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insects on the menuInsects might be on the menu at certain ‘avant garde’ restaurants. Indeed, there are now insect farms breeding crickets etc. as an alternative to meat protein. However, if they’re not an intentional ingredient in your products, you need to take all steps to eliminate them from your premises. In fact, food safety pest control is a prerequisite for any HACCP plan and essential for food safety.

An effective food safety programme relies on being able to produce food that is safe for human consumption. It is imperative that any form of contamination is identified and controlled. Anyone who has been on our Level 3 Food Safety course will know how to do this.

Flies are a danger to food safety

Amongst the most common pests are flies. Filth flies (which include drain flies, house flies and flesh flies) can carry over 100 pathogens that can cause disease in humans. These include Salmonella, cholera, Shigella, Campylobacter, E. coli, Cryptosporidium, parasitic worms and fungi. All are a huge threat to food safety.

Other types of fly include Blowflies, fruit flies, houseflies and moth flies. The fact that flies can fly makes them difficult to contain. They can go from area to area depositing filth on to food. They don’t care whether they feast on faecal matter, decaying and rotten food, animal carcasses or on fresh and stored food and ingredients. They’ll just flit happily between them all.

flies are food safety hazardsHow flies feed

The way flies feed is pretty revolting and a hazard as far as food safety is concerned. They break down solid food by depositing saliva onto it and regurgitate juices containing digestive enzymes. This process turns the food to liquid which they then suck up. Normally they will defecate at the same time. Nice!

Don’t be fooled into thinking that just one or two flies that have got in to your premises. Flies breed quickly. As well as areas where food and ingredients are present, they will also find other homes. Favourite place are bins, drains, floor traps (where they feed on the slime that accumulates) and cracked damp flooring.

How to keep flies out

Keeping flies out of food manufacturing, storage and preparation areas can be a real challenge. Obviously, cleanliness is of paramount importance to ensure food safety. Here are a number of steps you can take to keep them away:

overflowing garage attracts pests

Don’t leave garbage containers overflowing like this one. Lids should be shut at all times.

  • Check supplies on delivery to ensure they’re not rotting
  • Ensure they’re not stored in a rotting state
  • Clean and inspect food preparation areas regularly
  • In particular check cracks, crevices and hidden spaces where liquid and food traces could accumulate
  • Dispose of garbage regularly – more frequently in hot weather
  • Make sure garbage container lids are shut at all times – this will also keep other pests out
  • Garbage containers and other equipment used to handle garbage should be kept clean
  • Keep drains free from accumulating organic matter and use an appropriate cleaner

cracks in building fabric attract flies food safetyPremises design and maintenance assist food safety

Food safety is about so much more than the actual preparation of the food. Other factors come into play including the design and maintenance of the building. This can help to prevent the entry of flies and other insects.

  • Use well-maintained screens on windows and vents
  • Use UV light traps or pheromone traps
  • Keep doors shut when not in use
  • Keep the premises well-maintained to avoid cracks or gaps appearing in the building’s fabric
  • Use appropriate doors for the purpose, e.g. vinyl strip, automatic, roll-up, air curtains etc.

Exterminate! Exterminate!

Pesticides should be used as a last resort. Only those suitable for use in food premises should be acquired. They should also only be applied by a qualified pest controller.

You can learn more about a variety of pests on our Level 3 Food Safety course. You’ll also discover how to control them as well as various other elements that can affect food safety. Click here for details of the next course.



We’ve all reheated food at one time or another. Perhaps it’s leftover curry. Maybe it’s the remnants of last night’s Chinese meal. Or soup or stew. We can reheat food in the oven or on the hob. However, we often use the microwave instead. After all, it’s fast, simple and convenient.

Manufacturers of ready-prepared meals give precise instructions on how to cook their products. Cooking times vary dependent on the wattage of the microwave. They will often require you to stir the product part way through the cooking process. And all will specify a standing time. Nevertheless, not everyone leaves the product to stand. Instead they tip it out onto their plate and set about consuming it.

microwave reheating foodWhy is microwave standing time important?

Like all reheated food, microwaved food needs to be piping hot when served. This is to ensure that any harmful bacteria which may have developed in the food is destroyed. Since we can’t see bacteria with the naked eye we can kill it off by cooking it. The recommended temperature is 75 degrees C or above for two minutes. For reheating a temperature of 82 degrees C is recommended.

For food to be safe, all parts of the product must reach this temperature. That’s why we stir sauces, soups and stews in pans, so that the heat is distributed evenly. The snag is that microwave ovens heat food unevenly. So even though it might be piping hot around the edges, the food could be much cooler in the middle. Bacteria could still survive in these cooler areas. It’s therefore always important to allow the heat to reach them. Stirring partway through assists in this, but the standing time is equally important in ensuring that the heat travels through the entire product.

chicken and rice salmonella food poisoningAn often-cited salutary tale concerns the microwave cooking of a frozen chicken and rice meal. 44 people contracted salmonella food poisoning in America. Although they had followed the cooking instructions on the packaging they had not left the product to stand. As a consequence, the product was not steaming hot throughout. Hence the Salmonella enteritis bacteria had not been killed. Standing time is part of the cooking process and should not be ignored.

