2020 Verner Wheelock Excellence Award Winners Revealed

Verner Wheelock Excellence Award Winners

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 www.vwa.co.uk

Exam techniques – 6 tips for improved performance

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!

Don’t overload the fridge! Plus other food safety rules this summer

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!

Fruit, food poisoning and food safety #foodsafety

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.

Chocolate production hazards – HACCP Easter everyone!

Chocolate Easter eggsDid you know that Cadbury’s make between 40 and 50 million Easter Eggs each year? That a whole lot of eggs! As with every other large scale food manufacturing operation, chocolate producers need to have a HACCP plan in place. But first, let’s look at the various stages in producing chocolate.

How chocolate is made

At the cocoa farm

Cocoa harvestThe first stage of the chocolate chain is harvesting. Cocoa pods are collected and then split so that the white pulp containing the cocoa beans can be scooped out.

Next workers place the pods and pulp into large containers where they ferment. Someone turns the beans periodically so that they ferment evenly. The process takes around 5 days.

Drying is the next process. This is generally achieved by spreading the beans out into a single layer and leaving them in the sun in temperate countries. Otherwise they are dried by the fire.

The cocoa beans are then placed into sacks and exported to the chocolate maker.

Cocoa beansAt the chocolate manufacturer

Once the beans have been received and checked, they are roasted. The next step is known as winnowing. This is the process of blowing air through the product to remove the husks from the cocoa beans. What you are left with what are known as nibs.

The nibs go through a grinding and conching process. Depending on the size of the manufacturer this is either done separately or in a single process. The end result is refined granules of cocoa containing both cocoa mass (cocoa solids) and cocoa butter. The more cocoa butter in a bar of chocolate, the better the quality of the chocolate. Some manufacturers replace some of the cocoa butter with cheaper vegetable fats. The ground particles are combined with sugar and other flavourings. This is where the milk powder is added if it is to be milk chocolate.

Melted chocolateThe mixture is then tempered. This means heating and then cooling and then heating it again so that crystals form that allows the chocolate to snap, rather than crumble. This process is done in a large tempering machine which can accurately control the temperatures and keep the liquid chocolate circulating evenly.

The final step in producing a chocolate bar or Easter egg is pouring the melted chocolate into plastic moulds and leaving them to cool. They are then tapped out, wrapped and boxed, ready for transportation.

Hazards in chocolate production

bluebottleAs with any food production process, there are various physical, chemical and microbiological hazards present in chocolate manufacture. At the receiving stage of the cocoa pods these are wood, chaff, plant materials, pesticides and fertilisers and pests, such as insects or worms.

During the splitting process you need to be vigilant of metal shards, chemicals from equipment used and potential contamination from handlers.

The fermentation process often takes place in wooden containers, so there is the danger of pieces of wood. There is also the risk of growth of salmonella microbes.

Hazards whilst drying the beans include dust and foreign objects. Also the development of mould if the beans are not left to dry properly before being bagged.

Once the beans reach the chocolate manufacturer there is the risk of microbial growth due to insufficient roasting times and temperatures. At winnowing there is also the potential for contamination due to foreign objects in the air, dust , pollution and microbes.

Chocolate mouldGrinding and conching hazards include stones and other physical contaminants from added ingredients, metal shards and chemical taint from equipment as well as microbial contamination.  At the tempering stage there is also the risk of metal fragments as well as contamination form poorly maintained equipment.

During moulding physical hazards include dust particles, plastic materials and microbiological contamination from poorly cleaned moulds. Packing hazards are foreign objects, labelling ink and packing materials.

Prerequisites for chocolate producers

Of course, many hazards can be avoided by the implementation of an effective prerequisite programme. This includes such areas as pest control, cleaning programmes and waste control. Other factors include operator training, employee personal hygiene and the use of PPC as well as scheduled preventative maintenance programmes.

Regular calibration is also essential. Many Critical Control Points rely on the accuracy of meters, thermometers, gauges, pH meters, metal detectors, timing devices, scales and pressure gauges. Tolerances are often minute so even a slight inaccuracy can compromise food safety.

Control Points and Critical Control Points

Just a reminder that in a HACCP programme a Critical Control Point (CCP) is a step where control can be applied and is essential to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level. In many instances in food production it is the heating, cooking or cooling stage. Another CCP is a final metal detection. Essentially a CCP is the last point in a process where the food safety hazard can be controlled.

There are several control points in the chocolate production process, but only a couple of them are critical.

