipton during 2017. All have achieved outstanding grades in advanced level exams.

There were  5 awards up for grabs: HACCP, Food Safety, Auditing, Company Excellence and Individual Excellence.

So, without further ado, the winners of the 2017 Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards are:

Verner Wheelock Excellence AwardsHACCP Student of the Year – Nattakan Pinyopat, Warburtons

Food Safety Student of the Year – Kerrie Borthwick, Loch Fyne Oysters Ltd

Auditing Student of the Year – Julie Ryan, CSM Bakeries

Individual Excellence Award – Brandon Green, Ornua Ingredients

Company Excellence Award – Shepherds Purse Cheeses

As well as receiving a trophy, the winners also get a voucher for £250 against any future classroom or in-house training with Verner Wheelock. The winner of the Company Excellence Award receives a voucher for £500.

Previous  winners have included delegates from PAS Grantham, F Smales & Sons, Symingtons, pladis and Harper Green School. Also Bakkavor Desserts, Taylors of Harrogate, New Ivory and Sykes House Farm.

Verner Wheelock MD, Alison Wheelock said, “There are always certain people  attending our courses who stand out as being exceptional. The Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards are a great way of recognising these talents. Our delegates continue to achieve excellent examination results and we’re very fortunate that we have  longstanding relationships with so many companies within this industry. Huge congratulations to all our winners! “

We will be posting pictures of the winners with their awards in the next few weeks, so watch this space!

Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards 2015 – the winners revealed

Forget the Golden Globes, the Oscars and the National Television Awards… BAFTA? Scmafta! The only awards we’re interested in at Verner Wheelock are those concerned with the safety of the food we eat. So it is with great pride that we are able to reveal the winners of the very first Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards.

But first a little background…

The Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards were conceived early last year to coincide with our 25 year anniversary. Over the years we’ve had the privilege of working with hundreds of food and drink manufacturers, caterers and packaging companies of all sizes, as well as individuals. Most of our delegates have really embraced the culture of food safety in all its forms and have shown genuine interest and understanding. What’s more several students have gone on to achieve excellent examination results resulting in winning national awards – Verner Wheelock Delegates have won 5 RSPH Awards in the past 3 years.

How we selected the winners

Throughout the past twelve months our course tutors have been making a note of those students they felt were outstanding. This did not necessarily mean that they gained the highest examination results; other factors were also considered such as overcoming adversity, passion for the subject and a desire to interact with fellow delegates and get the most out of the training experience. A shortlist was drawn up after the final course had run in December and we then had the unenviable task of selecting the winners in each category.

There are five categories in the Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards: Auditing Student of the Year , HACCP Student of the Year, Food Safety Student of the Year, Individual Excellence Award and Company Excellence Award.

And the winners are…

Helen Keast


Auditing Student of the Year:

Helen Keast, Raw Materials Manager, Bakkavor Desserts

Emily Claydon


HACCP Student of the Year:

Emily Claydon, QA Graduate, Taylor’s of Harrogate


Joanna Core


Food Safety Student of the Year:

Joanna Core, QA Manager, New Ivory

Helen, Joanna and Emily were selected because each has demonstrated an exceptionally high level of competence and understanding during advanced level training in their respective subjects. The practical application of the skills they have obtained should have made a significant impact on the day-to-day operations of their companies. This aptitude in HACCP, Food Safety and Auditing Skills were reflected in their outstanding examination results. All received distinctions.

Individual Excellence Award:

William Ptolomey, Technical Manager, Sykes House Farm

The criteria for the Individual Excellence Award was as follows:

“The individual will have shown genuine enthusiasm and interest in the training provided. He/she may have overcome challenges to achieve their qualification and might not necessarily have attained the highest mark in the examination. However they will have an obvious passion for developing and maintaining a HACCP and food safety culture within their company and will have participated fully in the interactive elements of the training, sharing their knowledge and training with fellow delegates.”

Sykes House crop

The tutors agreed unanimously that William was the obvious choice for this Award. He has undertaken several training courses with Verner Wheelock, including Level 4 HACCP, which he found challenging but by putting the hard work in he achieved this advanced level qualification. What made him stand out is the fact that he always participates in course discussions, even if the conversation does not directly relate to his area of expertise. William is also keen to see training filtered down through his company. In the words of one tutor “A real joy to teach.”

