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If a health inspector finds problems with a foodservice business, one of the standard recommendations is that food safety courses be taken by management and employees. There are several online options to choose from and evaluating them can be daunting for a time-starved manager.
Many are set up to be a bargain basement option where you pay money, answer a few questions on a test, and receive a food safety certification. Choosing the cheapest option is a mistake because employees are unlikely to retain any information or develop the problem solving skills they need to accurately spot the same food safety issues that a health inspector would, which ultimately is what you need your employees to do.
Food safety training must be enjoyable & context is king
Food safety training must be interactive and enjoyable to be effective. Research shows that the more a learner is engaged, the more they retain information. This is done with the use of interactive digital learning, video, and more. Visual aids are also very effective for food handlers who have learned English as a second language, both in learning and in the kitchen in the form of infographics and posters.
When it comes to teaching food handlers about food safety, how the information is presented is just as important as the content of the course. If a course just lists off facts about food safety, the learner’s retention will be low. It is important to contextualize the information with visual aids such as infographics and presenting problem-spotting scenarios that allow learners to put the information into action with real-world examples they may run into during the course of their work.
The difference between “what” and “why”
Telling a food handler that they have to do something such as keeping specific foods at certain temperatures will just cause the information to go in one ear and out the other. Telling them why, by educating them about the various foodborne bacteria that can grow on food if it is kept at unsafe temperatures, will help them to retain the information because they will understand the “why” of keeping food at the correct temperatures.
After-course tools like infographics and audit forms reinforce learning
Once the training is complete, giving them an audit form can help them keep a running checklist of everything they’ve learned and apply it to their work. Empowering them to audit their own work environment will help them take ownership of their work and apply the food safety lessons they have learned in a real, practical way. To get the most out of it, they should be required to do an audit immediately after they have finished their training when the information is freshest in their minds.
Sometimes, when you are in the weeds, it is difficult to remember all your food safety training. Infographics and posters in relevant locations (such as an infographic about cooking temperatures near the cooking equipment) will help to reinforce these lessons when they are needed most. They will also help food handlers who have learned English as a second language.
Kevin Freeborn is the owner and President of FoodSafetyMarket, one of Canada’s largest providers of food safety training. FoodSafetyMarket offers online, in-class, and on-premise training to some of the largest brands in Canada and international franchises with Canadian locations. He has had a hand in developing national food safety training programs in the United States and Canada and has a decades-long solid reputation in the industry for providing comprehensive and learner-focused training.