Trading Standards Institute Advice

Food safety training

This leaflet is for all food businesses, including those involved in catering, food production, food preparation, retail premises, restaurants, pubs, cafes, and fast-food shops.

Who is responsible for training?
The 'business operator' (often this is the owner) is responsible for making sure that people who handle food are trained to give them the skills they need to carry out their work efficiently and safely.

By law, your staff must be trained and/or supervised appropriately for the work they do. The person or people responsible for running the food business must be trained to make sure they understand the food safety management system in place and how the system is used and maintained to ensure food safety each day.

Why is training important?
You should not think of staff training as an annoying exercise you need to do to satisfy the environmental health officer and comply with food safety law. The production of safe food needs all staff to keep to good food hygiene working practices all the time. This needs to be monitored and reviewed to make sure good food safety standards are kept to.

Food safety training will help prevent food being contaminated and promotes the health of consumers. Your business may also benefit because:

  • there will be less waste, which will reduce your costs
  • you will be more productive, helping to increase your profits
  • you will have fewer complaints, which will help your business's reputation

Training will also help you promote your business's image to customers, create positive attitudes to food hygiene in your business, and help to improve customer care.

These are important aims in the management of any successful business. 

What training is required by law?
The law does not clearly say that a training certificate in food safety is needed. However, your business may find it difficult to prove that the right amount and correct level of training has taken place unless a recognised qualification has been achieved and staff training records kept.

The amount of training your staff will need depends on the type of work each member of the team does, and the nature of your business. No member of staff should be involved in producing or serving food without first having at least a basic understanding of food safety issues and this is why induction training before someone starts work with high risk foods is important.

If your staff are supervised and are only working with pre-packaged food, they may only need basic training or instructions.

However, most staff, especially those handling open food, should achieve a Level 2 Food Safety in Catering qualification.

What levels of training are available?
This is a basic level of qualification aimed at caterers and retailers who need an understanding of temperature control, cross-contamination and personal hygiene. Staff may only handle wrapped foods, be involved in receiving deliveries or washing up and this is an ideal qualification for them to have.

It is recommended that this is the minimum level of training that staff working with high risk foods should achieve.

This course is usually run over one day, with a multiple choice question paper at the end. It is a nationally recognised qualification and a certificate is awarded when you pass the assessment.

You may find that local markets or your local council's environmental health service need proof that you've had this training before letting you trade.

Staff who are responsible for monitoring food hygiene may need to be trained to Level 3. This will give them an understanding of the requirements and the information to develop the supervisory skills needed.

This course involves 18 hours of training, with a multiple choice question paper at the end. Again it is a nationally recognised qualification and a certificate is awarded when you pass the assessment.

Staff who need food-safety management skills, and staff who are responsible for designing standards and putting in place food safety management systems and processes, should to be trained to Level 4.

This course level looks in depth at a range of food safety principles and is usually run over five or six days. It is an intensive course and spread over a period of time with a gap between the taught course and the examination to allow study time. There is a written exam of two to three hours at the end of the course. The course also includes a controlled assessment which must completed under exam conditions before sitting the final exam.

Food safety courses content
The amount of information given depends on the level of the course, but each course covers the following subjects:

  • the law
  • personal hygiene
  • food safety policies
  • temperature control
  • HACCP (Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points)
  • pest control
  • food poisoning and food borne disease
  • design and construction of premises
  • food safety hazards
  • cleaning and disinfection
  • food safety monitoring
  • food hygiene training

Awarding organisations for food safety courses
Various organisations accredit food safety courses at all levels and award the certificates. Food safety training companies are registered to run courses on their behalf. 

The individual organisations can tell you about training companies near you. These organisations include the following companies:

Where can I find details of local training courses?
Many local authorities and private training companies offer training courses. A range of courses and dates will be available and trainers may be willing to come to your workplace to hold a course on site.

For more information on food safety courses you should speak to your local authority or the awarding organisations, who will have details of registered trainers in your area.

You may find it cheaper to organise group training, depending on how many of your staff you can release from the day-to-day running of your business. You may be able to hold a training course at your business if you have the room. Or, it may be cheaper for you to send individual or small groups of staff to a course at a local training provider.

Some companies you want to supply food to, may want you to have specific training outside the standard guidelines and you may need to provide 'in house' training sessions to meet these requirements.

In every food business, you must provide regular refresher training. This is to make sure that your staff remember the rules and routines for good hygiene, and that they keep to high standards of hygiene and safety in the workplace. It is recommended that nationally recognised training certificates should be updated every three years

More information
You will find further guidance in our other leaflets on this website. Information can also be found on the Food Standards Agency website.

Alternatively, contact your local environmental health service for advice.

Please note
This leaflet is not an authoritative interpretation of the law and is intended only for guidance.

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