Company Excellence Award:

IMG_3138 small

Symington’s Ltd

The recipient of the Company Excellence Award demonstrated a commitment to a culture of continuous improvement in food safety throughout their organisation. They have a structured approach to training to ensure that staff, from new starters to management, have an understanding of Food Safety, HACCP and Auditing Skills at an appropriate level to their role. Delegates from the company have undertaken a variety of different training with Verner Wheelock to enable them to undertake their jobs to the best of their ability, contribute to their company and progress their careers within the food industry.

Verner Wheelock MD, Alison Wheelock said,

“We chose Symington’s for the Award because the delegates get involved in the training and put in lots of effort. They genuinely want to learn and put their knowledge into practice in the workplace. Symington’s have a long history of training with Verner Wheelock and delegates have attended a variety of courses with us including HACCP, Food Safety and Auditing. As a result we understand their business requirements and we work very well together. The delegates’ hard work is reflected in their excellent examination results and national awards.”

Will you win a Verner Wheelock Excellence Award next year?

If you attend Verner Wheelock courses in 2016 you have every chance of being an award winner next year. Our tutors are already on the lookout for delegates showing real promise, so fingers crossed!

You can find details of all our current food training courses

Verner Wheelock – Monthly update – November 2015

November has been extremely busy at Verner Wheelock, with all levels of Auditing and HACCP courses taking place in Skipton as well as the TACCP workshop, CIEH Training the Trainer and the first day of the Level 4 Food Safety course.

As always, there have been several in-house courses at sites across the UK (a very cost-effective option if you have more than a couple of staff to train), with TACCP, BRC7 Updates and refresher training being the flavour of the month this time.


We’ve had some excellent results this month in both open and in-house courses.

Well done to all those who have passed their exams with FDQ and RSPH. The FDQ Lead Auditor course in Skipton in November was of a very high standard this time, with 7 of the 11 delegates achieving a Distinction. Top students Helen Keast, Raw Material Manager at Bakkavor Desserts, and Verner Wheelock trainer Eleanor Nicholls scored a fantastic 98% in the written exam. There were also some great scores on the recent in-house Lead Auditor course at Warburton’s (love the new Giant Crumpet Show advert, by the way!).

We have also had great results in recent RSPH Level 2 Foundation Certificate in HACCP courses with several students in Skipton and on an in-house course at Del Monte scoring 19 or 20 out if 20!

Well done everyone!

Staff news

Claire and KarenWelcome to Karen Naylor and Claire Lennon (welcome back) who have joined Verner Wheelock as Business Development Executives this month, and a sad goodbye to Carole Dickason who is leaving after 5 years in a variety of roles.  Read more here.

Well done to Jason Kearton on passing his driving test! Lets hope he finds a suitable car soon so that getting the train and bus to work are all in the past!

Also, happy 77th birthday to our founder and Chairman, Dr Verner Wheelock on 29th November.

December offers

Christmas offers at Verner Wheelock

Look out for our email offers coming through every week until Christmas.

There will be discounts on Auditing, HACCP and Food Safety courses throughout December so make sure you make good use of these offers and book your 2016 training now!

January 2016 courses

Don’t forget, any 2016 open or in-house courses booked by 31st December 2015 are charged at 2015 prices.

6th January: BRC 7 Update course
7th January:  TACCP Workshop
11 – 14th January: Level 4 Award in HACCP for Food Manufacturing
18 – 19th January: Level 3 Award in HACCP for Food Manufacturing
25 – 28th January: FDQ Lead Auditor

See further 2016 dates here

To book, please call Claire or Karen on 01756 700802 or visit the main website

Are you an M&S supplier? Make sure you’re audit-ready

Elliott 3Marks & Spencer has revealed that it has now moved to unannounced supplier audits in order to create resilient supply chains. The first of these was undertaken s early as April this year and follows discussions with Institute for Global Food Security Director and author of the report into the horsemeat scandal, Professor Chris Elliott of Queen’s University, Belfast.

Marks & Spencer was not found to have sold any products contaminated with horsemeat, but is keen to eliminate any potential for food fraud within its operations through it’s M&S supplier audit programme.

The company was keen to stress that the decision to undertake unannounced audits was not intended to trip up suppliers. Rather it was to ensure that mechanisms and controls to prevent food fraud were in place, to identify any issues and to correct them. The audits also cover food safety practices.

Is your supply chain watertight?

