Analyses of foodborne disease around the world have shown that most food associated diseases result from malpractices in food preparation. Therefore, training and education in food handling for food workers, including personal hygiene is a food safety requirement. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that poor food handling practices in food service establishments are a leading cause of food-borne diseases. Improper food handling practices include
- cross contamination of raw and cooked food
- inadequate cooking
- storage at inappropriate temperatures
The food service and food processing industries need to provide food safety training to its food handlers which is ongoing, as that would help to reduce the risk of food becoming contaminated. Providing food safety training to employees from time to time is also a brand statement that builds your reputation as an organisation that cares for consumers’ well being and health. Ongoing training is especially required for workers in the hospitality, food manufacturing and food retail sectors as and when new food safety requirements come up.
Unless food handlers understand the need for personal hygiene, cleaning and sanitation they could be resentful. Providing ongoing training to workers in food businesses increases their knowledge and understanding of food safety and hence reduces food safety risks. An effective food safety programme will enable food handlers to apply hygiene training, storage and cleaning techniques to everyday working operations and effectively uphold food safety norms. A food safety system that enables consumers to enjoy safe and clean food, prevent allergies and foodborne illnesses will build your business as customers would recommend you to others.
FSSAI has also recommended that all licensed food businesses must have at least one trained and certified Food Safety Supervisor under FoSTaC for every 25 food handlers in each premise. The FSSAI also provides 17 types of competence-based certification programmes under FoSTaC. Duration of each course is of 8 to 12 hours spreading over 1 to 2 days. Courses have been developed by domain experts and visited by expert committee of FSSAI. Training manuals are based on general hygiene or manufacturing practices as detailed under schedule 4 of FSS Regulation courses have been divided into following 3 levels.
- Basic level certification is meant for food business. Duration of each course is of 4 hours. Course are: –
(1) Street Food Vending,
(3) Manufacturing / Processing,
(4) Storage & Transport
(5) Retail & Distribution
- Advanced courses and certification are for State & Central Licensed food business. Duration of each course is 8 hours. Course are: –
(2) Manufacturing / Processing,
(3) Storage & Transport,
(4) Retail & Distribution
- Special courses have been developed for high risk food business or the food businesses which require special attention. Duration of special course is 8-12 hours. Spread over 1-2 days. Course are: –
(1) Milk & Milk Products
(2) Meat & Poultry
(3) Fish & Sea Food
(4) Packaged Water
(5) Bakery (Level 1)
(6) Bakery (Level 2)
(7) Edible Oil and Fat
(8) Health Supplement
In course of time FSSAI could also offer additional training courses, including customised courses could be introduced in due course as the need arises. Currently, courses are being offered on face to face mode, while this would be continued, but subject to availability of credible training partners, some of the courses could be allowed through online mode as well. FSSAI has created training content for the above courses. The same is currently available in English and is being translated in Hindi and 10 regional languages.
Training becomes more beneficial when there is an effective follow-up where monitoring and mentoring is required in the food premises. This is where a trained supervisor is required to ensure that food handlers are applying their knowledge to good practices. Training coupled with mentoring prepares food handlers to follow food safety behaviour. Theoretical knowledge alone is not enough for them to continue with the behavioural change and good practices.
Training should include informing food handlers about the illnesses that require them to stay home. Vomiting and diarrhoea are two such illnesses that require food workers to stay home and in today’s scenario COVID-19 symptoms of fever, cough, etc. Food handlers must be made aware that any carelessness in this regard could lead to transmission of the diseases to others through direct transmission or through surfaces like doorknobs, menus, sink taps or via the food that is handled by them if they are ill. Ongoing food safety training therefore, prevents the spread of diseases. Food-workers in many settings have been responsible for foodborne disease so training and preventive measures should be undertaken.
Food handlers may also be asymptomatic carriers of diseases and could also serve as a potential source of contamination of food if they follow poor hygiene practices. Adequate training and transfer of that training to improved behavioural change can lead to better food handling practices. Research studies suggest that ongoing food handling training like refresher courses or short duration courses can increase food safety practices. Studies also indicate that training that is targeted at a specific need in food handler’s area of work, show improved food safety behaviour.
Training on good food safety practices, provides the knowledge food handlers need to make safe and informed decisions about their own food handling practices. When staff are properly trained, less food is wasted, contaminated or lost due to poor handling. Ongoing training and everyday application of the food safety principles will lead to food safety behaviour becoming second nature. Refresher courses serve as a reminder that they must continue with good food safety practices. Training courses provide direction and knowledge for them to follow food safety norms. Additionally, they get to know the latest on food handling and understand what food inspectors will look for during their inspections.