‘Cowboy’ online food safety courses and exams putting public at risk

20/12/2012 - 10:18
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has warned that a growing number of online food safety trainers/companies are providing ‘poor advice and incorrect guidance’, potentially putting the health of the public at risk.

A recent investigation by the CIEH identified a training provider who was delivering online training and assessment for an Ofqual-regulated qualification, but with none of the robust quality assurance mechanisms. Following a formal complaint by the CIEH to OFQUAL (the exams regulator) immediate action was taken to stop the provision of this regulated qualification and assessment online.

Commenting, Marianne Phillips, CIEH head of the awarding organisation, said: “The CIEH takes the issue of food safety seriously. Our members in the public sector regulate and enforce food safety and our OFQUAL regulated food safety training qualifications are valued by businesses up and down the country and overseas. Providers that cut corners not only compromise public confidence but also put public safety at risk.”

Proper instruction or training of food handlers in food safety is a legal obligation and businesses must ensure that staff have the knowledge and skills to ensure the health and wellbeing of the customers they serve.

Phillips, added: “We realise that in today’s economic climate businesses will seek a variety of alternative solutions to their training needs, but this can carry a risk. The key issue is that companies need to be careful about misrepresentation of any online training and assessment which is deemed to be regulated or accredited.

“As online food training is largely unregulated, businesses need to be aware that the information they are receiving may not necessarily be accurate and up-to-date. Anyone can set up a food safety training business online and sell a course to the public. In addition, the lack of an invigilated assessment means that no trust can be placed in the ‘award’ made or the ‘accredited’ certificate subsequently displayed in food premises.

“Worse still a lack of food safety knowledge could lead to a food poisoning outbreak, which can be the death knell for a food business and can have a myriad of consequences from reputational damage to business failure.”

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