1. Prerequisite Programmes
Prerequisite programmes control low risk hazards and are the foundation of HACCP. They provide the basic operational and environmental conditions for handling food and drink. Prerequisites focus on the premises, raw materials and people. They include supplier approval, premises and equipment design, cleaning and disinfection, personal hygiene, environmental temperature control, pest control, labelling and traceability and equipment calibration.
There are legal requirements for prerequisite programmes and failure to meet standards could result in enforcement action and prosecution. Pest control is a particular problem for some food business operators which has resulted in immediate closure and a substantial fine. Conduct a gap analysis to find out what areas require improvement. Conduct thorough and regular audits to check compliance within set standards.
2. Food Safety Management Systems and HACCP
The food safety management system must be behavioural based and focus on real hazards and real consequences. This relevance is important in getting the food safety message across and avoids a psychological bias of control. Expectations for standards of food safety must be communicated in clear and understandable way and provide simple instructions that are achievable by everyone. Consult with your employees on what works wells and what requires further improvement. Input promotes employee engagement and shares practical ideas for improvement. Use a competent auditor to carry out regular risk-based audits support a compliance culture. But remember the limitations. Audits are only good as the checklist and auditor, and capture a snapshot in time.
3. Food Safety Training and Competent Food Handlers
Food safety and hygiene training does make a difference when you take a step back and think about what will be achieved through training and its limitations. Start by creating simple objectives that can be used to evaluate the success of training. Remember training should reduce risk, support legal compliance and promote a positive food safety culture.
Training commensurate with the work activity is a legal requirement. Completing an online food safety course does not mean a food business meets this requirement. These courses are very generic and may not necessarily provide the knowledge and skills required for the job or task. Think about any gaps in knowledge and skills, and if required get a competent person to provide onsite training. Remember to record all training sessions to demonstrate due diligence. Use non-conformities highlighted in a food safety audit to identify areas of focus in training.
Remember a ‘one size fits all approach’ does not work as people have different learning styles. Think about how your employees learn best. It may result in offering online, classroom and on-the-job training approaches. If language is barrier to learning, think about you will overcome it. Use practical demonstrations and visual references (diagrams and photos) that minimise the use of words.
4. Food Allergies and Other Hypersensitivities
Take food allergies and hypersensitivities seriously. You will be surprised how many food businesses forget the basics. Make sure all food handlers are competent in dealing with a food allergy or hypersensitivity request. Carry out a risk assessment or hazard analysis on allergenic hazards relevant to the business. Procedures for ‘free from requests’ must be written down, communicated and understood by everyone. There is no point in having an allergen matrix if recipes are not written down and followed.
Every year in the UK 4,500 people will be hospitalised due an allergic reaction when eating out and 10 will die. The most common factor in all these incidents is poor communication between food handlers and the consumer. Make it as easily as possible for those with food allergies and hypersensitivities to get accurate information. Place signposting for food allergies and hypersensitivities where consumers will read it, reduce the risk of miscommunication by providing the consumer allergen matrix to make an informed choice, avoid giving a customer the wrong meal by reconfirming the order when placing it onto the table.
5. Food Safety Culture
Every food business has a food safety culture driven by management. People in positive food safety do the right things because they instinctively know it’s the right thing to do. They engage with management to find the right solutions to protect consumers and meet legal compliance. Think about what your business doing to promote engagement with food handlers? Senior management should have conversations with employees to find out what can be done to improve food safety. Remember employees may put a spotlight in unseen problems.
Success in implementing and maintaining a positive food safety culture begins with management commitment. Safety must be priority over profit! Standards and expectations of food safety must be risk and behavioural based. Set achievable food safety objectives. Communication must be clear and provide opportunities for employee feedback. Training must be perceived as a tool for providing essential skills and knowledge and not simply a tick box exercise. Senior management must review food safety performance and act upon issues raised.
Percipio Training offer accredited food safety training courses at levels 1,2,3 and 4. These include Food Safety, HACCP, Food Safety Culture, Auditing and Inspection Skills, Food Allergy Management and Awareness. Contact us now for a competitive quote.