Food hygiene proficiency
Hygiene proficiency implies continued updating of knowledge and skills, and training for those working in companies in the food business.
Employees in the food business, whose work involves food hygienic risks and who in their work handle easily spoiled unpackaged foodstuff in spaces for foodstuffs, shall prove their proficiency by showing a hygiene proficiency certificate (Food Act 23/2006) of the type as by the former National Food Agency or the current Food Safety Authority, which started operations 1.5.2006.
Hygiene proficiency is an obligation regulated by law, and to be covered by in-house control effected in spaces for foodstuffs as defined by the Food Act. Spaces for foodstuffs are, for example, restaurants, pizzerias, snack kiosks and shops, industrial kitchens and plants for the food industry.
In-house control is continuous quality control over which records are kept. Each company in the food business shall identify particular food hygienic risks related to that company’s activities and provide means for controlling risk factors. Hygiene proficiency is necessary, as developments in the chain of foodstuffs ”from fields to tables” increasingly progress and it being constantly necessary to observe and control new risks when working with foodstuffs. In addition, microbiological and chemical risks take new forms, technological innovations occur and novel raw materials are taken into use. In each link of the foodstuff chain, responsibility and food hygiene is becoming increasingly important.
In practise, hygiene control shall be effected for each working phase. Proficiency motivates to quality workmanship and shows customers that employees have good professional skills. Proficiency results in reduced wastage in the company, lesser risks for product damages and fewer complaints from customers.
Persons working in food production shall be conversant with the following subsections of food hygiene proficiency: basics of microbiology, food poisoning, hygienic working methods, personal hygiene, cleaning, in-house control and legislation.
Proficiency is established through hygiene proficiency certificate
With respect to food hygiene, critical tasks are handling easily spoiled foodstuff, particularly handling unpackaged foodstuffs. Persons taking part in handling easily spoiled unpackaged foodstuff are required to prove their hygiene proficiency with proficiency certificates. This requirement for proficiency concerns also food business enterprisers working in own spaces for foodstuffs.
Proficiency certificates are acquired after having passed a particular test measuring hygienic proficiency, or by showing a proficiency examiner who issues certificates a Finnish certificate in examination or education considered covering corresponding skills. A regulation issued by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health defines which exams and education include similar abilities. Currently, examinations completed or proficiency certificates acquired in other countries are not accepted in Finland.
Hygiene proficiency certificates come in two parts; one hygiene proficiency certificate on paper of size A4, and one credit card-sized plastic hygiene proficiency card. Each carry the name of the holder of the certificate and each version of the certificate passes as validation of that person’s hygiene proficiency.
Hygiene proficiency certificates are personal, and thus not employer property.
Hygiene proficiency certificate are issued by proficiency examiners
Hygiene proficiency tests are arranged in various parts of Finland by independent proficiency examiners certified by the Food Safety Authority. Examiners inform on testing opportunities, arrange tests, assess test response forms, issue certificates, and report to the Food Safety Authority those having taken part in tests and passed the tests with results accepted. Examiners may issue proficiency certificates based on sufficient education or certain examinations, which are separately defined in a regulation issued by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
Proficiency examiners always personally issue proficiency certificates and cards, as well as sign the hygiene proficiency certificates and deliver them to the recipients of proficiency certificates. In case one or each version of the certificate is lost, primarily, the proficiency examiner who issued the original certificate is to be contacted.
The website for hygiene proficiency has a list of certified proficiency examiners, at http://www.evira.fi/portal/fi/elintarvikkeet/hygieniaosaaminen/, section ”luettelo osaamistestaajista”. Examiners may directly be contacted via e-mail. It pays to collect offers from several examiners on the prises of certificates and participation in tests.
Food Safety Authority supervises the activities of examiners and maintains and develops a proficiency testing system and a related electronic question bank. For each separate testing session, using own access codes provided by the Food Safety Authority, the proficiency examiner can via Internet retrieve from the question bank a set of questions encompassing 40 true/false statements. No negative points are given for wrong answers. At least 34/40 right answers are required for passing a test.
For a normal test session, the response time is 45 minutes and answers are to be written in Finnish or Swedish. As by the Food Safety Authority’s decision on hygiene proficiency, the proficiency examiner may apply by the Food Safety Authority for the right to organise tests in special cases in a language other than Finnish or Swedish. For testing in special cases, possible also is to use an interpreter. During tests in special cases, answers are written on normal test forms particularly retrieved for the special testing case concerned. For each test (i.e. including tests in special cases) the examiner is required to store the original test forms and have them appropriately archived. The proficiency examiner shall file notifications on testing in special cases in the electronic question bank seven days prior to the desired date for testing in a special case. The processing of notifications on testing in special cases is free of charge.
Companies in the food business are at their own cost to provide for that employees have sufficient food hygiene proficiency. These companies thus have the obligation to pay the costs of hygiene proficiency certificates for their own employees if these work with tasks that require proficiency certificates. Enterprisers (employers) in the food business do not have to pay for proficiency certificates for people seeking employment.
Employers may themselves decide how proficiency in workplaces is kept up-to-date. It is not required to take part in courses or education being organised, possible also at workplaces is to acquire the necessary information independently, for example, from literature, the Internet or a library. Proficiency certificates acquired, education arranged or updating of employee skills in other ways are entered in the bookkeeping on in-house control.
Prices on the proficiency tests vary; worthwhile thus is to ask more than one proficiency examiner for prices on proficiency tests. Proficiency examiners are entitled to charge a fee for arranging tests, amounting at most to the actual costs of organising the testing.
For each proficiency certificate issued, the Food Safety Authority charges proficiency examiners four euros plus postal expenses.
Practises of hygiene proficiency in spaces for foodstuffs are inspected in connection with other inspections carried out in the spaces for foodstuffs concerned. Spaces for foodstuffs are inspected by inspection authorities as defined by the Food Act. To facilitate inspections, the companies are obliged to maintain bookkeeping on persons working in the premises and on how it is ensured that the persons concerned possess sufficient food hygiene proficiency for carrying out their tasks. In practise, this often is done such that employers take a copy of the employee’s original hygiene proficiency certificate and files the copy in the folder on in-house control.
Hygiene proficiency service phone 020 690 993, Mondays to Fridays, 9-12 pm