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Spooked by Your Next GFSI Audit? These Training Tips Can Help.

By Intertek Alchemy   |   

This time of year, it’s fun to be spooked by witches, goblins, and ghosts. But there’s nothing fun about being ill-prepared for a GFSI audit.

As a food safety professional, the idea of a GFSI audit of your food safety training might send shivers down your spine or at least rattle your nerves. Typically, we fear what we don’t know or understand. And for many food safety experts, GFSI training requirements can be extraordinarily vague.

But don’t worry. Intertek Alchemy is here to help with some “eerie-sistable” training tips to make your next GFSI audit less scary. 

Food companies achieve GFSI certification through Certification Program Owners (CPO), such as SQF, BRCGS, FSSC 22000, IFS, all of which emphasize the importance of employee training. These CPOs have specific training requirements and benchmarks.

The overarching GFSI requirement for training under CPOs states:

“A system shall be established, implemented, and maintained to ensure that all employees are trained, and retrained when necessary, to have an understanding of food safety commensurate with their activity.”

The statement is broad and slightly vague because it applies to the global industry. But it also serves as a top starting point, enabling CPOs to drill down into more specific employee training requirements.

To be certified by GFSI, CPOs must write and align their standards with the GFSI benchmark. Food manufacturers must then decide which CPO and certification program best aligns with their food safety management system and goals.

Once you’ve selected your CPO, specific training requirements begin to apply to your organization.

Training Designed for Specific Personnel/Functions
After selecting the right CPO for your organization, you must determine how the training applies to specific personnel or functions. Many universal topics will require training for all workers associated with food production, such as personal hygiene,  or monitoring critical control points. It’s important to note that all production staff must be trained on anything necessary to maintain food safety, which requires your training curriculum to be broad yet specific to your operations.

Verify employees can correctly apply their training on the production floor.

Other topics might be required only for relevant staff, such as sampling and testing methods, allergen management, labeling, environmental monitoring, and others. From Intertek Alchemy’s perspective, while more advanced training on these topics may be required for specific personnel, it’s always a good idea to introduce the basics of these topics to every frontline worker.

Ongoing Training Requirements
Of course, any learning and development expert will tell you, training can not be a one-and-done exercise. GFSI standards agree. The SQF code, for example, state: “The training program shall include provisions for identifying and implementing the refresher training needs of the organization.”

The training must be developed and delivered in a language each worker can understand, whether in Vietnamese, Somali, or Spanish. Training records must be maintained to reflect information including, for example, the participant’s name, descriptions of skills and training, the dates training was completed, and verification that the employees comprehend the training. How long you retain those records can vary by different codes.

All of this information should be ready for auditors upon request. First, an auditor must see precisely what content was included on any particular topic. It’s not enough to say “allergen training” or “proper handwashing.” The auditor needs to see more specifics to ensure the content is adequate.  

Also, documentation should verify each employee can apply the training at work. Proof might be a completed quiz or a documented observation of employees performing the task or procedure on the floor. We recommend both.   

To summarize, GFSI training requirements can be distilled to five key tenets. Meet these five training requirements, and you can eliminate the fear of GFSI audits.

  • Provide adequate training content on any food safety requirement applicable to your facility/operations.
  • Provide training in the language workers understand.
  • Ensure employees receive refresher training.  
  • Document all training activity, maintain clean records, and be prepared to provide those training records.  
  • Verify employees can correctly apply their training on the production floor.

The good news is that this is a short, five-item list. The bad news is that there’s a lot that goes into completing this list. Contact us if you need help, whether it’s advice, questions, or tools. We have all the necessary resources to make your next GFSI audit a little less frightening.

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