New qualification for poultry inspectors

Improve is to launch a new, flexible and cost-effective training programme for in-house poultry processing inspectors.

The food and drink sector skills council developed the qualification for Plant Inspection Assistants (PIAs) in collaboration with the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS), the Food Standards Agency (FSA), sector employers, and other industry partners.

The qualification should be available in Autumn 2008, at Level Two. It will ensure that PIAs are proficient in carrying out poultry post-mortem checks andfood safety management procedures, and will test their understanding of what is required to do the job.

It will also be possible to extend the qualification depending on the scope of the job the PIA will be expected to do, by supplementing the award with further modules. These could include assessment of pre-slaughter and slaughter procedures, and sampling operations in meat and poultry processing.

The qualification will also be tailored to reflect the types of birds the PIA will work with - broilers and hens, turkeys, or ducks and geese.

Jack Matthews, chief executive of Improve, said: "This new qualification will ensure that PIA training is far more accessible for employers. It will still provide a rigorous means of testing but its delivery will be more flexible, which will make the qualification more achievable.

"Most of the training and assessment will be of a practical nature, and can take place at the slaughterhouse, which means employers won't have to arrange and pay for workers to undergo external training.

"Learning and assessment in the workplace enables the employee to apply what they are being taught to the job they're doing, and so delivers the relevant skills."

Ted Wright, chairman of the British Poultry Council (BPC), welcomed the development of the new qualification.

"This is the first time that the industry, the sector skills council and government bodies have all worked together to develop an effective solution to a training issue that, for some employers, caused real problems," he said.

Jane Downes, MHS veterinary and technical director, said: "The new qualification will be in line with European legislation in food safety and will ensure that all poultry processors can train staff to a recognised PIA level in an efficient manner.

"If we can persuade sufficient employers in the poultry sector to train their staff for this new qualification, we will have taken an important step further in our ongoing MHS Transformation Programme that is designed to lead to greater efficiency and drive down inspection costs."

A meeting between Improve, the MHS, FSA, British Poultry Council, British Meat Processors Association, and poultry companies resulted in the agreement of which national occupational standards for poultry meat inspection are relevant to the PIA's role. These nationally recognised standards define the required skills and knowledge for the role, and act as the foundation blocks from which the new qualification is being developed.

A number of awarding bodies - including the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health (RSPH), Food and Drink Qualifications and the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS) - are now working to develop the standards into a full qualification.

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