High-risk foods

reheated pastaOf course, rice and chicken are particularly high-risk foods. Pre-cooked rice is prone to the Bacillus cereus bacterium. This is a persistent little critter. It can be destroyed by heating to a high temperature, but it also produces heat-resistant spores. To reduce the risk of the bacteria multiplying and producing spores, cool the leftover rice as quickly as possible and keep in a refrigerator. On no account leave it out overnight.

Other foods which have hazard potential if reheated incorrectly are:

  • Sauces containing milk or cream
  • Any cooked meats or cooked food containing meat e.g. lasagne, chilli, curry, casserole, stew
  • Seafood, including stews, fish patties, fish stock etc.
  • Cooked pasta and pasta dishes
  • Protein-rich foods such as eggs, beans, quiche, lentil burgers, nuts and so forth

Hot holding and reheated food in catering

Anyone who has had HACCP and Food Safety training will know that time and temperature are Critical Control Points in the quest to prevent microbiological contamination of products. We can control the growth of pathogenic bacteria by the heating, chilling or freezing of food. Ensuring that the temperature at which food is stored or held remains constant is extremely important.

We have already stated that food should be cooked to 75 degrees C or above (or at e.g. 70 degrees C for two minutes if higher temperatures are detrimental to the food’s quality). As far as chilling is concerned, the multiplication of most bacteria can be controlled at 8?C or below. However, best practice is to store food at 5 degrees C or below. Frozen products should be kept at -18 degrees C or below.

For hot-holding, the core temperature of the product must remain at 63 degrees C or above. Any reheated food product should have reached a temperature of 82 degrees C prior to being placed in a hot cabinet or bain-marie. The temperature of the cabinet or bain-marie must itself have reached 63 degrees C throughout before it can accept food.

How to monitor the temperature of hot-held food

It goes without saying that regular monitoring of the temperature of the food is essential for food safety. For food such as rotisserie chicken and other hot meats this can be achieved using a digital probe. It should be inserted into the thickest part of the meat to check the temperature. Stews, soups etc. should be stirred before being checked with a digital thermometer. Regular mercury/glass thermometers should never be used. If they should break the food would become contaminated.

For hot cabinets, the temperature can be monitored by reading the temperature dial. Probes can be used as a back-up. You should also set a maximum time limit on the display of products.

You can find out more about bacteria and microbiological contamination on our Level 3 Food Safety course. Understanding of hazards and Critical Control Points, monitoring, validation and verification is covered in detail on our Level 3 HACCP course.

Ah! I think I just heard the microwave ping. Better leave it a minute or so….


Cheese store What is HACCP?

Quite simply, it stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point. It is an internationally-recognised food safety management system that applies to all in the food industry, except primary producers. HACCP is concerned with food safety, not food quality. It is about identifying Critical Control Points where there is a potential risk of contamination and putting measures in place to control those risks.  You can learn more about this on a HACCP course.

An effective HACCP plan will include all 7 Codex principles:

  1. Identify hazards and control measures
  2. Identify Critical Control Points (CCPs)
  3. Establish Critical Limits
  4. Establish a CCP monitoring system
  5. Establish corrective action procedures
  6. Establish verification procedures
  7. Establish documentation and records

But in order to be truly effective, a comprehensive prerequisite programme must already be in place. This addresses such areas as pest control, cleaning, waste control and good laboratory practice.  Incident management, quality management systems, traceability and operator training are also prerequisites. So is calibration, preventative maintenance and supplier safety assurance.

salmonella bacteriaWhy take a HACCP course?

First of all, it’s a legal requirement for any food and drink production company. Moreover major retailers also insist on HACCP being implemented throughout the food chain. This is because they need to be certain that the food they sell to their customers has been produced under strict controls to ensure safety, especially if it has their own name on it!

The whole point of a HACCP plan is to identify Critical Control Points (CCPs) in a process.  A CCP is a point, step or procedure at which controls can be applied and a food safety hazard can be prevented, eliminated or reduced to acceptable (critical) levels. This step-by-step process increases confidence from those buying your products. In addition it demonstrates management commitment to safe food practices.

HACCP systems, when implemented correctly, can reduce wastage or product recalls on food safety grounds.  In addition, an up-to-date plan will demonstrate that you have taken all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid a breach of food safety and hygiene laws.

Who needs to take HACCP training?

Ideally everyone involved in the planning, production and maintenance of your product should be aware of potential hazards and Critical Control Points. For operatives this means a basic understanding and knowledge of Food Safety and HACCP. A 1-day Level 2 HACCP course should give them the basics.

