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Food hygiene standards are crucial for anybody who works with food as part of their job. It ensures that the food served or produced is safe to be eaten. The most effective way to guarantee that your work environment avoids any potential food safety risks, is to keep up-to-date with food hygiene training and safe practices. It is a common misconception that only those on the front-line in a food business should be trained in food hygiene practices. When in fact, it is important for both middle and upper management within these companies to have a solid understanding of safe practice, in order to safeguard against any potential lapses.
Why is Food Hygiene Training Important?
When working with, or around, food there are many potential risks involved, and through developing good food hygiene practices within a workplace, the potential risks are significantly reduced. Food hygiene training prevents cross-contamination, food waste, food poisoning and allergic reactions, whilst also ensuring that staff behaviours improve, along with gaining or maintaining a five-star food hygiene rating (which is great for business). It is important that we take a closer look at each one of the points above, in order to fully understand the benefits of food hygiene training.
The Prevention of Cross-Contamination
This is possibly the most important aspect of food hygiene, as cross-contamination of foods can have many detrimental side effects. Firstly, cross-contamination takes place when food is handled in a way that allows for bacteria and allergens to be transferred between surfaces. These surfaces include other foods, work surfaces, hands and equipment. Cross-contamination has the potential to lead to food poisoning, due to the consumption of dangerous bacteria. The two most well-known harmful bacteria, which have the potential to be spread due to cross-contamination are salmonella and E. coli. Both of which, have the ability to make people really ill.
An aspect of cross-contamination that is becoming more prevalent within food hygiene practices concerns allergens. As you will be aware, some people have an allergic reaction when they come into contact with an allergen that their body reacts to, triggering an anaphylactic response. The severity of which is dependent upon the individual. When a person with an allergy buys food, they often need to check that the food does not contain the allergen to which they are allergic. They can do this by asking the waitstaff, or checking labels etc. When an allergen is transferred to a food that would otherwise not contain that specific allergen, it becomes cross-contaminated. This can have a detrimental effect for somebody who purchases food believing it does not contain the allergen they are allergic to. This is referred to as cross-contact, as somehow the allergen is transferred between products due to poor food hygiene practices.
There are many ways to prevent cross-contamination and cross-contact through the use of good hygiene practices, which are included within all decent food hygiene training. These include:
- Washing hands regularly and drying them on a paper towel.
- The use of colour-coded chopping boards.
- Using different knifes, plates, utensils, etc for different types of foods.
- Immediately washing any utensils that have touched raw meat.
- Replacing chopping boards on a regular basis.
- Cleaning work surfaces thoroughly throughout the day.
- Washing all fruit and vegetables.
- Removing all jewellery and watches.
These very simple tricks ensure that cross-contamination will be avoided, and will be included in food hygiene training.
The Prevention of Food Waste
Preventing food waste is becoming a buzz topic and with society moving towards a more economically stable, environmentally aware philosophy, it is important to consider food wastage and the impact this can have on the environment. Food hygiene training will now often incorporate information on how to prevent food wastage within businesses, in order to reduce the environmental impacts. Current statistics show that over 20% of the total food produced is lost or wasted. This is incredible considering that over 43 million people state that they cannot afford a decent meal every second day.
Businesses that produce or sell food products contribute to the rising number of food waste each year. This is often down to stock management issues, inadequate storage and misunderstandings of ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates. Not only will preventing food waste, through proper food hygiene practices, benefit your food hygiene rating, but it will also lead to financial savings, as less of the stock is thrown away. Through the implementation of a food waste reduction initiative, you can ensure that your customers are being provided with safe, environmentally considerate food. Less wastage means better value for money for both the business and the consumer.
Food hygiene training will detail the information required in order to store food safely, whilst reducing wastage. In addition to ensuring than any misconceptions about ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates are addressed. The prevention of food waste is an aspect of food hygiene that is often forgotten, and through appropriate training, all staff involved with food at any stage of the production, food waste can be reduced. Through educating staff in good food hygiene practices, staff members will often change the way they approach food preparation, meaning that less food would be spilled, contaminated or lost, and decreasing wastage not only benefits the environment, but also profits.
Good food hygiene training should cover aspects such as the appropriate temperatures to store different foods, the containers food should be stored in and how to implement a food rotation system. These will all prevent food going out of date or becoming unsuitable. Thus ensuring the food produced, or served, is of a good quality.
