How To Create Effective Food Safety Training For EmployeesHow To Create Effective Food Safety Training For Employees

How To Create Effective Food Safety Training For Employees

Corey Bleich

🍿 4 min. read

​​September might be Food Safety Education Month, but food safety training is important all year long. Creating effective food safety training for employees is key – here’s how to get it right.

What is food safety training?

Globally, one in ten people become sick from eating contaminated food every year. Over 400,000 people die as a result. Foodborne illness costs $100 billion in medical expenses and lost productivity. Perhaps the most alarming statistic about food safety is that 40% of foodborne illness occurs in children under five. There are also 125,000 deaths in this age group annually.

No matter if your employees work in food service, processing, packing, or storing, food safety training reduces the risk of contamination at all stages. Food safety training reduces the risk of illness and protects employees, consumers, and your business.

400,000 people die annually from eating contaminated food

What food safety training topics should I cover?

Depending on the type of business (i.e., restaurant, food processing plant, etc.), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends some or all of the following topics be presented in your food safety training for employees.

Sanitation and quality standards (SQLs)

This is one of the most common and well-known topics. SQLs help employees learn about and apply proper safety standards to food preparation and handling. They apply to both food service and retail.
SQL food safety training includes topics like:

  • Hand washing
  • Legislation and regulation
  • Microbial standards and guidelines
  • Risk assessment, management, and communication

Preventive food safety systems

Preventive food safety systems training should educate employees on how to apply HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) processes. HACCP standards apply to both food prep and storage. These consider things like safe food preparation, including safe temperatures to cook and store food.

Bacterial pathogens

It’s important to understand the foodborne pathogens that can lead to serious illness. This food safety training topic teaches employees what they are and how to prevent them from contaminating food.

Natural toxins

Some foods come with naturally-occurring toxins. This type of training teaches employees to recognize and prevent naturally-occurring toxins in food.

Food processing and technology

This subject looks at current and trending food processing technologies, as new technology can enhance food quality and preserve safety when used correctly.

Chemical contaminants

Training about chemical contaminants looks at the effect of pesticide residues, heavy metals, and other toxic contaminants on the environment and our food, and how to reduce them in food.

Food Safety and Modernization Act

Managers and administrators need to have a working knowledge of this piece of food safety legislation. This includes what compliance looks like and how it applies in the workplace.

How to create food safety training for today's employees

If you're ready to develop a food safety training program, follow these four basic steps.

  1. Identify the specific focus with a training needs analysis
  2. Gather resources that are appropriate to the topics being covered (see some ideas below)
  3. Implement the training
  4. Assess learnings and redesign as needed

But food safety training is not a one-and-done proposition. It’s important to have a high-level overview for all employees, but it needs to come with updates and refreshers.

For example, microlearning modules and performance support can integrate safety training in the flow of work with location-specific training requirements. These tools offer just-in-time support that helps employees work safely and in compliance with all regulations, exactly where they are.

Another great tool for food safety training is safety checklists. Checklists allow employees to integrate quality control every step of the way – without pausing and from any device. It’s mobile performance support right where employees need it.

Find food safety training courses online

When you are designing food safety training for employees, it can be overwhelming to start from scratch. But there are free food safety courses online to get you started.

National Environmental Health Association (NEHA)

The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) offers 17 online food safety courses for everyone from people who are in the business of juicing to those who handle mollusks professionally.


For front-line workers and those who respond during disasters, food safety can be even more challenging. When conditions are not ideal, how can you guarantee safe food handling and service?

StateFoodSafety developed a free online food safety training course specifically for charitable feeding and disaster relief. Select your location for state-specific food safety training.


ServSafe has long been associated with instructing restaurant workers on the SQLs, but a global pandemic has prompted them to offer a new kind of food safety training for free: COVID-19 reopening and safe operations.

Build your food safety training program

While free food safety training courses are a great place to start, often they just don’t quite fit the specific needs of your business and employees.

EdgePoint Learning can help. We offer co-development services or custom online training. We can also help with rollout of in the flow of work performance support or microlearning tools.

Want to know more about how we can help you build your custom food safety training program for employees? Get in touch today!