HACCP team leaderLevel 3 or Level 4 ?

For managers and key supervisors, the HACCP Level 3 course will give them an excellent grounding in HACCP principles and methodology. Our RSPH Level 3  HACCP course will give them the skills to design and implement an effective system. The course includes group exercises. Process Flow Diagrams are produced and Critical Control Points (CCPs) are identified using the Codex CCP decision tree. The course also covers monitoring of CCPs, corrective actions and defining responsibility.

Level 4 HACCP is an advanced course perfect for HACCP Team Leaders, Technical Managers, Consultants and Enforcers. It covers the longer term and management issues of HACCP which are essential for the effective functioning of the system.

Many major retailers now require HACCP team leaders and managers at their suppliers to have advanced HACCP qualifications. Our Level 4 HACCP course will ensure you meet their exacting standards.

Find out more information about our HACCP courses

We run regular Level 3 HACCP and Level 4 HACCP courses at our training centre in Skipton, North Yorkshire. To view our training calendar, please click here. Alternatively, if you have 5 or more staff to train, why not ask about one of our in-house HACCP courses run at your own premises?


We live in a digital world, so it’s no surprise that there are now several online course versions of classroom-based courses. But are they really a substitute for the real thing? There are, of course, advantages for both types of learning depending what you’re wanting to get out of it.

online courseShould I take an online Food Safety or HACCP course?

An online course allows you to train in your own time and at your own pace. Its modular nature means that you can fit training around a busy production schedule. There is no definitive timescale for completing the course and, as long as you have a WiFi signal, you can study practically anywhere.

From a budgetary point-of-view, online courses are more cost-effective. Plus you don’t have any travel or accommodation costs on top of course fees.

Why advanced level food industry courses are better face-to-face

The flexibility and modular format of an online course might seem attractive in the first instance. Indeed, in many cases, the content of both types of courses are the same. However, there is no substitute for experience.

When you attend a Verner Wheelock Level 3 or 4 Food safety or HACCP course, you have access to a trainer who has hands-on food industry experience. You can ask questions relevant to your own particular business and receive instant answers. You will participate in group discussions and exercises, all of which are invaluable in helping you to understand the subject and how it relates to your day-to-day operations. You will also interact with delegates from different types of companies to further build your experience.

What our delegates say about an online course v classroom-based learning

We asked a couple of our delegates who took advanced level courses with us if they’d have preferred to take the course online. Both achieved Distinctions in their exams and have won Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards for their achievements.

Tina Sayers with her HACCP Award

Tina Sayers of PAS Grantham

Tina Sayers, a Technical Account Manager at potato processors PAS Grantham told us: “I don’t think there’s any comparison. Classroom courses enable group discussion, question and answer sessions, real-world examples from both the lecturer and course attendees – and all of this helps to build understanding from the participants.”

“There’s a place for online training, but I don’t think it’s ideal for complex subjects such as HACCP and although you can ask questions of understanding at the end of an online course, as an employer, are you left feeling confident that your attendee understood the content?”

She adds “From a personal point of view, I retain information from a classroom course, but have a hard time remembering anything I’ve learned from online training.”

Kathryn Broadburn, Technical Manager at F Smales, has attended several face-to-face courses at Verner Wheelock and agrees with Tina. “I think at Level 4 you need to be completing classroom-based training – especially with reference to HACCP. Just looking back at my files I have so many extra notes with more detailed explanations and examples that make it much easier to revise. Plus, I feel they give me a greater understanding of the subject.”

“It was also very advantageous to have the ability to have group discussions. We had a lot of these when completing examples during the course and as we went through the homework. At times it made me see where I had misunderstood the question being asked. There was also the chance to ask questions whenever we needed to. Asking questions also helped the tutor to gauge how much we were understanding- and at times spend longer on sections which required extra teaching – you just don’t get that with an online course.”

Is the course relevant?

Another good reason for attending a face-to-face, rather than a face-to-screen course concerns course content. It’s our experience that, since there is no real interaction between the course provider and the trainee, online courses tend to be updated less often.

Our course tutors are regularly reacting to hot topics within the food industry and including them in the course materials. It’s our aim to ensure that the information we provide is as up-to-date as possible, so that it’s as relevant as possible to our delegates.

Have you considered an in-house course?

If cost is an issue, one way to make your budget stretch further is an in-house course. Our trainers will deliver HACCP, Food Safety and Auditing courses at your own premises – or any of our other courses such as TACCP & VACCP, Root Cause Analysis, Managing Food Allergens and Legal Labelling. We can train up to 15 people and tailor the course to suit the needs of your business. Courses can range from Level 2 HACCP to Level 4 Food Safety or Lead Auditor.

