By AIB International

Manufacturing, processing, packing, and distributing safe, nutritious, and high-quality food has always been a challenge. With ever-changing regulations and local laws, new employee onboarding and much more, the need for consistent training to ensure food safety is undoubtedly crucial.

The current economic climate has made already complex tasks even more challenging. Suddenly, the food supply chain has been experiencing an influx of issues: labor shortages, limited supplies, food fraud cases on the rise, and tight timelines, just to name a few examples.

Even though site staff are working as hard as they can, they are unable to train their food safety and sanitation personnel fast enough, resulting in inefficient processes and a higher probability of missing key issues that compromise food safety and product quality, may result in recalls, and negatively impact the reputation of your brand.

Add to the equation the fact that consumers have become more demanding. They want to know what they are eating and how it has been prepared, but they also want to be certain that they won’t get sick if they decide to consume a specific food.

Back to the basics

Upon returning to their facilities after the lockdown, some manufacturing leaders discovered that their teams “had forgotten” how to conduct basic food safety procedures. And, on top of that, new personnel needed to be trained quickly and efficiently on food safety and sanitation concepts and practices.

Companies, on the other hand, started facing a new reality: experienced staff decided it was time to retire, and now key positions are vacant or temporarily filled by someone not yet ready for that level.

As regulatory scrutiny continues to grow, food supply chains must train front-line workers and accelerate mid-management preparation, so they are ready to take on more responsibility, while ensuring that food quality and reputation are protected at the same time.

The legal training requirements

Education and training are no longer optional. Some provisions of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that were previously nonbinding are now binding, including education and training. Management is required to ensure that all employees who manufacture, process, pack or hold food are qualified to perform their assigned duties.

A combination of education, training, and/or experience is required for such employees. They must also receive training in food hygiene and food safety principles, as well as on the importance of employee health and hygiene in relation to food, facilities, and roles assigned to them.

Employers must, however, find creative solutions to overcome two important challenges in the current economic climate: how to effectively train employees and how to pay for it. As the current global inflation crisis is affecting companies at all levels, some are providing just the basic trainings to comply with legal requirements.

Learning one step at a time

So, let’s begin by keeping in mind a crucial fact: forgoing food safety training and continued education is a risk you simply cannot afford. First, you might be violating some local regulations, like FSMA. Second, you won’t have the chance to keep certain talented employees. And third, you risk a bridge in your food safety protocols, having to deal with a potential recall, foodborne illness problems, losing sales, and eventually, damaging your reputation.

A different course of action in the current business climate might be to reevaluate how best to spend your already constrained training budget. Here are some ideas:

  1. Identify key talents you want to retain. Map the trainings they will need to complete to advance on their careers. Work on a timeline to try to cover those gaps throughout the year. By discussing this mid to long term educational plan with your key talents, you might be decreasing attrition and increasing loyalty.
  2. Identify people in key roles and map the knowledge they will require to carry out their responsibilities. With specific online trainings, users may learn at their own pace and have access to excellent content at affordable prices. This small investment in their development contributes to a robust food safety culture and help you strengthen their loyalty.
  3. For your front-line workers, you can always try to negotiate a deal with an online training partner. You could buy packages that include multiple users at a discounted rate.

In summary, training must always be a priority. Simply use the various alternatives at your disposal to optimize your resources in innovative ways.

To help you map your employees’ level of expertise, needs, and duties, below is a list of available online trainings that might serve as a reference:

Food Safety and Sanitation Online: this course is geared towards helping mid-level managers and supervisors in the food supply chain more effectively manage their food safety systems. Due to its unique curriculum and design, participants can select from the 24 modules and complete those relevant to their needs or responsibilities. No limit is placed on the number of modules an individual can complete.

Food Safety and Sanitation Online – Integrated Pest Management: eight core modules specifically designed to provide the knowledge needed to support an integrated pest management program in a food facility.

Food Safety and Sanitation Online for Non-U.S. Exporters: companies interested in international markets can choose the non-FDA related modules to expand their knowledge of sanitation and food safety.

Food Safety Essential: design to support frontline workers quickly gain the knowledge they need to perform their jobs. This training is available in English, Spanish and Mandarin.

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