The World Health Organization has estimated that approximately 600 million people fall ill after consuming contaminated food each year.
This means food safety is a public health concern that must be taken very seriously. This is also why the law requires all food serving, preparing, and manufacturing businesses to train their employees on the safe preparation, cooking, and handling of food.
Below, we’ve outlined common food safety hazards as well as why encouraging safety training in the workplace is important.
Common Food Safety Hazards
Food poisoning and allergic reactions are two of the most common food safety hazards.
Most foodborne illnesses — such as typhoid fever, dysentery, and hepatitis, result from food handling mistakes, including bad personal hygiene or contaminated food preparation surfaces.
To prevent your customers from these diseases, it is crucial to train your staff on:
The causes of food poisoning (bacteria, toxins, and viruses)
How to identify high-risk foods or potentially hazardous foods such as raw meat
How food can become contaminated
How to safely store, prepare, thaw, cook, and serve food
How to effectively clean and sanitize surfaces, equipment, and utensils
The importance of proper personal hygiene
This is where food safety training comes in. If every employee undergoes a Food Handler Certification course, you can rest assured that they have the skills and knowledge required to handle food properly and can uphold high standards of cleanliness while at work.
Exposure to food allergens can cause anaphylactic shock, which is notorious for being fatal. A majority of serious allergic reactions occur through food eaten at restaurants, which indicates that many food businesses are still falling behind when it comes to allergen management.
To prevent your customers from potentially life-threatening allergic reactions, you must ensure your employees:
Understand some of the most common food allergens as outlined in this food allergen chart
Know that food allergies can be life-threatening and should be taken seriously
Know how to communicate with the customer regarding food allergies
Take all precautions to prepare a safe meal
Know how to recognize the symptoms of an allergic reaction
Know how to respond in case a customer develops an allergic reaction
Understand how cross-contamination with food allergens can occur and how to prevent it
Keep in mind that an anaphylactic shock is not the only type of food allergy. Many people have milder forms of food allergy — such as gluten-allergy in celiac disease patients — and it’s important to take them as seriously as an anaphylactic shock.
The Importance of Food Handling Training at the Workplace
When serving food to the public, you bear an enormous responsibility for the health and safety of your customers and your staff.
The specific content of a food training course depends on the training level, but in general, it should cover safe practices in preparing, cooking, and handling food.
Some essential subjects include:
Introduction to food safety terminology
Food safety regulations
Recognizing food safety hazards
Proper cleaning and sanitation methods
Employee safety practices
Contamination and how to prevent it
Common allergens and prevention
Proper food storage
Here are four reasons why teaching all of these topics to your staff is crucial:
1. It’s Good for Business Growth
If your food is giving somebody food poisoning or sending them into anaphylactic shock, that will hardly be great for your brand image. Any negative reviews about your business’s safety and hygiene standards can cause serious financial losses and damage your business’s reputation.
If your business receives repetitive customer complaints or fails a health inspection check, you’ll be obligated to pay hefty fines and in serious circumstances can even be held legally responsible for harming a customer.
On the other hand, if you invest time and resources into an extensive food handling training program, you can help ensure the safety of your customers and staff, protect your brand image and reputation, prevent customer complaints and negative reviews, and avoid serious consequences like costly fines or business closure.
Having a well-trained, competent, and knowledgeable team of employees at the helm also allows you to take a step back from day-to-day operations such as cleaning and sanitation and focus on growing your business instead.
2. It’s a Legal Requirement
Food handling training is critical for a business’s success but is also a legal requirement. If you serve food to the public in any form, you are recognized as a food business under the law and must adhere to all food safety training regulations.
Organizations that fail to implement proper food safety training (and the safe practices that result from it) risk breaching food safety legislation. In severe cases, businesses can be shut down if there’s a high safety risk. Business owners and employees can also face hefty fines, penalties, and jail sentences if there’s a gross breach of reasonable care.
Importantly, food handling regulations are constantly being revised, and it’s essential to stay updated with local legislation to ensure your business complies with all requirements.
3. It Reduces Food Waste
Poor food handling practices can result in a significant waste of food supplies, which in turn can lead to financial losses. This is why it’s important to train your employees on the correct food handling procedures, such as temperature control, proper storage methods, and understanding ‘best-before’ dates to help prevent food waste.
4. It Helps Protect Your Staff
Food handling training is essential not just for the safety of your consumers, but also for your staff. A busy restaurant kitchen can be a high-risk place, and every employee must be properly trained on safety and correct usage of kitchen equipment to ensure they do not suffer any injuries while at work. Examples of such injuries include:
Burns from cooking equipment
Cuts from food preparation
Muscle strain from lifting heavy objects
Skin irritation/eye irritation from cleaning agents and hazardous chemicals
Back and leg strain from standing for a long time
This means it might be a good idea to incorporate safety training in your food handling training efforts at the workplace.
We hope this article has made it clear why teaching food handling to your employees is so important.
With the right training and safety measures in place, you can ensure the safety of your customers, staff, and business.
So take the time to invest in designing an effective food handling training program today!
About the author
Eva Maria Hanson, Digital Food Safety Specialist
My mission in FoodDocs is to reverse the misconception of people thinking about food safety as the most boring or scary topic in the business. My target is to educate and inspire everyone who sells or serves food about food safety.