Make sure the training is reputable

Whichever type of training you decide to embark on, make sure that it meets your needs. Consider the following:

  • If you opt for online training, does the provider also offer offline courses so has an established reputation?
  • Has the course content been written to meet nationally recognised standards?
  • Does the company offering the training specialise in providing food industry training?
  • Does the course lead to a nationally recognised QCF/RQF qualification, regulated by Ofqual, and provided by an industry-wide awarding body such as RSPH or HABC? A regulated qualification might cost you a little bit more initially, but you know that the course meets National Occupational Standards and follows a standard syllabus.
  • Does the online course cater for staff for whom English is not their first language? i.e. is a translation or voiceover available in the required language?

A word from our MD

Alison Wheelock of Verner Wheelock

Managing Director, Alison Wheelock

Verner Wheelock has been providing training courses to the food industry since 1990. Alison Wheelock, our Managing Director says. “We do offer online versions of our lower level food safety courses, but when it comes to Level 3 and Level 4 HACCP and Level 4 Food Safety we have made a conscious decision to keep the training within the classroom. We find that delegates have a much better learning experience and perform better in examinations when they do all their training in the company of others under the tutelage of an experienced trainer.”

“With online courses, you don’t get the interaction or group exercises or the opportunity to get instant answers to your questions. They’re much more generic – and because there’s no particular timescale for completion – some people don’t complete the training at all. I would always recommend attending a face-to-face course if at all possible.”

See our latest training calendar here


Happy to help! #charity

Our clients and friends have been doing some pretty amazing things for charity this year – and we’re happy to show our support. Here are just a few causes we’ve backed:


We sponsored Jan Bentley from WS Bentley, who ran the London Marathon in support of the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS). Jan’s son was one of 4 babies born every day in the UK with deafness. He is now seven and a hearing aid user doing well and engaging in sport and everyday activities at a normal school. Jan says that the NDCS gave her and her family help and support when she needed it most.  Jan has raised almost £6,000 in donations.

We donated to the Samworth Brothers Charity Challenge – a 1-day orienteering triathlon in aid of Ryedale Special Families. This is a charity which supports 400 families in the Ryedale area who have children and young adults with disabilities, illnesses and special needs.


We love animals here at Verner Wheelock and we’ve recently donated funds to help with the running of the Wonkey Donkey Visitors’ Centre in Knottingley – a haven for abused and abandoned donkeys. The owners of the sanctuary were injured in the recent Manchester Arena bombing and are currently in hospital. The money donated will help to keep the sanctuary running in their absence.



We cannot imagine how difficult it must be to have a child with a life-threatening illness like cancer. That’s why we’ve made a donation to The Tortoise and the Hare Challenge. Rachel C’s old boss, Mike, has a son who was diagnosed with bone cancer just over a year ago. He, along with his friend Simon, who does our design work, are undertaking the challenge this month in aid of Candlelighters, the children’s cancer charity. Simon (AKA the Hare) is cycling the 150 miles of the Coast-to-Coast route non-stop from Seascale on the West Coast to Whitby in the East in a single day. Mike (AKA the Tortoise) is undertaking the route on foot – but to make it a fair race, he will have a 6-day head-start. May the best man win – and we hope they raise plenty of money for this very worthy cause.

We’re also regular supporters of Shine, a charity which provides support for people with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus. Shine also supports parents, families , carers and professional care staff to enable sufferers to get the best out of life.


As many of you will know, we run a course called Managing Food Allergens. When we heard that the Anaphylaxis Campaign were holding an orange wig day in aid of those affected by and at risk of anaphylaxis and severe allergy, we felt we had to join in the fun. We didn’t have time to buy any wigs, so we improvised instead (see pic) and made a donation.


Finally – As you might imagine, we get through quite a lot of paper preparing materials for our training courses. So, to try to put something back, we have dedicated a tree with The Woodland Trust.


Verner Wheelock May Update #training

Wow, this year is whizzing by! No doubt some of you will already be making products for the Christmas  market . After all, it’s only about 200 days away… Anyway, less of that! I haven’t been on my summer holidays yet. Here’s a round-up of what’s been happening at Verner Wheelock over the past month.



The Annual Trainers’ Meeting

I could be forgiven for thinking I’d walked onto the set of the Great British Bake Off a couple of weeks ago. True , there was  no sign of Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood or Mel & Sue; but  there  was certainly an abundance of cake. Around 7 different varieties of it in fact.

Our lovely trainers Colleen and Jo obviously felt we needed feeding up and had had been busy in their respective kitchens . They didn’t just come to deliver cake though – it was our annual Trainers’ Meeting, where we discuss new course  ideas, any improvements/updates to existing courses and so forth.

We have  17 trainers who work for Verner Wheelock, so it’s good to get as many as possible together at least once a year. There was plenty of information to exchange and ,of course, plenty to eat…




Brexit talk

We invited prolific EU blogger and Brexit expert Richard North to speak at the trainers’ meeting. Richard’s particular interest is in how Brexit will affect the food industry. He made some very interesting points highlighting the fact that Britain will be treated as a ‘Third Country’ when we exit the EU. This means that there will be no more free trade.

