Recent Better Training for Safer Food (BTSF) newsletters have featured Peter Bokor, Head of Unit responsible for the Better Training for Safer Food initiative (Unit D1, Food chain science and stakeholder relations) and the team at the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency (Chafea) that manages all the contractual, financial and administrative aspects of the initiative. National Contact Point representatives were also interviewed in the past, to give the Member States' views of the BTSF initiative.
Now it's time to hear from the participants themselves, from the people who took part in BTSF training courses. These participants are among the 5 500 people who benefit from BTSF training in 2019.
Since 2005, BTSF has been providing training for EU and non-EU officials on EU Food law. Back when BTSF first started offering these courses in 2005, there were less than 1,000 participants, so today's figures give an indication of how popular the trainings have proven to be. Over the years, more than 70,000 participants have enrolled in 1700 courses, and the number of thematic areas covered also grew from 7 in 2006 to 73 in 2019. This has warranted an increase in the budget allotted to BTSF from 3.5 million Euro as it started out, to over 18 million Euro now. The total expenditure invested into the programme has been 155 million Euro, 20% of which went toward activities in non-EU countries.
The initiative's train-the-trainer approach empowers participants to be able to go back to their home countries and communities and to share when they have learned, so the benefits of these trainings goes far beyond reaching the participants. There is an added value of BTSF training in people's daily work.
"BTSF Courses are important to ensure the common understanding of the legislation and its main purpose", said Jane Sundelius, from Norway, who participated in the 8-12 April 2019 training in Helsinki on Food Hygiene and Flexibility.
Angela Marie Paches de Aquiar, from Portugal, who participated in the same training said the training " allowed intercommunication between members of the various countries , linked food security and learning different realities in the food sector."
While participants get feedback on how well their country or region is complying with EU food safety regulations, they also provide feedback to Chafea on the utility of BTSF trainings. And while their growing numbers that reflect the programme's steady growth speak for themselves about BTSF's success, it's nice to hear directly from the participants themselves.
Eilias Dahlster, from Finland, found that "discussing face to face with representatives from quite different Member States really brings the examples of national approaches to flexibility into life", and Karl McDonald, from Ireland, also appreciated the "sharing of experience and knowledge, which helps solve problems "
Asked what he appreciated about his training the most, Christian Seiringer of Austria said the "distribution of a harmonised knowledge to whole Europe, a practical feedback of the application of the regulation."
One participant even took the time to jot down a little something extra on her feedback form that warmed the hearts of the trainers and training organisers too. "On a personal note," she wrote, "you've added to my level of happiness. Thank you EU."