Campden BRI helps food and drink industry bridge the microbiological skills gap

Posted: 29 January 2014 | Campden BRI | No comments yet

Campden BRI has published a brand new report identifying the key areas of microbiological training that need to be addressed…

In response to feedback from some of the world’s leading food and drink businesses that there is a microbiology skills gap in the industry, Campden BRI has published a brand new report identifying the key areas of microbiological training that need to be addressed to plug the gap and ensure employees have the skills and knowledge to do their jobs effectively.

Through a ‘first of its kind’ extensive industry consultation specifically looking at microbiology and the food and drink sector’s microbiological training needs, a number of challenges were identified indicating an industry-wide shortfall in the required practical skills and knowledge of microbiologists, technologists and managers.

Bertrand Emond, Head of Membership and Training at Campden BRI, said: “Our needs document comes at a time when pathogenic organisms are one of the greatest threats to food safety and product spoilage continues to be a major contributor to food wastage and financial loss. Microbiology is therefore an absolutely essential area which requires the highest levels of specialist skills and expertise.

“It is very concerning that a significant number of our members are reporting that the level of practical experience of newly qualified, and even some established microbiologists, technologists and managers is not sufficient to meet the changing and ever more demanding needs of the food and drink sector. Our report tackles this issue head-on, pinpointing the crucial areas that need to be tackled to bridge the microbiological skills gap and improve knowledge throughout the industry.”

Devised in close collaboration with leading food and drink industry representatives from companies including: Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer, Tulip, Greencore and Two Sisters Food Group to name a few, the report will be used by Campden BRI to inform the development of industry training provision and related continuing professional development (CPD). It will also be used to promote the sector’s training needs to other training providers and relevant organisations which support microbiological training and continuing professional development.

The report recognises that microbiological training needs differ depending on job roles, for example, the training requirements of laboratory staff will be quite different from that of food technologists. Acknowledging these differences and tailoring microbiological training to sector specific needs is much more effective than a ‘one size fits all’ and this is now reflected in Campden BRI’s microbiological training provision.

Gayna Quinn, Group Technical Director at Tulip, said: “The microbiology skills gap represents a potential food safety risk for the global food and drink industry. With many experienced food and drink microbiologists either leaving or retiring from the industry, or their roles expanding to include additional areas of responsibility, there is a real concern that much of the applied industrial microbiological skills base is being eroded. New staff coming into the industry often lack the appropriate knowledge and practical skills required.

“Food safety is paramount and it is vital that food and drink employees have a thorough understanding of the hazards and risks associated with microbial agents. Food industry requirements are constantly evolving – changes in the use and storage of food materials, together with global sourcing and the impact of climate change mitigation are all placing additional challenges on the control of microbiological risks in the global food and drink supply chain. This means that now, more than ever before, we need to invest in microbiological training to up-skill existing employees and lay the foundations of good working practice for the next generation.”

Margaret McPheat, Head of Technical Services at Greencore, added: “We welcome this report and see it as a significant step forward in improving the microbiological knowledge and skills base for the worldwide food and drink industry. The sector relies upon the skills of its workforce to develop and manufacture high quality, authentic products that are safe for consumers. Focused, specialist microbiological training that equips staff to do their jobs across the diverse range of roles within food manufacture and retailing is not a ‘nice to have’; it is absolutely essential.”

To download a free copy of Campden BRI’s report: ‘Practical microbiology training needs of the food and drink manufacturing and retail sectors’ go to: or Email [email protected] with the subject: send microbiology.

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