Richard North EU Brexit

EU Blogger and Brexit expert, Richard North.

If we wish to continue to trade with EU countries we will need to negotiate separate trade agreements and be subject to border control checks of products and documentation. This could cause severe delays. At present 12,000 trucks pass through Dover and the Channel Tunnel per day. If this were suddenly halted there would be a queue stretching back as far as Aberdeen.

According to Richard, the cost of a detained container could be anything from £800 to £2000 once demurrage, inspection fees, labour fees, re-packing fees are taken into consideration. It could mean that some companies are put out of business.

If you want to find out more about Richard’s (sometimes controversial) views, take a look at his daily blog at www.eureferendum.com

Specialist courses for butchers

It being Spring Bank Holiday we only ran courses here in Skipton during two weeks in May, but we still kept our trainers busy with 13 in-house courses. Several of these took place north of the border in Scotland  – including our Meat Managers’ Hygiene & HACCP course. We run this course 2-3 times a year on behalf of the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association (SFMTA). It is tutored by Paul Bache, who has an MBE for his services to the meat industry.

Another great result for Lead Auditors

We’re delighted to report that, once again, we have had a 100% pass rate for our FDQ Lead Auditor course. The course took place from 8-11 May under the tutelage of Eleanor Nicholls. Not only that, but there were 2 distinctions too. Huge congratulations to Brandon Green from Ornua Nutrition Ingredients and Craig Darby from Samworth Brothers, who both achieved over 90% in their examinations.

Our FDQ Lead Auditor course is proving so popular that we are now running two courses in October. They’re filling up fast, so if you’d like to attend, please give Claire a call on 01756 700802.

Verner Wheelock now a member of APSCA

Did you know that as well as providing top-quality training to the food industry, Verner Wheelock also undertakes ethical trading audits?

We work, in conjunction with a business called KSSA, auditing suppliers to many of the major retailers. The audit checks that workers’ human and labour rights are not compromised – for example, ensuring that their working environment and pay is acceptable according to the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code.

Verner Wheelock is one of a handful of third-party audit companies that conducts these ethical assessments in the UK. We have just been accepted as a member of the Association of Professional Social Compliance Auditors (APSCA). APSCA aspires to enhance the credibility, quality, consistency and professionalism of social compliance audits which will contribute to the improvement of workplace conditions.

To find out more about ethical audits, please visit www.vwa.co.uk/ethical

Bowling, bowling, bowling….

At the end of April Team VWA descended on the 10 pin bowling hall in Skipton for a work social evening. There were a few strikes and more than a few spares – and we all had great fun. The ultimate champion was Amberley, who beat nearest rivals Mitch and Rachel C by 20 clear points. Then it was off into town to Calico Jack’s for drinks and a huge meal, which made some of us feel as heavy as a bowling ball…




Forthcoming courses

We still have a few places left on the following June courses:

Supplier Auditing – 14th June

HACCP Refresher – 15th June

Level 4 Food Safety Update – 16th June

VACCP & TACCP Workshop – 22nd June

Training the Trainer – 28& 29th June, 5&6 July

Check availability by calling Claire on 01756 700802.


To celebrate British Sandwich week, we‘ve gathered together some interesting facts about a type of food that is as British as fish and chips, or roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding:

Why is it called a ‘sandwich’?

Most people know this one! Food which is enclosed by two slices of bread is named after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. He was an 18th Century English aristocrat, who enjoyed gambling.

The story goes that, during an all-night card session, he ordered his valet to bring him meat from his dinner tucked between two slice s of bread. This meant that he could eat without interrupting the game; he didn’t need to use a fork; and his hands didn’t get greasy. Others around him said they would like ‘as Sandwich’ – hence the term became popular.



Britain’s favourite fillings

For any type of sandwich, pre-packaged or otherwise, Britain’s most popular is the good old bacon butty. This is followed by prawn mayonnaise and the BLT – bacon, lettuce and tomato. The most popular bread is granary.

When it comes to the pre-packaged version – according to the British Sandwich Association – the most popular fillings are as follows:

The sandwich Oscars

Did you know that around 11.5 billion sandwiches are consumed in the UK every year? Or that the average sandwich contains approximately 400 calories? (That’s the equivalent number of calories burned on a 4 mile run…).

There are over 300,000 people employed in the sandwich industry in the UK. They even have their own annual awards event – the ‘Sammies’.

Categories include Sandwich Designer of the Year. This was won last year by Kim Hartley of the 2 Sisters Food Group for her trio of Mini Bombay Bundt Bagels.

Viva Las Bagels!

