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Whilst many businesses have been forced to close for the duration of the COVID-19 lockdown, NHS workers, carers, delivery drivers and other companies providing an essential service, including food manufacturers and food retailers, are continuing to operate.

Many food and drink processors have seen an increased demand for their products, as the public stock up on goods for self-isolation. In fact, such businesses are now recruiting additional staff to be able to meet the requirements of the supermarkets.

Basic food safety training is a minimum requirement

Understandably food manufacturers need to recruit workers as quickly as possible, but it is extremely important that prior to starting work they have the food safety and HACCP training appropriate for their role. This means that food operatives should have basic food safety training as a minimum. Supervisors and team leaders, on the other hand, should hold a Level 3 Food Safety & Hygiene qualification and/or a Level 3 HACCP qualification or equivalent.

Cutting corners in training can result in the production of food that is unsafe to eat, which can lead to food poisoning. Many food manufacturers are seeing a spike in sales similar to that usually seen at Christmas. It is at busy periods such as this that it can be tempting to cut corners. It is essential that anyone handling food is trained to understand the importance of personal hygiene, regular and effective handwashing and the cleaning of surfaces, utensils and common hand touchpoints.

This is especially relevant during the coronavirus pandemic to avoid passing the virus on to co-workers. Although coronavirus cannot be transmitted through food, the above measures, wearing the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and distancing within the workplace will help to protect staff. Any food handler who is unwell should not be at work. If they have symptoms, they should follow government advice to stay at home.

Same great training, different formats

As providers of face-to-face training, we believe that this is the very best way to learn and retain knowledge acquired during a course. However, since social distancing and self-isolation measures came into play, we have been unable to deliver our classroom-based courses either at our centre in Skipton or in-house at customers’ premises. The safety of our customers, staff and trainers is paramount.

basic food safety training delivered online

Nevertheless, thanks to the power of technology, we are still able to deliver several of our food industry training courses over the internet. We can achieve this by using a video conferencing service.

All course attendees log in to a training session which uses the same PowerPoint presentation, with breakout activities and is hosted by the same trainer as they would have at a regular course at Skipton or at their own premises. Attendees can interact and act questions of the trainer either verbally or by texting.

Find out more

To find out more about training via Zoom, Microsoft Team, Skype or any other method, please get in touch with our Business Development Manager, Claire Lennon at claire.lennon@vwa.co.uk. You can see which scheduled courses are being delivered in this way by taking a look at our latest training calendar.

At Verner Wheelock we pride ourselves on delivering the very best training to the food industry even during these uncertain times like these. Stay safe, keep preparing safe food and we look forward to welcoming you back to our training centre sooner rather than later.

Revealed – Our Excellence Award Winners

2020 is an exciting year for Verner Wheelock. It’s the year we celebrate 30 years in business! It’s also our 5th annual Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards.

Over the past 30 years we have been privileged to train thousands of students from food and drink manufacturers, caterers, retailers and packaging companies both large and small. Training takes place here in our training centre in Skipton, or at customers’ own premises. We’ve even provided training overseas!

What are the Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards?

The Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards recognise delegates who have been outstanding in the fields of HACCP, Food Safety and Auditing during the previous 12 months. We also present a Company Award, Ethical Award and Individual Excellence Award.

What’s the criteria? Well, the HACCP, auditing and food safety students of the year 2019 have demonstrated an exceptionally high level of competence and understanding during advanced level training in their subject. The practical application of these skills will have made a significant impact on their day-to-day operations. This aptitude for HACCP, food safety and auditing skills is also reflected in impressive examination results.

This year’s winners are:

HACCP Student of the Year 2019

Kathryn Bird

Food Safety Student of the Year 2019

Chi-wai Man

Pictured with Claire Lennon, VWA Business Development Manager

Auditing Student of the Year 2019

Yibo (Becky) Huang

Tangerine Confectionery

Pictured with Alison Wheelock, VWA Managing Director

Individual Excellence Award 

To receive this award the individual has shown genuine enthusiasm and interest in the training provided. They may have overcome challenges to achieve their qualification and might not necessarily have attained the highest mark in the examination. However, they have an obvious passion for developing and maintaining a HACCP system or a Food Safety culture within their company and have participated fully in the interactive elements of the training, sharing their knowledge and experience with fellow delegates.

