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Verner Wheelock in-house or open courses

In the good old days before Covid-19, we at Verner Wheelock offered just two types of course. ‘Open’ or ‘In-house.’

Open courses

Open courses are so-called because they are open to anyone. Delegates from several different companies all attend the same course. So, you might have a Technical Manager from one company on the same course as a Quality Manager from another. It’s a great opportunity to share experience and ideas and relate the course content to different processes at the same time as learning.

Open course dates are scheduled for specific dates and appear on our Training Calendar and on the Verner Wheelock website. The fees are paid for each individual attending a course.

In-house courses

In-house courses are attended only by people from the same company and normally take place ‘in-house’ i.e. at the company’s own premises. They are most cost-effective if you have five or more staff to train. These are charged on a ‘per course’ basis and there are two pricing tiers: up to seven delegates; and up to fifteen delegates (or twelve if it’s an advanced level course.)

Unlike open courses, you choose the dates that are convenient for the training to take place, and we organise it all at your chosen venue.

Remote training

remote food industry training

With social distancing and travel restrictions due to Covid-19, we have adapted our offering so that courses can be delivered remotely via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Delegates booked on to remote courses click on a link that is sent to them and they attend a live instructor-led training session with one of our trainers. They can join the training from wherever they happen to be – at work or at home – so long as they have a computer, laptop or tablet with internet connection and audio. 

All the content of a classroom-based course is included in a remote training course, to ensure the usual syllabus is covered

Dual delivery open courses

We are able to provide dual delivery of our open courses, so you can choose to attend either in person at our training centre, or remotely.

Due to social distancing restrictions, we can only accept up to six people at Skipton, so places are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. Please be assured that we have carried out a Covid-19 risk assessment and taken the necessary precautions to make your visit as safe as possible.

In-house courses can be delivered remotely too

When you book an in-house course with us, we will ask whether you want the training to take place on site, or remotely. If you opt for remote training, your staff do not need to be in the same room. If they are working from home, they can log in from there. Otherwise, if they are at work, they can log in from their desk or any other room.

Course materials

Everyone attending one of our courses will receive a course folder and handouts (plus a text book for Level 3 and Level 4 Food Safety courses) sent to their home or place of work.

Open courses – If you are attending an open course in Skipton these will be ready and waiting for you when you arrive. If you are attending an open course remotely, you will be sent the course materials via courier a few days before the course begins.

In-house courses – For face-to-face in-house courses, we will deliver all course materials to site. However, if the course is being delivered remotely, there is also the option to have the course materials delivered to home addresses. Our Training Support Team will organise this for you.


We can arrange for exams to be taken with remote invigilation to avoid unnecessary travel.

We hope that this article has helped to clarify the different training options. You can find more information about our open and in-house training on the main website.

The team look forward to seeing you on one of our HACCP, Food Safety, Auditing or Specialist courses very soon.

VWA Sedex Virtual Audit (SVA)

It’s probably a fair assumption to state that nobody really enjoys being audited. An audit is a disruption to the working day. Managers and supervisors are concerned that there might be non-conformances, and employees are nervous about being asked difficult questions.

There are 3 types of audit – internal audits, supplier audits, and 3rd party audits (e.g. by customers, certification bodies such as the BRC, or Environmental Health Officers). If you’re responsible for performing an audit, whether it’s of your own company or an external company, the way you conduct yourself can have a huge impact on the amount and quality of information you can gather.

Here are some simple pointers to help your audit run more smoothly

1. Establishing a positive atmosphere

Don’t create unnecessary barriers. First impressions count, so don’t go in acting like a stern headmaster! You’ll find that people will respond far better if you appear relaxed and professional. Smile, shake hands if appropriate, make eye contact, and be polite and confident. Creating a friendly and approachable environment encourages open communication and cooperation.

2. Acknowledging hospitality

It’s a small point, but if you’re offered tea, coffee, or biscuits by an external company on arrival or in the opening meeting, accept them. It helps to set a relaxed tone and demonstrates your willingness to engage in a positive manner.

3. Respecting personal space

Don’t be a space invader. Remember – auditing is a two-way process. People can become intimidated if you invade their personal space. If they are backing away or leaning away from you, it’s an indication that you’re standing too close. Keep a reasonable distance. You don’t want them to clam up during open questions, or you might not elicit all the information you require. Respecting personal boundaries fosters a sense of comfort and encourages individuals to share information openly.

4. Conveying attentive body language

Think about your body language. Body language can say a lot about you or the situation. Making eye contact with your auditee is very important, but do take care not to stare or it could make them feel self-conscious. We’ve already mentioned space invading, but at the other extreme try not to slouch or look around when the auditee is answering your questions. You need to make them feel fully engaged in what they’re telling you. Positive and attentive body language enhances rapport and indicates your genuine interest in their responses..