The King of Rock ’n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, was so fond of a particular sandwich that he flew to Denver and back in one night, just to collect one. The snack in question was called a ‘Fool’s Gold’ and consisted of a hollowed-out loaf filled with nearly half a kilo of bacon, an entire jar of peanut butter and a full jar of jam! A whopping 8,000 calories in total! (80 mile run anyone?)

 The world’s biggest butty

This accolade was scooped by Wild Woody’s Chill and Grill in Michigan, USA in 2005. It contained 1,618.4 kg of bread, 468 kg of corned beef, 68 kg of mustard, 117.9kg of cheese and 240.4 kg of lettuce.

And perhaps my most favourite fact….

In 2008, there was an attempt, in Iran, to beat Wild Woody’s record for the world’s biggest sandwich. Brilliantly, the impatient crowd began eating it before it could be measured, resulting in a failed attempt!

Happy British Sandwich Week!




We’re all much more conscious of the existence of allergens than we were 10 years ago. The way we label our food products has had to change. If we’re a caterer, café, restaurant or take-away business, we need to make customers aware of known allergens in our food.

Plus, more and more specialist ‘free from’ products have emerged on the market. These have recipe formulations designed to appeal to those allergic or intolerant to certain foods such as wheat, milk, nuts and eggs.

Allergen labelling

It’s no longer acceptable to mention an allergen once on food packaging or labelling. ‘Contains milk and gluten’ just won’t cut the mustard for a pre-packaged cheese sandwich. Instead you would have to list them separately, i.e. Wheat flour (gluten), cheese (milk), within the ingredients list.

If you take a look at the news page on the Food Standards Agency’s website, you’ll find several instances of product recalls. Aside from a couple relating to physical hazards, or incorrect ‘Use by’ dates, the rest refer to undeclared allergens or incorrect allergen labelling. In fact, during the past two months there have been 22 reports of this type.

There are a number of things that we need to be alert to regarding allergens and allergen labelling. These are just a few. You can find out everything you need to know on our Managing Food Allergens course.

Declare all relevant allergens

Unless you use separate areas and production lines; if your factory makes products containing an allergen, you will need to declare it, even if the allergen doesn’t feature in the ingredients for that particular product. This is because even the tiniest trace can trigger a serious reaction in certain people. So, for example, if you’re producing a plain chocolate bar, but you also produce a line containing hazelnuts, you will need to mention this on the packaging for the plain chocolate bar. Something along the lines of “manufactured in an environment that also produces products containing nuts.”

Be wary of any product changes

You need to be aware of changes to your regular product – for example if you run a limited-edition version containing an extra ingredient. For example, if you added ‘Eton Mess’ to a chocolate bar, you would need to declare the egg. Staying on the subject of chocolate – Thornton’s had to recall their personalised dark chocolate Easter eggs because the icing contained milk, which was not mentioned on the packaging.

Check supplier ingredients are allergen-free

If you change an ingredient supplier, you need to check with them if there are any allergens in their product. Even if you’re confident that your current product doesn’t contain allergens, you need to double-check every time anything changes.

Storage of ingredients can also be a factor if ingredients have been stored or transported together. This is why visual inspection for tears or holes in packaging is so important.

Avoid product recalls

Product recalls can be a costly business. And if it’s the packaging that’s to blame, rather than the product, that’s very frustrating. That’s why it’s always worth taking the time to ensure that the labelling is correct. Dispose of any packaging that doesn’t contain the correct information, and always ensure that the packaging contains the correct product.

There have been instances of allergen and non-allergen foods being packed together – which obviously poses a risk. Only recently Tesco had to recall a Chicken Chow Mein product because it had been packed together with a Chicken Curry product. This meant that it contained e.g. milk, mustard and sesame – which weren’t mentioned on the label.

How serious can it get?

The main 14 allergens are (in alphabetical order): celery, gluten, crustaceans, egg, fish, lupin, milk, molluscs, mustard, nuts, peanuts, sesame, soya and sulphur dioxide.

An allergic reaction occurs when the body doesn’t recognise certain proteins in a type of food and so fights them off with toxins. Unfortunately, these toxins are also harmful to the body and cause a variety of symptoms which range from skin irritations to gastro-intestinal problems and, in severe cases, problems breathing and a dangerous drop in blood pressure which can even lead to death.

Nobody wants to be responsible for any of the above because their product was labelled incorrectly. If you need help with product labelling, why not ask about our 1-day in-house legal labelling course?

After all, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.




Nobody can truly predict the outcome of June 8th General Election. We’ve found that we can’t necessarily rely on opinion polls. Look at what happened in America – and in the EU Referendum. Then there’s the uncertainty following the forthcoming French Election.