Individual Excellence Award 2019

Pio De Gama


All the above received a trophy, certificate and £250 off any open or in-house training with Verner Wheelock.

Company Excellence Award

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

Company Excellence Award 2019

Morrisons plc

Ethical Excellence Award 2019

This award was introduced in 2018, as the number of ethical audits Verner Wheelock has conducted has grown exponentially over the past few years. As the title of the award suggests, it is given to a company which has really embraced the values of the Ethical Trading Initiative. It has performed extremely well in its recent ethical audit with few, if any, non-conformances and excellent examples of good practice.

Ethical Excellence Award 2019

Cranswick Gourmet Bacon

The Team with their award

The winners of the Company and Ethical Excellence Awards each receive a trophy, certificate and £500 to spend on training or audits with Verner Wheelock.

Could you be the next award-winner? Book a training course with us and you could be selected. View our latest training calendar here.   

It’s all a matter of taste

Think about the foods you eat. Fruit yogurts and desserts, steak pie, veggie burgers, crisps, soups, sauces, lasagne, cheese… the list is endless. Unless you have reared, grown or cooked everything from scratch, there’s a high likelihood that many foods you buy have been enhanced by flavour chemicals. This is especially the case where recipes have been amended to reduce sugar, salt or fat.

Chemicals can also be used to replicate natural flavours, such as chicken, bacon, cheese or fruit. They can be used to emulate the unique flavours created by different cooking methods like roasting, frying or barbecuing.  They can even boost natural flavourings themselves. Then there’s the magical effects of enzymes on ingredients…

An introduction to flavours

Flavour chemistry is a truly fascinating subject. I can say this with confidence because I have attended Verner Wheelock’s two-day Introduction to Flavours course myself. It takes you on a journey from how we perceive flavour (for instance, did you know that if you put a sweet in your mouth and then pinch your nose, you can no longer taste the sweet?) to actually creating flavours yourself. As a flavours novice I have to say that I found the course really, really, interesting and was astonished when my team were judged to have produced the best raspberry flavour, just through smelling our creation before we applied it to yogurt.

The course tutors are Professor David Baines and Richard Seal, both of whom are experts and highly regarded in their field. As a result, the course has attracted delegates from Germany, Poland, Belgium and India, as well as the UK. There were people from snack food producers, pork pie and pasties manufacturers, relish producers, cereal manufacturers, tobacco/vaping companies and additives and flavours companies. All were looking to have a greater understanding of flavours to assist them in their roles.

The full spectrum of flavours

The course lectures were on the following subjects:

  • What is flavour?;
  • Sensory analysis and flavour wheels;
  • Flavour deconstruction and reconstruction;
  • Flavour and culture;
  • Legislation;
  • Thermal process flavours;
  • Savoury ingredients;
  • Using enzymes to create flavours;
  • Smoke flavours;
  • New developments in flavours;
  • Evaluation of enzyme digests and encapsulation technologies.  

During the lectures, we were given different compounds and products to smell, taste and evaluate.  In practical sessions we took the knowledge gained from the lectures and used it to create a top note raspberry flavour, a savoury seasoning and to apply a thermal process flavour to a vegetarian burger.  

Suhail Master of flavour house, Irish Country Gold, said, “The workshop sessions were brilliant. It’s always good to put theory into practice.

Creating Thermal Process Flavours

The 2-day Introduction to Flavours course is of great value if you are in the business of creating flavours, or if you want to move into this area. It’s also a great springboard on to our 5-day Creating Thermal Process Flavours course, also delivered by Professor Baines and Mr Seal. This course is unique in the UK and continues to attract flavourists from around the globe.