The Achievement of Five Star Food Hygiene Ratings
The Food Standards Agency (or FSA) provides a rating system which offers consumers an easy to understand picture of the hygiene practices within a business. The ratings range from 5 to 0 dependent upon a business’s food hygiene standards. Good food hygiene training will teach all of those involved with food at any stage what good practice looks like, and what they should be working towards. It should provide an almost check-list like approach to ensuring a business meets industry standards by saying if you implement these things, you will have a five-star FSA rated establishment. This means that the food provided is safe for consumption and of a high quality, something all businesses should strive towards.
The benefits of having a five-star FSA rating are many. Firstly, by displaying your food hygiene rating you are showing your consumers that the food you provide is safe, and cooked in a clean environment. As consumers are becoming savvier when it comes to food hygiene, it is important that they can see quickly that your business is a safe place. People assume, correctly, that by having a 5-star rating, your place of business is also clean, in addition to being hygienic in their food preparation.
A 5-star food rating also provides awareness for your brand. By advertising your score you are telling the world that your place of business is of a high standard and that you ensure their safety, as well as the safety of your staff. When consumers see the 5-star rating it is assumed that the staff are highly trained and proficient in their fields too.
Once the 5-star rating is achieved, this often spurs staff on to maintain the standard they have reached. This is a huge boost for staff morale, as they know that they are highly trained and knowledgeable. This also supports their long-term job security and potential, and by looking after the staff in this way, you are creating a good working environment and atmosphere. All as the result of food hygiene training, and a five-star accreditation, which, arguably, all places of business should adhere to anyway.
Impact of Poor Food Hygiene
Poor food hygiene is something to take very seriously. The impacts of not maintaining high food safety standards can dramatically impact a business. With UK consumers becoming increasingly less tolerant of poor hygiene practices, it isn’t surprising that a poor food hygiene rating will often cause businesses to lose up to 75% of their customers. Poor practices can destroy businesses, in addition to putting the public at risk.
Poor hygiene causes an increased risk of:
- Food poisoning.
- Slip injuries.
- Pest infestations.
- Gastroenteritis outbreaks.
- Campylobacter poisoning.
It is no wonder that 42.2% of customers would not return to a restaurant if their food hygiene score had decreased.
During an FSA inspection, a business can potentially be closed down on the spot if it is considered to be an immediate risk to the public. The FSA has shown that 94% of businesses pass food safety inspections, and that those who do not meet these standards are a great risk of being permanently closed. Sometimes, those who fail to meet standards so badly, are prosecuted. According to the Guardian in 2016, 100 businesses were successfully prosecuted due to poor food hygiene practices.
Proper training ensures that businesses, and their customers, are safe. There is no excuse for poor hygiene in a business, especially one that is based around food preparation and production.
Food Hygiene Renewals
You might now be wondering when you need to update your food hygiene training. Now that we have taken a look at the reasons why food hygiene is so essential; it is pertinent that we discuss food hygiene training renewals.
Food hygiene certificates do not expire. However, many businesses adopt the procedure of staff renewing their certifications on an annual basis. Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 food hygiene certificates are the most common ones you will find in the food industry. The law states that anybody who works with food should be trained for their role, but does not state how often training needs to occur or what that training needs to be. Therefore, it is often down to a business to create their own food hygiene training policy. An employer must be able to demonstrate that their staff are adequately trained.
In the UK, it is considered best practice to update food hygiene certificates every three years. This ensures that staff are refreshed on the key points, in addition to becoming aware of any further developments.
Dependent upon your level within the business, you may benefit from a different level of certification. If you are a supervisor or food manager, it is advised that you are Level 3 certified. Whilst, restaurant workers, hotel workers, bar staff, schools and universities are advised to be certified to Level 2. Level 1 food hygiene would be suitable for front of house staff, waitstaff or food delivery drivers.
In Summary: Why is it Important to Have Up-to-Date Food Hygiene Training?
Food hygiene training is important as it ensures that both staff and customers are kept safe, first and foremost. Receiving training ensures that the staff within a business understand best practice and procedures, in order to effectively meet their duties. Up-to-date food hygiene training, including the renewal of food hygiene certificates, prevents cross-contamination, poisoning and allergic reactions. It also minimises food wastage, and supports the achievement of a 5-star FSA rating. The inclusion of good food hygiene practices ensures that the workplace is pleasant, in addition to being a safe place for customers and staff. The environmental, financial and safety benefits of food hygiene training ensure that a business can run smoothly and safely.
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