Alchemy Systems in partnership with the Campden BRI, UK; SQF Institute, Arlington, Va.; British Retail Consortium, UK; SGS, Switzerland; and TSI, Inc., Shoreview, Minn., released the results of a global survey of food companies’ food safety training practices and challenges.

Responses from the report, “Closing the Gaps in Food Safety Training: Results from the Global Food Safety Training Survey,” indicate that companies are strongly committed to food safety training. In fact, 88% of respondents agreed with the statement, “Based on the current management support, I am able to provide the needed food safety training to drive appropriate, consistent food safety behaviors.”

However, many food processors struggle to translate that commitment to actual employee behavior on the plant floor. In the survey, 62% of respondents agreed with the statement, “Despite our efforts in food safety classroom training, we still have employees not following our food safety program on the plant floor.”

Food safety leaders around the world agree that effective employee training can have a direct impact on food safety and product quality. The survey shows that 75% of respondents believe that employees would be more productive if their food safety program were consistently applied. They also noted that the Top 3 benefits from effective training are improved food safety culture, improved product quality and fewer food safety incidents.

Companies are devoting significant time to food safety training. About 75% of employees get four or more hours per year of training per year. For supervisors and managers, 50% receive nine or more hours of training per year. However, 44% of companies don’t mandate the same training for their contract and temporary workers.

This survey also indicates several areas where training could be improved for better comprehension and engagement. For example, 34% of respondents indicated that “lack of understanding” by workers is the top training-related audit deficiency. The training materials may not be suitable for a highly diverse workforce with multi-language learners and varying education levels.

Another training-related audit deficiency is the “lack of refresher training” for frontline workers. Academic studies show that learners forget the content quickly and must be provided with booster training to keep important safety concepts top-of-mind.

“Closing the gap between a company’s commitment to food safety and the frontline’s actual behaviors requires new thinking and approaches,” says Jeff Eastman, chief executive officer of Alchemy Systems, Austin, Texas. “Companies need to devise interactive and relevant training programs that will engage employees with real-world safety scenarios and team activities, so they make the right food safety decisions on the plant floor.”

The survey was sent to over 25,000 small to large companies representing a range of food sectors, including beverage, dairy, meat, retail, packaged foods, produce and bakery.