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Does The Environmental Health Officer Care About Training?

Food poisoning is particularly dangerous to the very young and older people

Care home fined for food hygiene issues

In the Summer of 2018 a care home in Greater Manchester found itself on the receiving end of a hefty fine (£104,000) in relation to food hygiene and safety issues. Since then the facility has improved considerably and is now back on track, which is to their credit, but the initial shock of the fine must have been a big one.

According to the Manchester Evening News the charges included:

…failing to ensure food was protected against contamination, failing to ensure adequate procedures were in place to control pests and failing to ensure food handlers were supervised, instructed and trained in food hygiene matters.

Quite a dramatic list of charges and certainly a major concern in a facility for the elderly who are more likely to suffer serious issues with food poisoning than a younger adult.

There is a very important point being raised in that final line from the charges ‘failing to ensure that food handlers were supervised, instructed and trained in food hygiene matters’ and one that is worth a quick review here.

Was it related to training?

It is not just the cooking team that should be trained.

Everyone should be trained

As you will probably be aware a food handler is basically anyone who touches open food. Usually, this will also include those who come into contact with the service and preparation areas. This is because of the potential for contamination carried by team members who are not directly involved in the preparation or cooking of food. What that means is that in care homes, nurseries, staff canteens and so in, where it is not uncommon for multiple team members to help out with food service, training is needed. It could possibly be argued that since the team are not involved with preparation then a simple internal training session would be enough. However, training is mandatory, and should there be a food hygiene incident and your team are not fully trained then it could well raise some difficult to answer questions. Worse still if there is a problem and your team are not adequately trained then you could be liable for a hefty fine, closure and even imprisonment. Training is not something you can leave to chance because it is the foundation on which the whole of your food hygiene and safety is built.

One of the benefits of being trained is that it encourages people to take action so if the staff are not trained they are less likely to respond to a potential situation. Training builds confidence and understanding and that leads to competence and a pro-active approach to the workplace. In our food hygiene certificate training for example we cover multiple aspects of how to protect against contamination when handling food and how to recognise and respond to potential pests, two of the problem areas detailed above.

So, when your Environmental Health Officer visits, they will certainly expect to be able to see evidence that your team are trained and capable of maintaining standards because it is a basic requirement that underpins the whole of your hygiene and safety process. If you cannot prove your team is trained, and that the training is current (in most cases this means refreshed in the last three years) it could well raise questions about the overall management of your food safety.