Control points in chocolate production

chocolate bar

  • Receiving – visual inspection , use of chemical-free materials, building maintenance
  • Splitting – Magnetic separator, sanitised equipment, personal hygiene
  • Fermentation– visual inspection, regular maintenance of fermentation tanks
  • Drying – visual inspection, observation of time and temperature
  • Roasting – correct time and temperature to kill pathogens
  • Grinding – visual inspection, sanitisation of equipment
  • Conching – visual inspection, proper maintenance of equipment
  • Tempering – visual inspection, sanitised equipment
  • Moulding – ensure moulds are clean
  • Packing – metal detection, food grade inks, appropriate packaging materials, correct labelling

Examples of Critical Control Points are during the roasting and wrapping processes. The cocoa beans need to be roasted at temperatures between 105?C and 120?C and to specific times to eliminate pathogens. The chocolate bars or eggs also need to be wrapped in aseptic conditions. Metal detection is also a critical control point.

To view our latest training courses in HACCP and Food Safety, please click here.

Happy Easter!

Have you considered in-house food industry training?

UK MapSo, you’ve been on Google, found the training course your staff need, but there’s a problem. You’re based in the South East and the training provider is up in North Yorkshire. It’s a two-day course, so the expense of travel and accommodation is fairly prohibitive for the 7 staff you want to train. That’s on top of the cost of the training itself.  However, there’s no need to despair – simply book an in-house course instead.

At Verner Wheelock we can run any of the courses we advertise at our Skipton training centre at your own premises. We can even develop bespoke courses too, relevant to your own products or sector, or to resolve problems and ongoing issues.

In-house courses are cost-effective – ask for a quote

moneySeveral of our customers take advantage of the fact that in-house courses can be particularly cost-effective and make their training budget go further. For example, to send an individual on our 5-day open Level 4 Food Safety course would cost £895 + VAT. However, when you have 5-12 staff that need training, one of our trainers could visit your premises and deliver exactly the same course which could save several hundred pounds.

Plus, the more people you train, the lower the cost per person. We recommend a maximum of 15 for basic level courses such as Level 2 Food Safety or Level 2 HACCP. For more advanced courses such as Level 4 Food Safety or HACCP or Lead Auditor we stipulate a maximum of 12 people – the same as at our open courses.  As we charge an overall course fee, it means you get value for money if you can fill an in-house course with 12 delegates.

Train at a time to suit your staff – flexible dates

planningFrom a scheduling point of view in-house courses at your site are also a good idea. You can choose the dates that are the most convenient for you and your shift schedule. Perhaps you have a quieter time of year when more staff are available, or there are certain days of the month that are less busy? We will always do our utmost to fit in with your requirements – we can even train on the night shift!

Also, our 5-day Level 4 Food Safety course, for example, could be delivered in one week, or as 1 day per week for 5 weeks, or over 2-3 weeks or any combination to suit your staff.

There is plenty to commend open courses in terms of interaction and shared ideas with others working in different environments. However, when you book an in-house course, all the focus is on your own business and how the training can be applied internally. Delegates will be able to ask plenty of questions on relevant issues and receive guidance that can readily be put into practice.

We’ll come to you wherever you’re based – UK or overseas

Training sessionVerner Wheelock trainers are based nationwide, so we can always find the most suitable trainer for the subject within your area. You can also rest assured that all our trainers have previous hands-on food industry experience, so understand your industry inside-out.

So if you have five or more staff to train, it’s certainly worth enquiring about in-house courses. Claire will be happy to give you more details and provide a quotation.  Or you can find out more here.

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!

No flies on us! Keeping them out of food production facilities

No flies on us!
There’s a fly buzzing around the office as I’m trying to write this blog post. It’s batting against the window and trying to dive-bomb me. In short, it’s being a complete nuisance.

Flies are annoying in an office environment, but in a food manufacturing and processing environment, they can cause far greater upset. I’ve just Googled the number of fly species in the UK and, according to Buglife, The Invertebrate Conservation Trust, there are over 7,000! Some, obviously, are much more prolific than others.

Did you realise, for example, that those termed ‘filth flies’ can carry over 100 pathogens tFlieshat can cause disease in humans, such as Salmonella, cholera, Shigella, Campylobacter, E. coli, Cryptosporidium, parasitic worms and fungi?

Types of fly you’re likely to encounter

Filth flies include drain flies, flesh flies and house flies. As their name suggests they move from filth to food indiscriminately. They feed on decaying and rotten food, carcasses of animals and faecal matter as well as on fresh and stored food and ingredients.

