A professional body for those in food science and technology wants to hear from food safety specialists about their work during the past year.

The Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) is looking for up to 15 people working in roles where food safety is critical.

The group wants to know how people made a positive impact in the workplace that has contributed to food safety improvements in the supply chain. Applicants have up to 500 words to describe what the problem was and how it was identified, their role in developing a solution or improvement and the outcome for them, the business and customers.

The competition is open to those employed in the food supply chain in the UK and overseas. Contenders must have been working in the food industry in a scientific or technically related role for less than five years. See full terms and conditions here.

Successful entries will be awarded a year’s complimentary associate membership with IFST and a place at the spring conference, which is set online for April 26 to May 7. Winners will be invited to a presentation and careers mentoring session with the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).

Erica Sheward, director of GFSI, said: “New professionals making a career in the food sector are our future security in maintaining and ensuring the continuous improvement of food safety practices and culture in the industry and need relevant opportunities for continuous learning and professional development. Understanding the food safety implications of changes to the supply chain such as we are experiencing now post EU exit, is vital going forward.”

The deadline for entries to info@ifst.org is April 9, 2021. They will be judged by a panel chaired by Jon Poole, IFST chief executive.

Training changes because of pandemic
Poole was part of a session at the virtual GFSI Conference this past week on food safety training and professional development about the benefits and challenges of remote learning.

Jon Poole speaking at the GFSI conference

“It’s important that food safety professionals, including auditors, keep up to date with the latest in science, technology and the regulatory landscape and all of these needs still exist today in this lockdown world and we need to find virtual ways of delivering Continuing Professional Development (CPD) that is engaging and effective,” he said.

The online environment during lockdown has led to a difficulty in developing skills, said Poole.

“For food safety professionals there is the knowledge you have got to learn but the skills side is really important and there is a danger in the online world that it is more difficult to accomplish. The testing from the trainer’s point of view to check somebody has learned adequately and acquired the necessary skills is difficult to do virtually.”

Poole said food safety is a complex area with not only the knowledge, but also the skills, behaviors and attitudes that individuals have and demonstrate needing to be considered.

“Knowledge can be learned relatively easily but once you get into the complexities of skills and behavior then that becomes quite difficult online. Keeping it to small groups is a help. When as a trainer you are in a classroom you are continually scanning to watch people’s attention and whether they understand,” he said.

“There needs to be some element of testing, it’s not just about listening to a presentation, ticking and saying I’ve done that because quite often that needs to be validated. You’ve got to look at the robustness of the test environment, is the individual getting help and how is the test going to be presented and invigilated.”

Poole said there is a need to think harder beforehand to prepare sessions to meet the same standards you’d get in the real world.

“If you can do that there are some benefits in terms of accessibility for people all around the world. One thing that does work is one to one mentoring which really lends itself to this. The hybrid one is difficult for training because you’ve got to try and give equal attention to those in the classroom and those on screen. I think the answer is going to blended learning, you’ll have the knowledge element delivered in creative ways on screen and that will give people the core knowledge and then you’ll put them in a physical classroom environment to do the practical stuff.”

Food safety professional recognition call
Meanwhile, the Global Harmonization Initiative (GHI) has called for countries to make Food Safety Professional (FSPro) a regulated profession, similar to the medical or legal sector.

The proposal for the recognition and regulation of food safety professionals includes defining responsibilities, setting formal requirements for education, and establishing professional bodies and registers.

There are hardly any set requirements for those responsible for the design and management of food safety, according to the non-profit network of scientists. This is despite their roles and responsibilities being important to public health, and the fact that they have the necessary scientific qualification and knowledge to do their job.

In the medical or legal professions, doctors, nurses and lawyers must have a specific degree to access the industry, and register with their professional body before being allowed to practice.

Most countries have requirements for food producing companies to have their products covered by HACCP plans. However, there are no rules as to who is qualified to develop and/or manage the implementation of a HACCP plan. As a result, they are often ineffective, misguided or not implemented properly, according to GHI.

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