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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.

BRC Approved Training Provider at Verner Wheelock

Auditing against the British Retail Consortium’s Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 8 (BRC Issue 8) begins today. The Standard was last updated in July 2015 and since then there have been a number of significant changes.

BRC 8 is a detailed document which takes time to digest and interpret. That’s why it’s often simpler to attend a specialist course. Our trainers can take you through the changes between BRC issue 7 and BRC Issue 8 in a single day.

Approved training course

We have a BRC Approved Training Partner amongst our training team who has been delivering the official BRC Issue 7 to Issue 8 Conversion Course for Sites course at our training centre near Skipton, North Yorkshire.

The course helps companies to prepare for their next audit against the new BRC Standard by discussing the changes section by section. There are group exercises throughout concerning major elements such as Food Safety Culture, Raw Material Risk Assessment, Supplier Approval, Food Defence, Labelling and Environmental Monitoring.

Delegates are encouraged to ask questions during the training and will be given guidance as to how the new version of the Standard applies to their production facitlity. The aim is that they leave the course equipped with the knowledge and skills to implement the changes effectively once they return to site.

Official BRC certificate

Once the training is complete, delegates have the option to complete a 25 question online examination in their own time. If they attain 60% or higher they will receive an official BRC certificate. If they choose not to take the exam, they will receive a Verner Wheelock certificate of completion. For in-house training, delivered at your own site, we offer our own BRC Issue 7 to 8 Update course, which covers the same content.

Here is some recent feedback we’ve received for both courses

“The tutor was excellent in putting the information across. She made the course interesting and varied.”

“Good clear information provided to bolster BRC requirements when training. Loved the venue!”

“The course gave a thorough overview of the changes, including expected evidence and interpretation of the new clauses.”

“Well paced, practical, interesting and relevant.”

Our next BRC Issue 7 to 8 Conversion courses

The courses have proved incredibly popular, so early booking is recommended. Our next dates are

  • 28th February – FULL
  • 26th March
  • 4th April

Click here for more information, or why not view our latest training calendar?

Verner’s View – Food for Thought

Dr Verner Wheelock, the founder of training consultancy Verner Wheelock and former head of the Food Policy Research Unit at the University of Bradford, now spends his retirement researching the latest ideas on Nutrition & Health. Here he presents his own thoughts on the recent EAT – Lancet Commission report.

Dr Verner Wheelock

No doubt you will have seen some of the recent food related headlines such as:

“Brits must limit meat intake to QUARTER rasher of bacon a day”

“A bit of meat, a lot of veg – the flexitarian diet to feed 10bn”

“Eating Red Meat Is Wreaking Havoc on Earth. So, Stop It!”

These headlines are based on a recent report entitled ‘Food in the Anthropocene: The EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems’ (Walter Willett et al.). 

The EAT–Lancet Commission is the first of a series of initiatives on nutrition led by The Lancet in 2019.  In a nutshell, the Commission brings together over 30 contributors across the globe to reach a consensus as to what constitutes a healthy and sustainable diet.

Their reference diet advocates the reduction of red meat and sugar consumption globally by 50% and an increase of 100% in the consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Essentially it would be primarily a plant-based diet.

As the respected medical journal, The Lancet is involved, then you would probably assume that the conclusions of this report are based on sound scientific evidence. In fact, it does not take a great deal of effort to discover that, in my opinion, this report is not worth the paper it is written on. However, you may choose to disagree and come to your own conclusions after reading the report and the various critiques.

You can read a summary of the report here:  www.thelancet.com/commissions/EAT

The full report can be accessed here: www.scimex.org/__data/assets/file/0008/387296/Food-production_LANCET_paper.pdf

1. Firstly, I believe there are massive conflicts of interest:

EAT was established by a very wealthy Norwegian animal rights activist who promotes veganism.  There seems to be no doubt that the primary objective is to demonise meat. Several multinational plant-based food businesses are closely involved in EAT as shown in these articles:



2. Second, implementation of the recommendations would result in a diet that is deficient in a range of nutrients.

For example, just 5% of the recommended Vitamin D intake, 55% of the calcium requirement and 17% of retinol, as Zoe Harcombe explains:


3. Third, doing away with food producing animals, especially ruminants, would be an ecological disaster.

Where it has been attempted, the result has been desertification, as Allan Savory explains in this video presentation:


Please note: The views in this article are those of Dr Verner Wheelock and do not necessarily reflect the views of Verner Wheelock Associates Ltd.

