Skills and Knowledge for Food Handlers
Food businesses must ensure that staff handling food, and their supervisors, have skills and knowledge in food safety and hygiene matters needed to handle food safely. This is a legal requirement under Clause 3 of Standard 3.2.2 – Food Safety Practices and General Requirements of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.
Level of skills and knowledge
The level of skills and knowledge required of a person is ‘commensurate with their work activities’. This means that the level and content of skills and knowledge required will depend on work activities. For example, the skills and knowledge required of a chef will be different from those of waiting or cleaning staff.
Obtaining the required skills and knowledge
There are many options that a food business can choose from to ensure that food handlers obtain appropriate skills and knowledge. Examples of these include:
- on-the-job (in-house) training
- sharing relevant food safety documents with staff
- using work instructions or standard operating procedures that clarify safe food handling
- attending food safety courses run by local councils
- hiring a consultant to present a food safety course
- completing an online food safety course (see the link to DoFoodSafely below)
- completing a formal training course
Free online food safety training
Public Health Services has partnered with the Victorian Department of Health to enable greater access to the free online DoFoodSafely training program. This free online course is available in eight languages and can be accessed below.
Assessing food handlers' skills and knowledge
Even where training is provided to food handlers, it does not guarantee that they can demonstrate appropriate skills and knowledge. To help ensure staff meet the skills and knowledge requirement, the business should continue to coach, mentor and observe staff to assess their skills and knowledge. Regularly discussing food safety and hygiene principles, conducting refresher training and observing the work practices of food handlers is the best way to ensure everyone understands how to make safe food.
Your local council Environmental Health Officer will also assess the skills and knowledge of food handlers during routine inspections. In instances where they deem skills and knowledge are inadequate, they may require food handlers to complete a food safety training course (under Standard 3.2.2A - Food Safety Management Tools) or take other enforcement action.
Food safety culture
Adequate skills and knowledge in all food handlers is a key step toward ensuring a strong food safety culture at a food business. Food safety culture is about how everyone thinks and acts to make sure food is safe. It helps translate good skills and knowledge into safe behaviours that ultimately ensures the food you sell is safe to eat.
The below video from Food Standards Australia New Zealand covers the importance of a strong food safety culture in a food business.