Innovative Approaches to Food Safety Training for Modern Manufacturing

By Kurt Westmoreland

Training within a food manufacturing environment continues to grow in importance as client and regulatory requirements become more complex and more strictly enforced. But knowing how to approach the development of a food safety training program is critical to achieving the outcomes you seek.

First Things First: Define Your Goals

As you think about how to develop and implement training programs, it’s important to first define the program’s desired outcomes as they relate to your core food safety and organizational goals.

Historically, training has focused on imperatives such as customer specifications, regulatory and product testing requirements, and audit preparation. While these are obvious table stakes, basing training on these requirements alone means you’re missing opportunities to reinforce processes that improve safety, prevent adverse events such as foreign material contamination, and to analyze data related to food safety. Additionally, you may want to craft a training program that focuses on bigger-picture strategic objectives such as food waste reduction and sustainability.


A robust training program will result in a stronger and more accountable food safety culture within your organization.  


A robust training program that goes above and beyond the minimum will result in a stronger and more accountable food safety culture within your organization. Other topics you should consider include:

  • Personnel resources
  • Maintenance programs
  • Preventative maintenance impacts, and
  • Root-cause investigations.

Your training program should also include how to evaluate and reduce foreign materials in food products, and how limiting these incidents can allow companies to significantly reduce the amount of product potentially destined for a landfill.

Developing and Implementing Food Safety Training

Once you’ve defined the goals of your training program, it’s time to consider how you can most effectively communicate the content. How a food safety training program is developed, implemented, and managed can be just as important as the reason for training in the first place.

As you proceed with developing a training program, focus on understanding the intended audience and then designing, building, and delivering your training to best meet the needs of the audience. There are many ways to conduct training — both customized to your business and off-the-shelf.

Training formats run the gamut from pre-recorded sessions, to online webinars and in-person training courses, trade show workshops, internal training, or third-party customized courses. Each of these can be effective in their own way. Ideally, mixing up formats can help ensure you reach people with different learning styles, while also reinforcing key learnings in different ways.

Keep in mind that for food safety training to have the most significant impact on your organization, it should also include representatives from all levels of an organization, such as executives, managers, sales, operations, quality, maintenance, procurement, and even human resources.

Keep Getting Better: Look for Feedback

After a training has been completed, it’s important to use a variety of ways to gather feedback to gauge how effective the training was in communicating its core information. You can use various approaches to gather feedback, such as internal surveys, direct interviews, training reviews or quizzes, and direct employee testimonials. Each of these can help you determine whether your employees retain what they learn and let you know when you’ve landed on an effective communication format. In addition, internal concerns about new approaches or processes will surface during this feedback process.

Working with feedback loops is critical to driving continuous improvement. However, it’s important that management teams commit to actually using this data to evaluate success and make needed modifications to help create accountability and long-term success. Smart organizations use feedback to develop and implement internal best practices that help ensure ongoing success. Rely on your internal and external subject matter experts to determine what is truly critical process and training.

Beyond the training itself, the investment in training can have significantly more impact if the principles and key learnings are reinforced on an ongoing basis. Without continuous reinforcement, it’s easy for members of executive and management teams to become complacent regarding key outcomes, which can ultimately lead to reduced attention to detail in an operational environment and less adherence to trained standard work.

In summary, building an effective food safety training program requires a comprehensive approach and a culture of continuous improvement. Establish your goals, identify your methods, execute, and gather feedback for future training. Don’t be afraid to consider available and newer technologies while also using processes and tools with which you are comfortable.

Taking these steps and implementing new programs and approaches for training, as well as the inclusion of all team members and departments associated with the making of your products, will help your organization move progressively toward a more robust food safety culture. Doing so will effectively position your organization for future success, as well as establish mechanisms to ensure the development and success of current (and future) associates and management team members.

About the Author:

Kurt Westmoreland is a distinguished expert in food safety technology, boasting over 25 years of experience in the industry. As the Chief Commercial Officer at FlexXray, he advances solutions to prevent foreign matter contamination in food using state-of-the-art X-ray technology. Westmoreland has an extensive background in business strategy and a passion for innovation, both driving his commitment to ensuring the highest food safety standards. He holds an MBA and is known for his strategic insights and leadership in the field.

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