The next Introduction to Flavours takes place on 26th – 27th May and the next Creating Thermal Process Flavours course is from 26th – 30th October. Both courses take place in Skipton, North Yorkshire.

Places are strictly limited, so it is advisable to book early. For more information, please contact Claire Lennon on 01756 700802 or email claire.lennon@vwa.co.uk

Why food allergen labelling is essential

woman looking at at food labelling

If you take a look at the Food Standards Agency’s Food Alerts page on their website, the majority of product recalls are due to incorrect labelling on packaging. Most of these are because they have omitted to state that an allergen is present in their ingredients list.

There have been several prosecutions of food manufacturers and caterers for just such a reason. The most recent high-profile case was that of a teenage girl , Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, dying from eating a sandwich from Pret a Manger. The allergen information was not visible and she died of anaphylactic shock as a result.

Under UK law at the time, food companies were not required to list the ingredients of food packaged and sold on the same premises. However following the above incident, ‘Natasha’s Law’ is to be introduced by summer 2021. This will make full ingredients labelling for foods pre-packed for direct sale mandatory.

There are 14 food allergens

There are 14 food allergens which you need to be aware of that must be listed on prepackaged food. These are milk, eggs, peanuts, fish, crustaceans, sesame, mustard, sulphites, molluscs, soy, gluten, tree nuts, lupin and celery. How they are labelled is extremely important. For example, previously you might have listed the allergens separately. Now there is a requirement to list the components of an ingredient.

So whereas before an ingredients list might have “wholegrain flour, eggs, butter, sugar” it now must be labelled with the allergens in bold type. For example “wholegrain flour (gluten), eggs, butter (milk), sugar.”

Do your labels tell the truth?

You must also be absolutely sure that if you’re claiming that a product is gluten-free, for example, it really is. So, if you produce large volumes of ginger biscuits, but you also produce a gluten-free version of your ginger biscuits, you need to take stringent precautions so that traces of the with-gluten product don’t contaminate the gluten-free version.

This might mean producing the two products in different buildings, but if they are produced on the same line or in the same production area, you have to be completely sure that everything has been cleaned down properly and that staff are briefed in allergen management.

Otherwise, you will need to add a disclaimer on your primary packaging which says something to the effect of: “Manufactured in an environment where products containing gluten are also produced.”

Make sure staff have the correct training

Some people are so sensitive to allergens that only a tiny particle can cause them to have an allergic reaction. Happily we deliver a couple of one-day courses that can help you to ensure that you manage food allergens effectively and label your products correctly and legally.

Our Managing Food Allergens in Manufacturing course is aimed at those who are responsible for designing, implementing and auditing allergen management systems. Using examples, it explains essential aspects of allergen control in food manufacturing. On successful completion of the course candidates will receive the FDQ Practical Allergen Awareness Certificate.

Our Legal Labelling course is particularly popular. It has been designed to give you a working knowledge of the legislative requirements for food composition and labelling. By the close of the course you should have the confidence to assess product specifications, pack copy and artwork for legality. The course is appropriate for Specification Technologists, Technical Managers, Product Developers, Label Designers and those responsible for approving artwork.

Both courses are tutored by industry professionals who have a wealth of practical hands-on experience in their particular fields.

Avoid costly product recalls

Any company which has ever had to recall products will tell you that it is a costly process, through lost revenue and wasted product. It can also have wider consequences in terms of customer confidence, particularly if the media become involved. However, with the correct training, such instances can be avoided in the first place.

To find out more about our Legal Labelling and Managing Food Allergens courses, please visit the Specialist Courses section of our website. You will also find other useful courses such as Root Cause Analysis and VACCP and TACCP. 

Help to stamp out modern slavery

anti-slavery day

Today is ‘Anti-Slavery Day’ where the aim is to fight against and raise awareness of the dangers and consequences of slavery, human trafficking and exploitation.