BrexitNo backtracking on Brexit

Whichever party, or coalition, forms the next Government, the fact remains that they are still going to have to deal with Britain’s exit from the European Union. Even if we’d like to, we can’t back out now. Yes, Article 50 doesn’t come into effect for a couple of years, but for Brexit to be reversed every one of the 27 EU member countries would have to agree to take us back. I don’t know about you, but I can’t see that happening. We’ve ruffled far too many feathers. So, whether it’s soft, hard or something in between – Brexit isn’t going away anytime soon.

How border controls could be barriers to British exports

Greater control of our borders was one of the main reasons why many British citizens cast their vote in favour of leaving the EU. They felt there were too many immigrants entering the UK. However, what they might not have realised is that they were not only voting against free movement of people within EU Bmember countries. Their vote also placed considerable barriers to British companies who rely on the export of their goods to the EU.

This factor is of particular significance to the food industry. Let’s take a look at some figures: in 2015 the UK exported £8.9bn of food and non-alcoholic drinks to the EU and £3,2bn of value-added food and non-alcoholic drinks to the EU. That represented 71% of the UK’s total food and non-alcoholic drink exports for the year. (Source: HM Revenue & Customs 2016).

Richard North EU Brexit

EU Blogger and Brexit expert, Richard North.

UK to become ‘Third Country’ in dealings with the EU

At the moment trade flows freely between EU countries. When we leave it won’t be so easy. It won’t be as simple as saying ‘We’re leaving, but we want all our trade arrangements to stay the same.’ You see, when Brexit finally comes into effect, Britain will be classed as a ‘Third Country’ in relation to EU countries.

As prominent EU blogger and Brexit expert, Richard North, puts it: “Our new status as a country sitting outside of the single market will bring the imposition of a series of controls. The most prominent and potentially most damaging will be the inspection regime carried out at Border Control Points. Roll-on, roll-off (ro-ro) shippers will experience significant delays, as will what are commonly termed ‘driver accompanied loads.’ In such cases not only will the load be held up, the vehicle and driver will be kept out of play as well.’

tomatoesDelays and a shortfall in inspection facilities could cause chaos

He continues ‘That said, it would appear that delays are only part of the problem and the smaller part of it. If there are significant capacity shortfalls in inspection facilities, there will have to be restrictions on the on the level of exports, either on a first-come, first served basis, or with the adoption of a more equitable quota system. Failing that, we see the prospect of loads being delayed so long that perishable contents will be spoiled and become unusable. On top of this, the extra shipping time may render the transport of low value goods uneconomic.’

So, if you’re a current exporter of fresh and perishable goods to EU countries, the prospect of delays at border controls could pose a very real threat to the profitability or, indeed, future of your business.

It’s not a case of keeping the old EU regulations and expecting things to remain the same

It is not sufficient merely for Britain to continue binding itself to the relevant regulations. It will still be a ‘third country’ and must go through all the hoops before it is allowed to export to the EU. This means, amongst other things, that animals and products of animal origin must be routed via a Border Inspection Post.

At the moment, because we’re still a member of the EU, any foodstuffs of plant or animal origin that we’re planning to export to other EU countries are inspected here, at their point of origin. This means that if a company is producing beef, for example, they will be inspected and approved by UK authorities under the supervision of the EU’s Food and Veterinary Office. There are no border controls required. This approval is sufficient.


Dublin Port sign

After Article 50 is executed, this free trade will disappear. Even products moving between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic will be subject to border control, since the Irish republic is remaining in the EU. In other words all goods will need to be re-routed via border controls at either Shannon Airport or Dublin Airport or Port before they can be circulated throughout Ireland.

For exports to France and beyond, all British produce will need to be inspected at either Dunkirk or Le Havre – the only two points where there are inspection facilities at present. And you can imagine the pressure and delays especially if samples need to be taken off-site for analysis.

Are there any solutions?

Richard North comments that: “A possible mitigation factor is the adoption by the Commission of the Article 73 procedure (under the 2017 Regulations) permitting pre-export controls to be performed by third countries. However, these do not affect the right of Member States to carry out official controls on imported feed and food to verify that the pre-export checks carried out in the non-EU country remain effective. Furthermore, only two approvals have been given, one to the United States relating to “peanuts and derived products thereof as regards the presence of aflatoxins” and the other to Canada relating to “wheat and wheat flour as regards the presence of ochratoxin A”.

So, then, even at best, the prospects for many food exports to the EU, post-Brexit, are poor. There will be considerable delays, increased costs and difficulty in committing to reliable delivery timing. At worst, delays and/or capacity limitations may make it impossible to continue the export of highly perishable products. In the longer-term, ro-ro shipping may prove impracticable or uneconomic and we may to a shift to containerised transport, with redistribution away from the Channel ports.

Brexit talkMeet Richard North

This is certainly food for thought. You can read more of Richard’s informed comments on Brexit at eureferendum.com. Or, better still, come and meet the man himself at our Brexit briefing on 22nd June. Contact Claire Lennon (claire.lennon@vwa.co.uk) for more details.




