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Food Safety Training Shock

Food Safety Training Shock

A snapshot survey of the amount and type of training undertaken by New Zealand's food industry workers has revealed that just over one in five has had no formal food safety training whatsoever.

The survey was commissioned by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA), as part of its Domestic Food Review (DFR), to determine the current arrangements relating to food safety education and training within New Zealand's burgeoning food industry. It involved individuals, companies and education providers.

Results show that the most common form of training takes no more than a day or, at the most, less than a week, and that many of the shorter programmes are designed specifically to meet the base legislative requirements.

It reveals that industry concerns about high staff turnover, which is estimated to be about 35% a year, could be a contributing factor for employers who may consider food safety training to be a costly investment for a relatively short-term gain.

NZFSA considers education and training to be crucial to ensuring the delivery of safe and suitable food in New Zealand. As part of the DFR, NZFSA's Position Paper which was published in February asked readers about the role of government in this area in the future.

Carole Inkster, NZFSA's Director of Policy, says: "Education and Training in the Food Sector Survey Report is a snapshot of current education and training trends within the food sector. It looks at which sectors undertake training, what type (for example, standards, or non standards-based) and who provides it (ie, in-house, contract trainers or educational institutes).

"It enables us to identify issues around training and education that may need to be addressed as part of the DFR.

"The Food Act is silent on training for people in the food sector. As a consequence about a third of local governments require such training through local government bylaws. This means there is no consistent, national approach."

The survey was well supported and returned just over 400 responses from the sectors approached. These included:

retail
food service
food processing
food manufacturing
education providers.

The survey indicates that training is equally driven by personal motivation and organisational requirements.

It found that the food service industry, which is primarily responsible for serving individual customers, had the highest level of staff who had received some training (84%).

In the food manufacturing industry 81% of respondents had received training, of which 67% had attended NZQA-approved courses, and 33% had attended either in-house training or courses provided by private training establishments.

Data was collected from an organisational and individual perspective. Where one person was approached to complete the survey on behalf of an organisation, another employee within that organisation was approached to provide their own perspective.

All of the polytechnics and universities surveyed are NZQA registered, with 71% of private training establishments and half of contract trainers delivering NZQA unit standard-based courses. The majority of these courses do not have a refresher or renewal component.

Says Carole: "The survey provides government with an overall picture of the current status of education and training that's undertaken and available within the food sector and will help assess future needs in this area."

The DFR is a significant long-term project that's likely to run over five years and aims to put in place a food regulatory programme across all sectors of New Zealand's domestic food industry that promotes and delivers safe and suitable food in New Zealand.

A copy of the report is available on the NZFSA website at:
www.nzfsa.govt.nz/policy-law/projects/domestic-food-review/education-and-training-report/index.htm


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