Believe it or not, slavery in the UK and overseas was not eliminated with the Abolition of Slavery Act of 1807. In fact, it’s estimated there are tens of thousands of people in slavery today. They may not be in chains and working under a searing heat any more, but instead they are in what is known as ‘modern slavery.’

What is modern slavery?

A modern-day slave is someone who is forced to do work against their will through coercion or mental or physical threats. They are often in what is known as ‘bonded labour’ or ‘debt bondage’ where they have no choice but to work to pay off a debt to their employer or agency. These people have often been trafficked from a different country with the promise of a good job in the UK. Once here the situation is very different. Their passports are confiscated together with any control over the conditions of their employment or their debt. In short, they are trapped into working and living in poor conditions, with little or no wage and with no hope of ever repaying their debt.

Several women and children are forced into sex work or a life of crime, including growing cannabis or theft. They are dehumanised and living in constant fear of threats and violence to themselves and their families.

What can be done?

There have been several steps taken to try to stamp out slavery in the UK. The Modern Slavery Act was passed in 2015 to make it easier to prosecute traffickers and it increased sentences for slavery offences. It also ensures that victims of slavery will not be prosecuted for crimes they have been forced to commit. There are child trafficking advocates to help protect trafficked children.

One of the major clauses of the Modern Slavery Act, which relates to the food and other industries, is that large UK businesses with an annual turnover of over £36 million have to publicly report how they tackle slavery in their global supply chains and publish a modern slavery statement. Slaves are most commonly trafficked into industries such as agriculture, construction, manufacturing, hospitality and into smaller concerns such as car washes.

Ethical audits ensure employees are treated fairly and with respect

Companies have a moral responsibility to ensure that the products they sell are slave-free. This means throughout the entire supply chain. This is not easy to do if the supply chain is very long. However, major retailers require their suppliers undergo ethical audits to make sure that employees are being treated fairly and with respect.

The ethical audit is carried out against the 9 sections of the Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI) Base Code.

1: Employment is freely chosen

2: Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are respected

3: Working conditions are safe and hygienic

4: Child labour shall not be used

5: Living wages are paid

6: Working hours are not excessive

7: No discrimination is practiced

8: Regular employment is provided

9: No harsh or inhumane treatment is allowed

This is designed to help protect workers from poor and unsafe working conditions, overwork, discrimination, low pay and forced working conditions.  It is founded on the conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and is an internationally recognised code of labour practice.

Find out more about ethical audits

Verner Wheelock has a team of experienced ethical auditors operating throughout the UK and Ireland. If you would like to find out more about our ethical audits, please click here.

Let’s hope that in future there will be no need for an Anti-Slavery Day.

Craig Darby receives his award fro Natasha Kaplinsky
Picture: www.matthewwalkerphotography.com

As our strapline states – we strive for ‘excellence in food industry training’, and last month saw proof of that commitment. Verner Wheelock delegate, Craig Darby of Samworth Brothers, achieved the highest marks in the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH)’s Level 4 Food Safety & Hygiene examination and was awarded the RSPH Hygeia Award for Food Safety from broadcaster Natasha Kaplinsky at a recent ceremony in London.

Award was ‘unexpected’

Craig attended the 5-day advanced level food safety course in January, at our training centre in Skipton, North Yorkshire. He said, “I’m very proud to have won this award – although it was completely unexpected! I thoroughly enjoyed the course itself. There was a large and varied subject matter to cover, but the trainers at Verner Wheelock were very engaging throughout.”

He added, “I’ve completed several courses at Verner Wheelock now. The staff are always friendly and the tutors definitely know their stuff. The training facility at Broughton Hall is also a really pleasant environment to work in.”

A history of award-winners

Craig joins a long line of Verner Wheelock delegates who have been RSPH prize winners. Last year Lynn-Anne Allinson of Symingtons picked up the Food Safety Award. The previous year Verner Wheelock delegates were awarded the RSPH prizes for both Food Safety and HACCP. In fact, in the past 5 years the company has trained 7 out of the 10 prize winners.