If suppliers have validated and verified food safety management systems in place and are compliant with the Food Safety Act 1990, they should have little to fear from an unannounced audit, especially if they have undertaken an Auditing Skills course. However, even if your own systems and processes are watertight, you need to ensure that your own suppliers are as fastidious about quality, safety, source and product authenticity. You also need to be aware of ways in which food fraud can occur.

Auditing and TACCP courses from Verner Wheelock

We offer a range of auditing courses from Auditing Skills to Supplier Auditing and Lead Auditor, all designed to prepare you for both internal and external audits. Our new one-day TACCP (Threat Assessment and Critical Control Point) workshop will provide all the information you need to help guard against potential fraud and contamination within your supply chain. For full details of dates, please see our training calendar.

Don’t forget that you can also book in-house courses. Please call Carole Dickason on 01756 700802 for more information.

25 years of Verner Wheelock Associates (pt 4)

VWA celebrates 25 years

If you read the earlier blog posts, you’ll know that Verner Wheelock Associates’ first home was in Bradford, but as the company began to expand it moved to the Broughton Hall Business Park near Skipton, North Yorkshire. Originally the company was based in the North Barn building and later at Archway Court. In 2003 it moved within the park yet again to its current location at Stable Courtyard – a fitting address given the Wheelock family’s love of horses (Jan is active with the Riding for the Disabled Association and Alison and her younger sister, Kathryn, compete in dressage events).

A time of change

Moving to new premises was just one of a number of changes at Verner Wheelock during the first decade of the 21st Century. Verner and Jan’s daughter, Alison, joined the company in 2005, bringing her marketing expertise and a desire to build on the foundations of the successful business that Verner and Jan had developed. Plus the variety of courses offered by the company expanded even further. They were already offering Levels 2 to 4 in HACCP, Food Safety and Nutrition as well as Supplier Auditing, Auditing Skills and Lead Auditor courses, but began introducing a number of more specialist courses.

For example, flavour chemistry expert Dr David Baines (you might remember that he headed up the Butchers’ Licensing scheme for which VWA did so much work) saw an opportunity for a course which focused purely on the development and evaluation of savoury flavours. He wrote the course ‘Creating Savoury Flavours’ together with colleague Richard Seal and it was marketed and delivered through VWA.  It was at the time, and still remains, the only course of its kind in the UK. Now in its 8th year, Creating Savoury Flavours is still as popular as ever amongst flavourists worldwide and has attracted delegates from as far afield as Japan, Brazil and Argentina from some of the largest food manufacturing and flavourings companies in the world.

More specialist courses to meet customer needs

Other courses over the past 15 years have been driven by legislation or realising a need for training in particular areas. Good examples include Managing Food Allergens in Food Manufacturing and Creative Legal Labelling – a course designed by VWA to assist companies in understanding new labelling laws under the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation 2014.

More recently, combatting food fraud has become high on the agenda – indeed there is a whole new section dedicated to product authenticity in the latest edition of the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety. In response to this Verner Wheelock has developed a new course – Threat Analysis Critical Control Points, or TACCP for short, which has proven very popular.

Popular also are the regular BRC Update courses which take delegates through all the changes in the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety and give advice and guidance on how to prepare for their next audit. The latest course covers changes between BRC version 6 and BRC version 7. Allied to the BRC Update course is another new course introduced only recently – Root Cause Analysis. This explains how to identify root cause issues for corrective actions and how to put in place preventative measures to meet BRC Standard requirements.

Ethical audits

The conditions under which factory workers produce goods is another area which has become more and more important to both consumers and retailers alike. The steady growth in sales of Fairtrade products is testament to this. For the past 9 or 10 years Verner Wheelock has run a series of Ethical Trading audits and workshops which are were highly praised by Marks & Spencer and The Co-operative in particular and were tutored by Ethical and Social Auditor, Keith Stamp – an expert in this field. Keith leads a team of auditors who perform SMETA ethical audits of suppliers to major retailers.

Helping women to achieve their goals


Women make up just 32% of the workforce in food and drink manufacture, and a very small percentage of these are in management roles. To help redress the balance Verner Wheelock has successfully helped to secure training grants of up to £800 per applicant for eligible women delegates on various training courses. This has been achieved through VWA’s membership of the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink (NSAFD) and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills’ Women and Work initiative. So far, more than 100 delegates have improved their skills and potential for promotion thanks to Verner Wheelock’s participation in the scheme.