6. Emphasizing effective communication

And finally… The single most important skill you have when auditing is listening and speaking. You have two ears and one mouth. Always aim to use them in that ratio. Actively listen to the auditee’s responses, ask relevant follow-up questions, and provide clear and concise explanations when necessary. Effective communication ensures that the audit process is productive and fosters a sense of collaboration.

Click here to find out about the auditing courses we offer.

Coronation party food safety

It’s not long now until the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla and many people are planning to celebrate with family, friends and neighbours. Perhaps you’ll be quaffing coronation cocktails or tucking into the official coronation quiche of spinach, broad beans and tarragon. Maybe you’ll be having a street party with buffet food or enjoying a delicious afternoon tea. Whatever your plans are, please don’t forget these basic food safety guidelines in your excitement.

1. Make sure your hands are clean

Just because we’re no longer testing for coronavirus on a regular basis, it doesn’t mean it and other viruses and bacteria are not around such as staphylococcus and campylobacter. To guard against this, make sure that you wash your hands before preparing and touching food. You can also make hand sanitiser available for guests on a buffet table, for example.

2. Don’t overfill the fridge

Having a refrigerator that’s full-to-bursting makes it harder for cold air to circulate. This means that food, milk, cream and fruit juices won’t stay as cool as needed. A top tip is to ensure that food that requires chilling is kept in the fridge but remove wine and beer and put them in a bucket of water filled with ice cubes.

3. Keep food refrigerated for as long as possible

On the subject of fridges, try to keep food in the fridge for as long as possible. This especially applies to meat, poultry, shellfish and any foods containing cream. Another golden rule for ensuring fridge temperatures remain at 5°C or below is to make sure you don’t put hot or warm food into the fridge. Let it cool down first.

4. Food safety and salad greens

Lettuce and other salad greens account for 22% of food poisoning outbreaks. If at all possible prepare salads yourself by carefully washing lettuce and other greens. If you are using a prepared bag of salad leaves, be sure to check the ‘use-by’ date. This is because cut leaves can become damp and stick to the plastic bag forming an area where bacteria can have a party all of their own!

5. The difference between ‘Use-by’ and ‘Best Before’ dates

If a product has a ‘Best Before’ date, this relates to the quality of an item. Provided that they have been stored correctly, eating biscuits or crisps that are past their ‘Best Before’ date are unlikely to cause you harm. They might only have lost their flavour or crunchiness.

‘Use-by’ dates relate to food safety and are a different matter altogether. You should not eat products beyond their use-by dates – even if they look and smell OK.

6. Food safety rules around reheating

If you’re serving hot food that you’ve prepared earlier, never reheat it more than once and ensure that it’s piping hot before you serve it. Don’t ever feel under pressure to reduce cooking times just because there’s a queue of people waiting.

If the weather’s fine and you’re firing up the barbecue, please ensure that burgers, chicken, sausages etc. are cooked all the way through – not charred on the outside and pink on the inside.

7. A word about food allergies

Don’t forget that if you’re catering for a large number of people, there are likely to be people with different food allergies or dietary requirements. If you’re providing a buffet, label products clearly and try not to mix vegetarian/vegan products with those containing meat. Most people with food allergies will ask what products contain, so make sure you’re aware – or provide labelling.

8. How long can I leave food out?

Chilled food can be kept at a temperature of 8°C for 4 hours maximum. This is because after this time food poisoning bacteria can begin to form. Also, nobody really fancies curly egg mayo sandwiches or limp lettuce, do they?

OK – food safety lecture over!

Enjoy the Coronation Bank Holiday weekend, whatever you plan to do.

Food allergen labelling

This week (24-30 April) is Allergy Awareness Week. This year’s campaign focuses on food allergies, especially amongst children. Around 8% of children in the UK have a food allergy. Interestingly, babies who are born with eczema or who develop it as babies are more likely to suffer from food allergies as children.

What are the symptoms of food allergies?

Some people have more severe reactions to food allergens than others. There are a variety of symptoms, from rashes and hives, mild discomfort or upset stomachs to swollen lips, serious breathing difficulties and anaphylaxis. If someone suffering an anaphylactic shock is not treated in a timely manner through use of an Epipen, food allergies can prove fatal. That’s why it’s really important that food manufacturers, retailers and caterers understand the importance of food allergen training.

Which are the most common food allergies?

Almost everybody is aware of peanut allergies. Other ingredients featuring in the top ten list of food allergens include eggs, fish, cow’s milk, wheat (gluten) crustaceans and soya. But did you know that there are in fact 14 common allergens which must be highlighted on all food labelling? The rest of them are mustard, celery, sulphites, lupin, tree nuts (such as hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios etc.) molluscs and sesame. In fact it was the undeclared inclusion of sesame in a pre-packaged sandwich that eventually led to Natasha’s Law being passed.