March madness

March was an extremely busy month at Verner Wheelock! We have run courses here every week. In fact on some occasions demand has been such that we’ve run two courses concurrently – at our training centre or at Utopia or The Tempest.

We’ve managed to pack in Level 4 HACCP, Level 4 Food Safety, Training the Trainer and Managing Food Allergens, as well as refresher courses in auditing, food safety, HACCP and training skills.

Refresher courses are extremely useful if it’s been 3 years or more since you last undertook training. They’re also an essential requirement by many external auditors or employers as part of your CPD.

Let’s also not forget 11 in-house courses up and down the country during March. We like to keep our trainers on their toes (and our Training Support Team for that matter)!

Verner Wheelock staff training

We’re firm believers in practising what you preach. So not only do we run courses for the food industry, we also undertake training ourselves. This is what we’ve been doing recently:

Mitch has taken and passed the Auditing Skills Refresher and Level 3 HACCP. Plus he has just passed his FDQ Lead Auditor examination.

Amberley is now a fully qualified First Aider, having passed her Emergency First Aid course. She’s also taken and passed her Level 3 HACCP.



Rachael B has also been busy. She’s been successful in passing her Data Protection examination and Fire Safety training. She also achieved a Pass with Distinction in her Level 3 HACCP examination.



Not to be outdone, Rachel C has completed the Managing Food Allergens course and has passed her Emergency First Aid certificate. She’s also undertaken Social Media for Business training (“I have to be on Facebook and Twitter all the time – it’s part of my job….”). Rachel will be tackling Level 3 HACCP next. She says she’s feeling the pressure already as everyone else in the office has passed.

Fantastic results

Speaking 0f passing exams, we’re over the moon with the great examination results our delegates have achieved. For example we ‘re delighted to announce a 100% pass rate for our recent auditing skills courses. 59 delegates took the exam and there were an impressive 29 distinctions! Well done everyone at Alpla, Dunbia, Pladis and Haribo as well as individuals attending the course here in Skipton.

We’re pleased to report a high level of distinctions in our Level 3 Food Safety and Level 3 HACCP course exams. There were 11 distinctions for Food Safety and 13 distinctions for Level 3 HACCP. This gives an overall pass rate of 96%.

Our advanced level Lead Auditor course at the end of January also delivered 2 distinctions and 6 passes. This is a challenging examination, so we’re extremely pleased with the overall pass rate of 80%.

STOP PRESS: We have just had the results of our April Lead Auditing course – a pass rate of 100% and 3 more distinctions.



Our very own Flying Scotsman!

On my journey to work on 31st March I noticed an inordinate number of vehicle parked up in the laybys on the A629. The drivers and passengers had vacated their cars and were peering through binoculars or setting up tripods.

I suddenly remembered that the famous steam locomotive The Flying Scotsman was due to pass though that morning. Never one to miss a photo opportunity I decided to take a phot myself. So here it is – our very own ‘Flying Scotsman’ Admin Controller Mitch Morrison!

Sweet dreams, Mabel

Along with the successes, we also had some extremely sad news in March. Mabel, one of Alison’s two little dogs died after being knocked down by a car. Many of you will remember Mabel. She was a very sweet-natured Jack Russell terrier with a larger than life bark. The place isn’t quite the same without her. We miss her very much and our condolences are with Alison at this sad time.

Verner Wheelock Awards

We have now delivered all the 2016 Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards to their recipients. For the final award for Individual Excellence, Claire and Rachel visited Harper Green School in Bolton.

Claire presented the Award to Sharron Jacques who is the school’s Senior Catering Officer. Sharron had undertaken our Training the Trainer course in Skipton in July.  Course tutor Judith Sunderland nominated Sharron because “her enthusiasm was excellent and she gave the funniest micro-teach of the food handler from hell that I have seen.”

Sharron said “Winning this Verner Wheelock award has been a great confidence-booster and a fantastic recognition for our department within the school.”

Forthcoming Courses

Our Spring/Summer courses are filling up steadily. May courses are all full with the exception of a couple of places, so here is an update of Verner Wheelock courses running in June and July. As ever, if you’d like to book a place, contact Claire on 01756 700802 or use the online booking form at www.vwa.co.uk.


Level 4 Food Safety –  5th -7th June – FULL

Auditing Skills – 12th -13th June

Supplier Auditing – 14th June

HACCP Refresher – 15th June

Level 4 Food Safety Update 16th June

Level 3 Food Safety –  19th – 21st June

VACCP & TACCP – 22nd June

Level 3 HACCP – 26th – 27th June

Training the Trainer – 28th& 29th June & 5th/ 6th July


Level 4 HACCP  – 10th -13th July

Level 3 HACCP – 12th – 13th July

 To book your place on any of the above courses, please call Claire on 01756 700802 or email claire.lennon@vwa.co.uk