How Safe is Our Food?

June 9th, 2007 Categories: Hygiene Articles, News Tags:

Employers Urged to Ensure Hygiene Training Standards
Food Safety, and consumer confidence in the hospitality industry’s ability to adequately maintain it, is a key issue facing the tourism and hospitality industry today.

According to a recent Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) report, between 1998 and 2000, there were over 100 outbreaks of food poisoning in Ireland. As a result of this, 2,700 people were ill, 246 were hospitalised and 6 people died.

The question must simply be asked – Why?

Around thirty-five percent of all food poisoning outbreaks are traced back to an infected food handler. One reason that has been offered is the high turnover of staff, which makes it more difficult for employers to properly train their staff. This has also been linked to the fact that half of all outbreaks occurred in commercial catering companies. Infection is usually transmitted on food, with a 25% spread from person to person, and two percent due to contaminated water.

According to Denis Tucker, Regional Services Manager, CERT, the cause of this problem is the result of a combination of factors, the most important of which is the lack of basic training for food operators. “Training, both at introductory level and on an ongoing basis, must be provided for all staff involved in food production or preparation, including the growing number of overseas workers coming into Ireland. Language difficulties and understanding cultural differences can make the challenge of staff training that much greater for employers, but EU Regulations demand the full training of all staff involved in food production and preparation.” he says.

Training for staff is a fundamental factor in providing safe food. The EU Hygiene of Foodstuffs Regulations 2000 requires it. Since 1998, all staff involved in food preparation or production must be adequately trained or supervised in food hygiene practices. Up until now, there were no formal national guidelines on how to go about implementing and sustaining the required level of training.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland set up the Food Safety Training Council during 2000, and CERT is represented by Denis Tucker on the Food Service Sub-Committee. Training standards are outlined in a series of guides.

One such guide (the first of four) has just been produced. The `Guide to Food Safety Training – Level One – Induction Skills’ requires employers to get actively involved in the provision of training for their staff.

The guide identifies 20 core skills, arranged in two stages. Stage one, containing 9 skills, should be completed before the employee commences work, and stage two, which contains 11 skills, must be completed within 3-6 months of the start of their employment.

Stage One Skills
1. Wearing and maintaining uniform/protective clothing hygienically
2. Maintaining a high standard of hand-washing
3. Maintaining a high standard of personal hygiene
4. Demonstrating correct hygienic practice if suffering ailments and illnesses that may affect food safety
5. Refraining from unhygienic practices in a food operation
6. Demonstrating safe handling practice
7. Maintaining staff facilities in a hygienic condition
8. Obeying food safety signs
9. Keeping work areas clean

Stage Two Skills
1. Knowing your legal responsibilities in ensuring safe food for the consumer
2. Recognising how food can be put at risk by chemical, physical and biological hazards
3. Demonstrating an understanding of cross contamination and the hygienic practice necessary to prevent it
4. Explaining the difference between high- and low-risk activities
5. Avoiding unnecessary handling of food, food utensils and surfaces
6. Where applicable to the job, recording the temperature of foods as required
7. Keeping appropriate food safety records
8. Keeping pests out of the food operation and operating a satisfactory waste disposal system
9. Taking action when aware of unhygienic practices that may put the safety of food at risk
10. Co-operating with authorised enforcement officers
11. Where applicable, checking deliveries appropriately.

Additional skills training should follow the induction skills training. The recommended timing for such training is 3-6 months for employees working in a high-risk activity and 6-12 months for all other employees. This guide will be published later this year. A further guide, specifically for supervisors, will also be produced

Food Safety Programmes from the National Hygiene Partnership
The National Hygiene Partnership in conjunction with CERT provides a range of training programmes to help the industry to conform to the Food Safety requirements. These programmes have been developed in line with the training Directive S.I.165 of the 2000 European Communities “Hygiene of Foodstuffs” Regulations 2000, which states that, “Food business operators shall ensure that food handlers are supervised and instructed and/or trained in food hygiene matters commensurate with their work activity.”

Programmes are available for different areas and levels within a business.

Induction level training for seasonal, part-time and occasional food workers is covered by the CERT “Essential Food Safety Skills” eLearning Programme.

Full-time Food and Beverage Operative Staff can complete `The Primary Course in Food Hygiene’.which is provided by the Environmental Health Officers Association or Excellence Ireland.

Managers and Supervisors can do the Management of Food Hygiene in the Hospitality Industry’ programme which is provided by the National Hygiene Partnership and the `Implementing Hazard Analysis’ programme which is provided by CERT..
If you are interested in learning more about any of these programmes or even booking a place please contact Ms Louise Lyons, Administrator, Tel 01- 884 7763 or Email: nhp@cert.ie

The National Hygiene Partnership is the trading name for a Partnership of Government Agencies and Industry Representatives Bodies which was established for the purpose of developing , promoting and coordinating a range of food safety training initiatives for the Irish Food Sectors. The NHP is registered for VAT in Ireland, Registration number 9535893H and the business address is Abbey Court, Block B. Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1.