2018 Round-up blog

A Bumper Year

Vernr Wheelock offices

2018 was yet another bumper year for Verner Wheelock. We ran more in-house courses at customers’ premises than ever before. Plus, demand was such on certain open courses that we were running two, and even three, courses concurrently here in Skipton. You certainly kept us busy! But that’s just the way we like to be.

This year’s courses are already filling up quickly, so don’t forget to check out our 2019 training calendar to book your place.

Ethical Acquisition

Last year was a great year for the ethical side of our business too. Our team of professional auditors undertook several ethical audits and provided Ethical Trading Workshop and Works Council training. Perhaps the most exciting news in this area, though, was our acquisition of the Keith Stamp Social Auditing (KSSA) company.

Alison Wheelock and Keith Stamp

Keith had worked with Verner Wheelock for several years as a Lead Ethical Auditor, and will continue to do so, but was looking to take a step back and spend more time with his family. We purchased KSSA in March 2018 and have been delighted with the feedback received from customers both new and existing.

To find out more about our ethical audit offering, please click here.

Verner’s Book

Healthy Eating Book
Verner with trainer Paul Bache

Dr Verner Wheelock, our chairman, turned 80 years old in November, but retirement couldn’t be further from his mind. He has spent the past couple of years writing and researching a new book about the benefits of a low carb diet. Entitled ‘Healthy Eating: The Big Mistake’, it was published in January and has been very well received. You can buy a copy on Amazon. Verner also runs a regular Low Carb group in Skipton for people with diabetes.

New Faces

Rhyanna Pearson

If you’ve been to one of our courses in Skipton, the chances are that you’ll have met the latest addition to the Training Support team. Rhyanna Pearson joined in August as Training Support Assistant, working closely with Amberley. She has taken to the role like a duck to water and has proved herself to be a real asset to the team. Like Amberley, she previously worked as a baker, so has been rustling up some delicious treats for us too.

We also welcomed a new trainer in 2018. Julie Ryan actually won our Verner Wheelock ‘Auditing Student of the Year’ award for 2017. She took the plunge to become a trainer after several years working in the technical department of a bakery and already had plenty of experience of in-house training. Customer feedback has been great and as well as being a really good trainer, she’s also a lovely person.

Julie Ryan
Julie Ryan accepting her award

Customer feedback has been great and as well as being a really good trainer, she’s also a lovely person.

If you like the idea of becoming a trainer, our Level 3 Award in Education and Training course is a very good starting point.

BRC Issue 8 – New Course

In August the British Retail Consortium published the latest edition of their BRC Global Standard for Food Safety. There were some significant additions in the new Issue 8 so, as we have done in previous years, we began running BRC Issue 7 to 8 conversion courses, so companies would know what to expect when they are audited against it from February onwards.

Eleanor Nicholls, one of our longstanding auditing trainers, is an Approved Training Partner who is able to deliver the official BRC Food Safety Issue 7 to 8 Conversion for Sites course, so delegates can now receive a BRC certificate when they pass the examination.

Our next BRC Issue 8 courses are on 28th February and 26th March. 

It’s Awards Season

RSPH Hygeia Awards

RSPH Food Safety Award winner

We’re happy to report that once again a Verner Wheelock delegate won the prize for Food Safety & Hygiene at the RSPH’s annual Hygeia Awards. Lynn-Anne Allinson, a Raw Material Specialist from Symington’s in Leeds, attained the highest marks in the Level 4 Food Safety & Hygiene examination.

Lynn-Anne was unable to attend the Awards in London, so Rachel, our Marketing Manager, received the Award from TV personality, Natasha Kaplinsky, in her place.

Verner Wheelock Awards

It’s almost time for our annual Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards. You know that Julie Ryan won the 2017 Auditing Excellence Award, but here’s a reminder of who won the other awards last time:

Alison presents the Verner Wheelock Company Excellence Award to Katie Matten of Shepherd’s Purse Cheeses

HACCP Student of the Year

Nattakan Pinyopat, Warburtons

Food Safety Student of the Year

Kerrie Borthwick, Loch Fyne Oysters

Individual Excellence Award

Brandon Green, Ornua Ingredients

Company Excellence Award

Shepherd’s Purse Cheeses

The 2018 Award winners will be announced in a couple of weeks’ time, so watch this space.