The common and lesser house fly aren’t fussy where their food comes from. Blowflies lay their eggs on rotting animal remains such as the carcasses of birds and rodents as well as dung, all of which are used as food sources for the larvae when they hatch.

Fruit flies are attracted to alcohol, fermenting sugary liquids and waste fruit, and can build up to very large numbers when these foods/breeding materials are present. You’re more likely to find them in restaurants and food preparation areas. But look out for them in bins and cracked, damp floors.

Moth flies are found in abundance in sewage works but, because the females like to lay their eggs in the type of wet, organic matter found in drains, they can also be found breeding in the layer of slime found in the floor traps of food manufacturing sites. Phorid flies, also known as Scuttle flies, frequent unsanitary conditions like blocked drains, too.

How flies contaminate food and spread disease

Flies have to convert solid matter into liquid in order to ingest it, so they deposit saliva and regurgitate juices packed with digestive enzymes to break the food down. To make room for the new food, and to lighten their bodies for flight, they will often defecate during this process. As well as this pretty revolting practice, they will also be depositing contaminated filth that they’ve picked up on their bodies as they move from place to place. There’s also the danger that a fly could land in food being processed and end up in the finished product.

Since they are so mobile, it’s easy for flies to spread disease from contaminated food sources to clean areas. They could be transmitting any number of pathogens which have the potential to lead to gastroenteritis, dysentery, tuberculosis or internal worms in humans.

Prevention is better than cure

Keeping flies out of food manufacturing, storage and preparation areas can be a challenge, but, as we’ve been told so many times before: prevention is always better than cure. There are a number of measures you can take to avoid attracting them in the first place:

Rubbish BinRubbish and waste

We know flies are attracted to rotting material, so always ensure that bins are not overflowing, they have lids that close and they are emptied and cleaned regularly. Additionally, refuse should be collected at least twice per week in hot weather and any equipment used to handle garbage should be cleaned thoroughly after use.

To avoid the build-up of slime where flies like to breed, drains need to be kept clear and flushed out on a regular basis with appropriate drain cleaner.

Food preparation and production areas

Food preparation and production areas need to be kept clean – including equipment, surfaces, floors and utensils. They also need to be inspected regularly to make sure that there are no breeding and feeding grounds available. Flies will be attracted to the smallest accumulation of liquid or food, so it’s important to avoid this by checking any cracks, hidden spaces or crevices. The same applies to any canteen or storage areas.

Other areas

Of course, you’ll also need to check for signs of infestation in delivery and storage areas, where spills can occur, or there might be the odd ‘bad’ apple within a delivery, so to speak.

Many features of a production facility are designed to keep flies and other pests out. Vinyl strip or automatic doors, air curtains and roll-up doors, for example do go some way to keeping them at bay. Remembering to close doors behind you and keep them closed and fitting screens on windows and vents are all good preventative measures. They allow air to circulate without letting in unwanted guests.

Keeping up with building maintenance

This is another essential element of pest control. You need to be vigilant of any gaps appearing in the fabric of the building. These could provide the potential for flies and other pests to enter. Any flies that do enter can be controlled by the use of UV light or pheromone traps.

Pest control is just one element of a longest of pre-requisites to food safety. To find out more, please click here.

Restaurant owner jailed over use of allergen in food

Recently a restaurant owner was jailed for six years for the manslaughter of a customer. No, there were no guns or knives involved. There hadn’t been a brawl. He hadn’t laced his food with cyanide. What he did do, however, was ignore a customer’s request about how his food was prepared.

Paul Wilson, wA61CXP_chicken-curry_183x90ho suffered from a nut allergy, and was meticulous about his condition, had requested a chicken tikka masala cooked without nuts from the Indian Garden restaurant in Easingwold, North Yorkshire. Restaurant owner, Mohammed Zaman, ignored the request and prepared the curry using a groundnut mix containing peanuts. Mr Wilson later collapsed and died at his home from anaphylactic shock, brought on by his allergic reaction to peanuts.

It also transpires that just three weeks earlier another customer had suffered a Peanutsreaction to a curry containing nuts from the Indian House. Instead of destroying the groundnut mix there and then, Mr Zaman continued to use it. He had switched from an almond-based mix to the groundnut one because it was cheaper.

Case highlights importance of allergen control

The case is believed to be a legal first and sets a precedent to any company supplying food for public consumption. It is also a salutary lesson on the importance of allergen control and the correct labelling of ingredients used.

We’ve covered the topic of allergens and food fraud a number of times on this blog. But a case such as this really brings home how serious the consequences can be if the topic of allergens in food production are not taken seriously.

