A practical solution

Related tags Food hygiene Hygiene

A new training programme aims to help licensees comply with the law cheaply and easilyTraining for staff who handle food is now a legal requirement,...

A new training programme aims to help licensees comply with the law cheaply and easily

Training for staff who handle food is now a legal requirement, and for many pubs it can prove extremely costly. High labour turnover only adds to the burden, making it seem like a never-ending process.

Many licensees may be put off sending staff on a formal course to get their Basic Food Hygiene Certificate simply because they aren't sure how long that employee is going to stay at the pub. When a member of staff has only minimal contact with food, it may seem like taking a sledgehammer to a nut.

Now one training company has come up with a possible way out of the dilemma.

SRA Creative - the training division of leading food safety and health and safety consultant Stephen Rhodes Associates - has developed an innovative workbook-based training system specially designed to satisfy the law in a quick and cost-effective way.

Practical Hygiene has been developed in conjunction with the hospitality industry's Normanton Group of training managers. It comprises a food hygiene education programme that is tailored to specific job functions to make sure the content of the course is fully relevant to the needs of the employee. That in itself, says SRA, can greatly reduce the cost of delivering training.

"From as little as £10.50 per employee, bar, kitchen and food service staff can be trained in the specific food hygiene issues affecting their job," said Zoe England, project manager at SRA Creative.

"The combination of cost savings and a dramatic reduction in the time needed to train employees has already prompted leading pub operators to use the Practical Hygiene system across hundreds of pubs," she continued. "Our clients include McMullens of Hertford, Burtonwood Brewery, Hardys & Hansons and Charles Wells."

Practical Hygiene covers important food handling and hygiene topics in a humorous and engaging way through liberal use of cartoons (see pictures)​ and easy-to-understand text.

The company believes that the general workbook plus one job-specific workbook will provide all the training most pub staff will legally require.

"Following this low-cost initial introduction, only those involved in food preparation will have to go on to take the full basic food hygiene certificate," said Zoe. "The savings a business can make in training, therefore, will be very significant."

A starter pack consisting of a tutor guide, 12 general workbooks and any combination of 12 topic workbooks is priced at £150. Preview packs of the Practical Hygiene course are also available.

Food Safety Regulations: the law on training

The Food Safety Regulations 1995 require that staff working with food - and drinks, here, fall within the definition of food - must be "supervised and instructed and/or trained in food hygiene".

There is currently no blanket legal obligation on you to provide your staff with formal training to any particular standard, but you must make sure they are competent in "food hygiene matters commensurate with their work activities".

Someone simply pouring pints behind the bar would therefore require less food safety training than someone preparing meals in the kitchen.

If, however, you get into bother with the environmental health officer, demonstrating that you have made an effort to train your people adequately will help your case no end.

New, untrained staff handling food should certainly be supervised from the start and given formal training as soon as possible - within three months at the latest.

The best known entry-level qualification is the Basic Food Hygiene Certificate from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.

This is widely available through colleges, local authorities and other training organisations and aims to ensure that anyone working in a business handling food not only meets the requirements of the 1995 regulations but is also able to understand the practical procedures and methods of applying food hygiene in the workplace.

Even without the law breathing down your neck, it makes sense, with all the food scares flying around, that all your people understand the importance of hygiene and are able to follow correct procedures in the kitchen and elsewhere.

Soda crystals on course to clean up again

Concerns over the amount of chemicals finding their way back into the water course and ultimately the food chain has sparked a renewed interest in a time-honoured cleaning and disinfectant product - sodium carbonate decahydrate.

More commonly known as soda crystals, they have been used in the home and by professional caterers for a wide range of purposes for more than 150 years.

They have now been brought up to date with the introduction by manufacturer Dripak of a liquid version - making it possible to use it as a surface cleaner.

The main purpose of soda crystals - among 50 others - is to dissolve grease meaning it can tackle greasy pans, chargrills and barbecues and anywhere food has become burnt on.

But that's far from their only use. Chinese cooks use them diluted as a dip for traditional woks because they clean them without removing the seasoning seal that is built up over time.

Outside the kitchen they can be used for unblocking drains, for cleaning and disinfecting work surfaces, for cleaning pavements and stonework, even for killing moss!

Surprisingly, they can also be used in cooking for making vegetables tender and for retaining the colour of pulses in such dishes as mushy peas.

Not only are they inexpensive and readily available on supermarket shelves, they are more environmentally friendly than many other cleaning products as they contain no phosphates, enzymes or bleach.

A helpline is open to advise on applications and usage of soda crystals. Call 0115 932 5165.

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