The first time you drove a car, your parents probably didn’t sit you behind the wheel and expect you to know how to safely navigate traffic. Instead, you probably spent time in driver’s ed, learning the rules of the road and building a foundation of information before you were ever allowed to put a key in the ignition.

Improper quality assurance in the food industry can have consequences that are just as dire as a car accident, and yet the training that many food workers receive is less than adequate. If you work in a food manufacturing facility, it is the job of everyone in your facility to ensure that food safety standards are met. Great training is the fastest way to food safety compliance.

Every Facility Has Different Training Needs

Developing a food safety training program that meets the needs of your facility is not as simple as following a manual or a template. The reason that food safety training is more complex is because legal requirements for training and standards are quite vague, allowing for a good deal of flexibility. The most common standards on which to base this type of training are the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) laid out by the FDA. Rather than outline specific training protocol, these standards use phrases such as “adequate” and “as necessary” to describe facility training methods. Every facility must therefore develop training methods that make sense for their individual methodology, equipment, and final products. While this can make things easier in terms of being able to meet standards upon inspection, it can make it difficult for food safety managers to develop a training program if they do not know where to start.

3 Steps to Developing Food Safety Training Processes?

Because every facility is different, it is impossible to outline how every facility should proceed with training. However, we can offer some tips on developing a food QA and safety program that will pass muster with the FDA and most importantly, keep consumers safe.

Encourage (or Require) Online Training

There are a wide range of online training opportunities available for food safety personnel. Consider each individual’s role in food QA and safety and choose those that would benefit most from these types of courses. For some employees, rigorous training should be mandatory, but it may be a good idea to offer the training as an option to lower ranking employees as well.

Some highly rated available programs include:

PennState: Food Safety & Sanitation for Food Manufacturers
http://foodscience.psu.edu/workshops/food-safety-and-sanitation

Cornell: Good Manufacturing Practices
http://gmptraining.aem.cornell.edu/

NC State: Food Safety Education & Training
https://foodsafety.ncsu.edu/professional-training/

Those who are able to successfully complete these levels of training can be effective leaders within your facility, acting as Persons in Charge of safety training.

Supplement Online Training

Online training from reputable sources is a good place to start for food QA and safety training. However, online courses are just one piece of the puzzle. Once management has completed required training, it should be their job to create and enact a training protocol that will disseminate their knowledge effectively through the facility. The training system management creates should not be a regurgitation of what they learned in their courses, but should incorporate challenges specific to your facility so that its unique safety needs are met.

Be Open to New Ideas

It is important to develop a training program, but it is also important to allow that program to grow as new challenges arise. Management should remain open to new training ideas that come up during the course of regular operations, whether they themselves have them or they come from other employees. Training methods should also be flexible to account for learning styles so that all employees have an equal opportunity to succeed.

Quality assurance in the food industry is part and parcel of maintaining a safe and healthy food supply for U.S. consumers. This level of safety must start with food manufacturers. With proper training, every food manufacturing facility should feel confident that their products are safe and ready for sale.