What are the symptoms of anaphylaxis?

A peanut allergy perhaps brings about the most severe reaction – anaphylactic shock. When somebody goes into anaphylaxis, they can have a swelling of the mouth or throat, severe asthma, swollen lips, hives, alterations in heart rate, a pronounced drop in blood pressure, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and can collapse and slip into unconsciousness. In extreme cases, as in Mr Wilson’s case, death can occur. Only a very small amount of the allergen needs to be consumed in many cases.

Consumers rely on food manufacturers to tell the truth about what’s in their products. It might seem like a nuisance to have to list out every constituent of a product on a food label, or highlight that there are allergens present in food served in a restaurant or from a café or takeaway, but the law is there for a reason. It can help to prevent serious illness or death.

In following the rules regarding the use of allergens, you’re also protecting yourself from prosecution. And it’s not just nuts – there are 14 major allergens you need to be aware of ranging from shellfish to sulphites, gluten to lupin.

Ensure you know the main allergens and how to manage them

Our Managing Food Allergens course will give you guidance on how to control allergens throughout your production process from supplier to delivery. It also covers standards requirements and labelling legislation, risk management, testing, cleaning and validation processes and verification of your allergen management systems. The next course takes place on 17th November.

Mr Zaman was accused of putting ‘profit before safety’, using a cheaper ingredient, despite being aware of the risks of allergens. His crime was that he deliberately ignored a request from somebody with an allergy. In the food industry we have duty of care to provide food that is safe for our customers. That means ALL customers. It is our responsibility to know what is in the food we prepare and ensure that our customers do too.

Verner Wheelock Monthly Update – February 2016

Happy Leap Day everyone! Of course today is the day when women are allowed to ask men to marry them, rather than the other way around – a deal supposedly struck by St Brigid with St Patrick.

you're the greatest!Traditionally, if the man declines the offer, they are meant to give the woman something in recompense – some money, a new dress, or 12 pairs of gloves (to disguise the fact that there is no engagement ring). Hmmmm I could do with a new dress….  Anyway, on to other things!


Examination successes!

We ran two auditing courses in the first week of this month – Auditing Skills and Supplier Auditing. All the delegates worked really hard and so we’re delighted to announce a 100% examination pass rate for both courses. Well done everyone!

We’re also very proud of our Sales & Marketing Executive, Jodie. She has achieved a Merit in her latest round of examinations towards the Chartered Institute of Marketing Certificate in Professional Marketing. Jodie has done incredibly well as she has been studying whilst working full-time here at Verner Wheelock. All the late night and weekend studies have definitely paid off.

Lentcobble van update

We’re also pleased to announce that we have all stuck to our guns and so, far, nobody has given in to temptation as far as our Lent pledges are concerned. I won’t deny it hasn’t been tough with Cobble Kitchen’s coffee and cakes on our doorstep, but we’re determined to see it through. Watch this space!

Food Safety Update

This month also saw the first of our Food Safety Update courses. It was well attended and the ideal course for people who had attained their Level 4 Food Safety qualification quite a while ago.  The one-day course provided updates on recent changes to food safety management and legislation as well as Food Standards Agency campaigns and strategies. Any recent updates relating to HACCP and the day to day management of food safety were also covered in depth.

To find out more about this course, please click here

In-house courses

The most popular in-house courses this month have been Level 3 Food Safety and the TACCP workshops. Don’t forget that if you have five or more people to train, an in-house course can be particularly cost-effective – especially if you take travel or accommodation into account. For more information, just pick up the phone and speak to Karen or Claire – they’ll be happy to provide you with a quote.

Ethical Audits

Another element which has been keeping us very busy is Ethical Auditing. As you know, we have been offering this service for a number of years and have worked closely with one of the most experienced auditors in the business, Keith Stamp.

SedexVerner Wheelock still offers SMETA ethical audits to many customers as well as food industry training, but we are also working in partnership with Keith Stamp Social Auditing (KSSA) to carry out the day-to-day administration for KSSA ethical audits. This is a very good fit for our business as many of the companies that need an ethical audit are food processors and growers                                               who are already familiar with our training services.

So all-in-all another busy month at Verner Wheelock!

What’s coming up next month?

Level 4 Food Safety – 7- 11 March 2016  (course full)
Level 4 HACCP – 14-17 March 2016 (course full)
Auditing Skills – 21-22 March 2016
Managing Food Allergens in Manufacturing – 23 March 2016

As ever, all details about forthcoming courses can be found on the main website www.vwa.co.uk or by contactuign Claire or Karen on 01756 700802.