How to manage food allergens in food manufacturing

From a manufacturing perspective it is in a company’s best interests to manage any food allergens they have on site. Even the smallest amount of allergen in food can trigger a serious reaction, so it’s important that food companies have stringent processes and procedures in place to avoid cross-contamination and ensure accurate labelling of ingredients.

The majority of product recalls and withdrawals listed on the Food Standards Agency’s website relate to incorrect labelling of allergens. As any manufacturer will know, recalls and withdrawals of product can prove costly and can also damage brand reputation – especially if consumers are seriously ill or dies.

‘Hidden’ food allergens

It’s also important to remember that the average consumer might not realise that whey protein, casein or lecithin contain major food allergens. This is why the allergen must be listed in bold or capital letters for every instance where it occurs – even if it might seem obvious, such as ‘cheese (milk).’

Five key aspects of allergen control for food production sites

1. Review your entire supply chain. Look beyond your own situation and make sure that those companies supplying you have robust allergen controls in place

2. Carry out an allergen risk assessment. Potential sources of allergen cross-contamination include processing aids, packaging, air transfer, shared equipment, waste, cleaning, transport, rework, engineers, storage, people. Conduct regular testing.

3. Ensure all recipes and labels are up to date. Review them regularly, especially where ingredient substitutions need to be made. Look for ‘hidden allergens’ such as

4. Integrate allergen management into your HACCP plan. Treat allergen management in the same way that you would treat food safety. Many companies use dedicated production lines for products containing allergens and those which don’t.

5. Train staff in allergen management and labelling law. We can’t stress this enough!

Verner Wheelock has two specialist courses which have been designed specifically for the food industry – Managing Food Allergens in Manufacturing and Legal Labelling. We have also developed an online course for caterers and retailers on the subject of Natasha’s Law.

Training excellence from Verner Wheelock

What is excellence?

Excellence is defined as ‘the quality of being outstanding or extremely good’. It’s a quality that Verner Wheelock has strived to achieve and maintain during its 30-plus years of operation. It appears in our strapline: Verner Wheelock – Excellence in Food Industry Training and is outlined in our Mission Statement.

What is the examination pass rate?

Often the first thing that people ask a training provider is ‘What is the examination pass rate?’ Obviously this is very important. For the record, at Verner Wheelock we expect at least 75% of our delegates to pass first time. We regularly achieve a 90 to 100% pass rate. In fact our delegates are regular winners of the RSPH annual awards, achieving the highest marks in Level 4 HACCP and Level 4 Food Safety exams.

The best food industry trainers

We are firm believers that to understand something fully, you need to experience it. That’s why our trainers have all worked within the food industry for several years and our auditing trainers carry out audits regularly. It means that they can answer any questions from delegates with authority and make training relatable through industry examples.

ISO 9001 and excellence in customer service

ISO 9001 excellence achieved by Verner Wheelock

Something else we pride ourselves on is excellent customer service. In 2018 we developed a Quality Management System (QMS) that was accredited to ISO 9001: 2018. This helps businesses to be more efficient and focus on customer satisfaction. At the heart of ISO 9001 is the concept of continuous improvement.

From the first enquiry all the way through to sending out exam certificates and beyond we try to make the process as smooth and enjoyable as possible for our customers. We elicit customer feedback to ensure we are staying on track and meeting our objectives. If anyone has any suggestions for improvement or concerns about any aspects of our courses we address them straight away.

We are proud to say that we have an extremely high rating for quality of training and customer service. In the 6 month period from July to December last year, 98% of delegates said they would recommend us. 98.5% also scored us at least 3 out of 5 (good) for any aspect of the training experience.

Excellence in classroom and live remote learning

Even before Covid, Verner Wheelock was ahead of the game. We had already started providing remote training for some customers with sites overseas. During lockdown all our courses were delivered via Zoom or Microsoft Teams and this option has continued.

Now delegates have the choice of attending courses face-to-face or through live remote delivery. The training room at our new premises in the heart of Skipton is equipped with the latest AV equipment. As a result, we are able to deliver ‘hybrid’ courses where we have delegates in the training room and remote attendees appear on a large screen, so there is interaction between the two.

Accredited by the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI)

Learning and Performance Institute

Verner Wheelock is a Learning and Performance Institute Accredited Learning Provider. Our staff have undertaken training in the content and delivery of online and remote training through LPI.

This accreditation also shows that we are committed to continual improvement throughout the business.

To find out more about us, visit  the About Us section of our main website.