Review: Hygiene for Management

At Highfield, we’re always happy to receive reviews of our products, and are thrilled to hear what our customers think of the training materials we produce.

Recently we received a thorough review of the 19th Edition of Hygiene for Management from the Food Safety Authority Ireland.

Hygiene for Management – A textbook for food safety courses
19th Edition 2017
Richard A Sprenger DMS, FCIEH, FREHIS, FSOFHT
Published by Highfield Products Limited
ISBN 978-1-910964-44-6

A Standard Reference for Food Safety Standards

Our information age is driven by the expectation of an instant response to any question. Where once the 20 volume encyclopaedia ruled, websites, blogs, electronic journals, social media and voice activated and responsive personal assistants now dominate. Whatever the question, the answer can surely be found in the latest app on your smartphone.  The idea of a textbook or a reference book seems outdated. Not so.  First published in 1985 and constantly revised and updated Hygiene for Management graces our shelves now in its 19th edition.  Richard Sprenger continues to produce a standard reference for food safety courses, a useful companion for those in food business for whom a practical knowledge of food safety is an essential part of daily life.

Richard Sprenger is a well-known and respected food safety professional with extensive experience and a very successful track record particularly in food safety training. His latest work is a culmination of all of that experience, setting down on paper a practical compendium of information and advice in a useful format. The book is in essence a textbook which continues to withstand the test of time. Like any reference, it is designed to be used in finding specific items of information than for cover to cover reading. Although, for the student new to food safety, reading the book from start to finish will provide a thorough mix of information which will provide a solid grounding for those engaged in managing or running a food operation.

Food safety is not a commercial advantage, but certainly a lack of it or a lack of appreciation of its significance by management and staff will place any business in peril.  Despite the sophistication of the modern age, the food industry still suffers from scares and disasters minor and major, all of which are avoidable though the application of basic hygiene, good design and technology, some science,  legal compliance, training and management and preventative techniques. Sprenger’s book lays out the essential knowledge for managers in the food sector if they are to fulfil the principal roles of management which for food or other sectors is the same– understanding the nature of their business, planning, leading, organising and controlling.

Hygiene for Management is divided into 14 chapters, two appendices and a useful glossary of terms which are highlighted in colour throughout the text as an easy reminder for the reader.

At the heart of food safety is the knowledge that sometimes food can do harm to people and therefore steps need to be taken to eliminate or mitigate the harm.   A knowledge of the potential harm is therefore a good place to start. The book takes the reader through the chemical, biological, physical and allergenic hazards and the changing nature of food poisoning.  Another chapter deals with food microbiology and food poisoning and another with pest control.

Most mitigating or preventative approaches to food safety begin with so called prerequisite programmes – premises design and construction, equipment design and maintenance. A chapter each is devoted to these topics. All chapters are illustrated by drawings and photographs and useful summary tables.  The language style is direct and to the point.  Cleaning and disinfection are given ample treatment, again in direct manner drawing clear distinctions, covering many examples with commentary on their application and effectiveness. There is a straightforward chapter on personal hygiene, good practice and exclusion policies.

Given Sprenger’s wide experience in training and training methods it is no surprise that emphasis is placed on its importance; practical advice given on communication, training options and how to make training effective and reinforced.

All modern food businesses have food safety systems based on HACCP principles. This too gets the Sprenger direct treatment and explanation. Alternatives to HACCP are also discussed. The chapter is enough to give the student a reasonable understanding of the principles and their application. As with all learning, of course, the textbook knowledge has to be supplemented by doing. Nevertheless, the information at least will provide managers with an appreciation of the preventative and proactive approaches to eliminating or mitigating against harm.

Legal compliance is an unavoidable feature of all approaches to food safety. Knowledge of and adherence to legal obligations is something every food business has to manage. The book provides a sort of whistle-stop tour of the main legal obligations on safety, hygiene and labelling. It is largely based in EU and UK law and enforcement practices, which could be said to limit its usefulness. In a chapter this size, however, it is not really possible to do little more than to signpost the main issues.  With the approach of Brexit, it will be interesting to see how this chapter and other legal references evolve in the next edition.

A brief outline description is given of third party food safety standards such as those of the BRC and the GFSI, the subject of much debate at international level today.  Such business-to-business standards are, in reality, often of more significance for commercial survival, than legal obligations. Some mention is included on traceability and the increasingly important subject of food fraud. A short appendix on the types of food processing effectively completes the volume.

Needless to say, when preparing a textbook, the difficulty is not in deciding what to include, but rather what to omit.  The tricky area of food additives would be worth including, as would the principles of the rules governing food contaminants and the complex rules on microbiological criteria. Mention could also be made of compositional standards and of course an entire book could be easily devoted to labelling, country of origin and provenance, health claims and nutritional labelling. For the food safety enthusiast, there is an unending curriculum to study.

In fairness, Hygiene for Management does what it sets out to do – provide good reference material for the manager and the ab initio food safety student. The sustainability of a food business is dependent on good standards of food safety. The survival of the textbook for 35 years is recommendation enough in itself and a clear indication of the popularity of Sprenger’s teaching craft and training ability.

Raymond Ellard
Raymond Ellard is a Director of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland

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