Arla and FDQ drive forward new standard for food safety training

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In a drive for increased consumer protection and industry excellence, the UK’s largest dairy company Arla Foods has pioneered a unique new take on dairy specific food safety training in the industry.

It has always been Arla’s ambition ensure that food safety training in the dairy industry is the best it can be. It must be relevant, resilient and ready for the fast pace in which we now find ourselves.

Working in something of a Yorkshire triumvirate, the team at Arla’s Leeds head office recruited key industry partners to develop and accredit a brand new nationally recognised Food Safety for Dairy Manufacturing qualification. FDQ, a specialist food industry awarding organisation and Arko Training have worked with Arla over the last few months to deliver this landmark change. The first participants on the programme received their certificates of achievement last week.

With a portfolio boasting well-known brands, including Anchor, Cravendale and Lurpak, consumer safety is paramount for Arla. The protection that this unprecedented safety qualification affords is a huge step forward not only for Arla, but for the whole dairy industry.

Chris Edwards, OBE, TD, Senior Technical Competence Development Manager at Arla Foods said: “It has always been Arla’s ambition - ensure that food safety training in the dairy industry is the best it can be. It must be relevant, resilient and ready for the fast pace in which we now find ourselves with automation and a continual pipeline of new product development. The qualification retains the core principles of food safety but we have incorporated the uniqueness of milk production to ensure our colleagues are fully aware of their product and processes. The consumer must be at the heart of all we do. This is why Arla has been working to develop a new qualification in partnership with FDQ and Arko Training which meets the particular needs of the dairy industry.”

Until now, food safety qualifications have largely covered generic food industry issues, and are not routinely contextualised to the part of the industry in which a business operates. This new qualification means that dairy safety training now covers and examines understanding of the critical differences in the dairy product and process. Arla believes that dairy issues should be at the heart of dairy food safety qualifications and working with FDQ and Arko Training has delivered this change.

“There are many aspects of existing food safety qualifications that have no relevance for dairy processors” said Chris. “Similarly, there is key technical knowledge which is required as part of our daily work in relation to pasteurisers, separators, flow diversion valves which, until now, has not been part of any food safety qualification.”

The new food safety for dairy manufacturing qualification, accredited by FDQ, is now available for use by all dairy companies. It covers and examines the knowledge critical to dairy, including pasteurisation, shelf life, separation and homogenisation. This qualification demands the same quality and rigour, still addresses cross contamination, microbial growth, temperature control and pest control, but it does so in a way which is fully contextualised to the dairy industry.

“In selecting an awarding organisation to accredit this qualification, Arla had no hesitation in choosing FDQ,” said Chris. “It stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of its industry expertise and has the skills Arla needed to refocus the food safety curriculum into a dairy context. FDQ is flexible, commercially minded and accessible; you will not find the sterile view of education I so often see from their competitors.”

“This qualification is really big news for the dairy industry,” says Amanda Clark, Chief Executive of FDQ. “I urge other dairy businesses to pick this up and follow the great example which Arla is setting. The more specific the training delivered by dairies, the greater the consumer protection. A new standard is being set for the industry, I feel.”

Training and assessment by Arko training, in partnership with FDQ, got underway in February and has already received very positive feedback from Arla colleagues. The first certificates for this nationally accredited qualification have just been presented. And the work goes on to roll out the qualification across the entire Arla workforce.

Nick Kent, Supply Chain Manager at Arla’s Oakthorpe dairy, and one of the first learners on the new qualification said of his experience: “The Food Safety Level 2 for Dairy Manufacturing has allowed us to focus colleagues on what really matters in the production of dairy products. It aligns with our ambitious plans to train our colleagues in a whole range of technical competences. It is logical, follows with a workbook and a multiple choice exam. It’s a tremendous step forward in allowing our people to develop their product safety skills at the start of their career.”

Yorkshire-based trainer Mark Otley, of Arko Traning backs up this positivity: “I am delighted to be able to work with the FDQ and Arla teams to bring this dairy food safety qualification to life; it represents a massive development in the world of food safety training. We are receiving fantastic feedback already; learners find they get so much more from the training and assessment process. Critical issues in food safety, the reasons for certain procedures and the implications of falling below standard are so much easier to grasp when put in context of daily work.”

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Sarah Marshall

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