We believe that the reason our delegates achieve such good exam results is the fact that our courses encourage interaction and discussion. In addition, all our course trainers have considerable hands-on food industry experience, so are able to provide relevant real-life examples to illustrate key points.

Verner Wheelock celebrates 30 years in business next year. For details of HACCP, food safety, auditing and specialist training courses both in Skipton and in-house, please visit www.vwa.co.uk.

Skipton-based food industry training company, Verner Wheelock, regularly provides in-house training to well-known food manufacturers throughout the UK. This July, however, they also ventured overseas, to deliver Level 3 Food Safety & Hygiene training to ENKA at their headquarters in Istanbul, Turkey.

VWA trianer NIgel Robertshaw with ENKA staff
VWA trainer Nigel Robertshaw (centre left) with ENKA staff

ENKA is a global engineering and construction company – the largest construction company in Turkey. Not necessarily an industry which you might associate with food. The training was in fact required because ENKA operates canteens during their projects which generate high volumes of food production. They are audited on food safety and needed certification to improve their audit quality. Cemil Aytimur, ENKA’s HSE Lead Engineer, contacted Verner Wheelock after researching them on the internet.

ENKA plans further training

Verner Wheelock trainer, Nigel Robertshaw, who is from Ripon, flew out to deliver the course earlier this month. The feedback was extremely positive. Cemil said, “The course was excellent and Nigel was very helpful and experienced. Thanks for everything.” ENKA has plans for further training with Verner Wheelock in the near future.

This is not the first time Verner Wheelock has provided training to companies in other countries. They have also delivered training to HJ Heinz in the Netherlands, and remotely to Pladis in Turkey via online meeting software.

Alison Wheelock

Managing Director, Alison Wheelock, said, “Distance really is no barrier to training nowadays. Technology can provide increased accessibility, but there is still a high demand for face-to-face training.  Many of our clients have sites in different countries, so it makes sense to be able to cater for their requirements.”

“As a training company we do seem to have an international appeal. For the past twelve years, delegates from all over the world have visited Skipton to attend our specialist Creating Thermal Process Flavours course.”

Verner Wheelock celebrates 30 years in business next year. Their delegates have won the Royal Society for Public Health’s top student awards for Food Safety and HACCP several times.

The company’s training centre is in the grounds of the picturesque Broughton Hall Estate.

For more information on forthcoming courses, please visit www.vwa.co.uk             

FDQ logo

Understanding which ingredients are classed as allergens and how to control them during food manufacture is essential. We have seen instances in the press and on TV where failure to clearly label allergens on food, or failure to segregate allergens during food production has led to serious illness or even death.

To combat this,we have been running our own Verner Wheelock Managing Food Allergens in Manufacturing course for a number of years. It is specially designed so that anyone involved in food production understands:

  • The definition and symptoms of an allergy
  • Which foods are classed as allergens
  • Why allergens need to be controlled in a food manufacturing environment
  • How to control allergens on a food production site
  • How to avoid cross-contamination of food ingredients

Now our popular one-day course has been certificated by Food and Drink Qualifications (FDQ). This means that delegates taking the course who pass a short exam will be issued with an FDQ Practical Allergen Awareness certificate.

Food industry qualifications for the food industry

Our suite of auditing courses (Auditing Skills, Supplier Auditing, Lead Auditor and Auditing Refresher) are already certified by FDQ. The specialist awarding body focuses on food industry qualifications, for the food industry and is regulated by OfQual.

Alison Wheelock, Managing Director of Verner Wheelock said “We are delighted that FDQ have endorsed our Managing Food Allergens in Food Manufacture course. The management of allergens is a serious business and to have FDQ certification gives this training course even greater kudos within the food industry.”

Verner Wheelock 30 years old next year

Verner Wheelock celebrate 30 years in business next year. We are one of the UK’s leading food industry training companies, providing training at all levels in HACCP, Food Safety and Auditing, as well as specialist courses and workshops. Courses take place at our training centre in Skipton or in-house at your own premises.