Online courses

The widespread use of the internet meant that the time was also right to develop online versions of some courses. As a result Level 2 basic food safety and hygiene was first offered through vernr Wheelock as a modular online course around 10 years ago. This allowed people to complete it in their own time and at their own pace – a boon for those with busy work schedules. Around the same time the Nutrition, Healthy Foods & Special Diets course was offered as an e-learning course and online Level 3 Food Safety was introduced at a later date.

Bigger premises and new branding

Verner Wheelock Training Room

As  Verner Wheelock continued to go from strength to strength it was clear that larger premises were required. As luck would have it, the business downstairs moved out in 2013. So they took the opportunity to create a new larger training room upstairs complete with state of the art smart board and move the office downstairs. It was around the same time that the new branding was developed and formally launched at the Foodex Exhibition 2014.



RSPH Award Winners

Verner Wheelock has always prided itself on the quality of the courses it offers and it seems the results speak for themselves. Verner Wheelock delegates have won the RSPH awards for Level 4 Food Safety for the past two years and also scooped the prize for L4 HACCP at last year’s RSPH Awards Ceremony.

However the company is not new to national awards and their students have been successful on numerous occasions since 1997. See our Awards page for more details.

To mark Verner Wheelock’s 25th anniversary, the company has launched its own awards. These will be presented in the following categories:

  • Best HACCP Student
  • Best Auditing Student
  • Best Food Safety Student

There will also be awards for Individual Excellence and Company Excellence. Nominations for the awards will be made by Verner Wheelock course tutors throughout the year.

Here’s to the next 25 years!

Would your company pass an unannounced food safety audit?

Unannounced audit

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels a sudden twinge of panic when someone you’re not expecting decides to drop in on you. You rush around tidying papers, shoving things in cupboards, plumping up cushions, closing the door to the kitchen and hoping against hope that they don’t ask to use the bathroom!

In this instance the only consequence you’ll suffer is initial acute embarrassment that your house isn’t as clean and tidy as you’d wish. You’ll probably mutter something along the lines of “Sorry it’s a bit of a tip. I’ve been so busy this week that I haven’t had chance to clean.” Your friend/acquaintance will say “Don’t worry” and that will be the end of the matter.

Make sure you’re audit-ready

Unfortunately being ‘too busy’ isn’t a good enough excuse if an auditor makes an unannounced visit to your company’s premises. Whilst the majority of companies still opt for an announced audit, surely it’s in everyone’s interests to ensure that they are audit-ready at any given time? Not only will this reduce the chance of product recalls and the associated expense/ loss of confidence (it took just one month for UK sales of frozen beef burgers to plummet by 43% following news of ‘Horsegate.’) it will also improve safety, efficiency and, of course, significantly reduce the chance of external audit failure.

Why do food companies fail audits?

Obviously non-compliance varies from company to company, but the most common reasons are:

Human error  – everyone needs to understand the importance of food safety and the reasons why procedures need to be adhered to at all times – even during busy periods.

Compliance failure  – making sure that your systems are compliant is more important than getting product out of the door. Non-compliance can equal product recalls or shut-downs.

HACCP failure – documentation needs to be complete and current. HACCP systems need to be validated and verified on a regular basis.

Insufficient supplier control – you need to ensure that your suppliers pass muster too – especially in terms of guarding against potential contamination or food fraud.

Being disorganised – not being able to produce accurate, up-to-date information on your systems and processes will not win you any favours with an auditor.

Staff hygiene – Even if all other systems are ship-shape, bad staff personal hygiene can cause contamination. Very recently almost 2,000 people in the Philippines were hospitalised with vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhoea, after eating fruit flavoured sweets believed to be contaminated with bacteria from workers’ dirty hands and sweaty armpits.

Take the first step to ensuring that your company is audit-ready by attending our next Auditing Skills and Supplier Auditing courses.

Auditing Skills

A 2-day FDQ-certificated course which provides the theory, practical skills and confidence necessary to conduct an effective audit. It includes group exercises to put theory into practice and a multiple choice test at the end of day 2. No previous experience is necessary.

Supplier Auditing

Supplier Auditing is a 1-day course certificated by FDQ, which focuses on the skills necessary for effective auditing of new and existing suppliers. It is the ideal follow-on course to Auditing Skills. Topics covered include

  • The Purpose of Supplier Auditing
  • The Supplier Audit Process
  • Priority, Risk and Due Diligence
  • Common Failings (real-life examples).

There is also a multiple choice test to ensure understanding.

To book either or both courses, please contact us on 01756 700802.