Food handler training, required or encouraged in various jurisdictions across North America has been demonstrated by multiple studies to have various results. Most of the published research has focused on looking at inspection results, but in 2000, researchers in Oregon (April 2009 issue of Foodborne Pathogens and Disease) explored food handler food safety knowledge.
During April–September 2000 researchers administered a 28- question survey distilled from a longer survey obtained from the Oregon Food Handler Certification Program with 407 food handlers from 67 randomly-selected restaurants.The researchers found that their participants averaged 68% on the test. Significant differences were observed between managers’ average test scores and those of line staff: 74% versus 67%, respectively, and those with Oregon food handler training scored 69%, while those without one scored 63%.
Meatloaf sang that two out of three ain’t bad, but in food safety training, retention-wise, it’s not great.
The researchers conclude that survey demonstrates a limited level of knowledge among foodhandlers about food safety and that analyzing knowledge and comparing concurrent restaurant inspection scores would strengthen the understanding of food safety in restaurants. The results of the survey also emphasize the need for educational programs tailored to improve foodhandlers knowledge of foodborne diseases.
I’d add that it’s not like knowledge translates automatically into practice. Demonstrating knowledge change is interesting, but not nearly as important as behavior change.
Food handlers need some sort of basic training, but it’s up to their managers and organization to make sure they stay up-to-date and that they have some sort of ongoing reminders (like food safety infosheets.
Reuters reports on a strategy for training that might have some applications with food handlers — video game simulations.
Many businesses use serious videogames designed for the PC but Hilton Garden Inn (HGI) has taken the virtual training concept portable for the first time with "Ultimate Team Play".
Working with North Carolina-based game developer Virtual Heroes, HGI has created a videogame for Sony’s PSP (PlayStation Portable) that allows employees to practice their jobs before they have to interact with customers.
It has the potential to be pretty cool and useful especially if used to demonstrate the team-like nature of foodservice and risk identification, but if it’s pulled off cheaply it could look like Duck Hunt.