For more information on any of the courses above, please click the links or visit www.vwa.co.uk

Barbara Bray MBE

We are very excited to announce that Barbara Bray, one of Verner Wheelock’s trainers has been awarded an MBE for services to food nutrition.

Barbara, who was at Verner Wheelock last week delivering our Auditing Skills and Auditing Refresher courses, was thrilled and a little overwhelmed by the news.

She said “It was a huge surprise to receive a nomination for the Queen’s Birthday Honours list and I was incredibly grateful to receive the award. Twenty four years ago when I started my career in the agri-food sector, I never expected that my journey would bring me to this point. I spend an increasing amount of my time with women in the early part of their careers in the agri-food sector and I feel it is particularly important to mentor, support and advocate for them. Receiving this award will motivate me even further to continue with that support and be a role model for the next generation of black British scientists.”

As well as training classroom-based and in-house courses in HACCP, Auditing and related subjects for Verner Wheelock, Barbara is a Director of the Oxford Farming Conference. In addition, she sits on committees for the Institute of Food Science and Technology and The Nutrition Society’s Training Academy.

Alison Wheelock, our MD, said “We are all very pleased for Barbara. She’s a professional who consistently achieves good examination results for our course delegates and is passionate about her work. She has a relaxed training style and calm and friendly manner, which puts the delegates at ease and we always receive excellent feedback about her courses – which is a great reflection on our company.”

Barbara Bray is the second of our trainers to receive an MBE. Our HACCP and Food Safety trainer, Paul Bache, was awarded an MBE for services to the meat industry in 2007.

Now that the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs and the Grammy Awards are over, it’s time to announce the winners of some much more relevant awards. I’m talking, of course, about the Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards.

Launched in 2015, to coincide with our 25th anniversary, the Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards reward excellence in HACCP, Food Safety and Auditing. Additionally there are awards for Individual Excellence, Company Excellence and, for the first time, this year we have introduced an Ethical Excellence Award.

Awards Criteria

For the HACCP, Auditing and Food Safety Student of the Year awards, our course tutors nominate the delegates that they feel were outstanding in each relevant subject. These students demonstrated an exceptionally high level of competence and understanding during either our Level 4 HACCP, Level 4 Food Safety or Lead Auditor training. Moreover, the practical application of the skills they learned will have made a significant impact on their day-to-day operations. Their competence has been reflected in a set of impressive examination results.

And the winners of Verner Wheelock ‘Students of the Year 2018’ are ….

Sophie Trussell – Aimia Foods Ltd

Dyana Webb – Avara Foods 

Food Safety
Paul Thackray – Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc

Individual Excellence Award

For this award the individual will have shown genuine enthusiasm and interest in the training provided. 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 experience with fellow delegates.

And the winner is …..

Joshua Horrocks

Pladis, Halifax

Company Excellence Award

The recipient of the Company Excellence Award has demonstrated a commitment to a culture of continuous improvement in food safety throughout their organisation. This is extremely topical, given the new section in the BRC Global Standards for Food Safety Issue 8, which came into force this month. 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 a level appropriate 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 and progress their careers within the food industry.

And the winner is …..

Loscoe Chilled Foods

Ethical Excellence Award

This is a newly-introduced award to acknowledge the hard work undertaken by companies in terms of operating in an ethical manner. The winning company has demonstrated a commitment to a culture of continuous improvement in ethical trading throughout the organisation. It has performed strongly in ethical audits and ensures that staff, from new starters to management, have an understanding of the ETI Base Code and ethical practices.

And the winner is ….

Keelings International Limited – Finedon

Could you be the winner of a 2019 Verner Wheelock Excellence Award?

Congratulations to all our award winners. Watch this space for photos of the winning delegates and companies. We are already on the lookout for outstanding delegates and companies for our 2019 Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards. Perhaps the next recipient could be you? As well as receiving the award and a certificate, individuals receive a voucher for £250 against the cost of their next Verner Wheelock course. This amount is £500 for the company awards.