I think you will agree with me that one of the typical gaps are the lack of training and education on what to do and why to do it.
It’s not (only) about the papers
All HACCPs work on paper (theoretically), the problem is that safe food is not produced by documents but by workers in the field. More than 55 years after the birth of HACCP there are still an alarming number of foodborne illness outbreaks. It is only natural that consumers may ask: Why? Is it the HACCP plan’s fault or the organizations’ responsibility?
Well, we food safety professionals know that there are many reasons to justify those foodborne illnesses. I think you will agree with me that one of the most common is the lack of training and education on WHAT to do and WHY to do it.
When we talk about the WHY to do it, as you may know, I have been advocating since 2019 that workers (and business) must adopt the SLO mindset. If you want to know more about SLO (Saving Lives Officer) mindset and movement click here.
Regarding WHAT to do, many books, posts, articles have been written to help food safety professionals with science based content. In my opinion, most of the time, the content is not the problem. Before the content, there are other simple things that should be clear in a food safety professional’s mind, such as the difference between training and education.
Training and education play a decisive role in producing safe food.
When we talk about training, we focus on teaching workers what needs to be done. That is why we train workers to monitor CCPs, to work with metal detectors or how to clean equipment, for example.
To make training effective ,there are two questions that need to be answered upfront:
1- Who needs the training?
2. What are the desired outcomes?
If you are a food safety professional, you shouldn’t go to top management for funding before the replies for those questions are clear in your mind. Remember, link the outcome of the training to HACCP (and, in possible, to business) objectives. By doing that, the training relevance and even potential economic benefits are more clear (e.g., reduce waste, reduce complains, increase productivity).
The term education is more associated with some basic knowledge that enables workers to understand the training, and most importantly, why it needs to be done. Education, in this sense, should always be part of training. Even when participants have the background education to understand the training (e.g. degree, certification), they still need to understand why this particular training is important. Note: education on why it is important should probably be the starting point of every training session.
For an effective HACCP, workers have to have appropriate competence. This is why each role with impact in food safety should have education requirements (e.g. degrees, courses) and training requirements (what workers need to know how to do).
One final note, I see repeatedly is the lack of training being used as the root cause for many non-conformities (interestingly I never see the lack of education!). I urge you not to fall into the temptation of using lack of training as the easy way out of doing a comprehensive root cause analysis. Go deep into the problem and understand what is the basis of the non-conformity. Even if the root cause is REALLY lack of training, maybe you can change the way things are being done to avoid recurrence even when there is lack of training.
PROTIP: search for “Poka-Yoke”
This article was written by:
Nuno F. Soares
Disclaimer: The information contained on this article is based on research done in the last months and the authors personal experience and opinion. It is not intended to represent the view of any organization they work for or collaborate with. The authors will not be held liable for the use or misuse of the information provided in the article.