AETS-managed “Better Training for Safer Food” courses have gone virtual!

Better Training for Safer Food (BTSF), the European Commission’s training initiative covering food and feed law (but also animal health and welfare, plant health rules and rules on plant protection products) sees the Commission appoint companies to develop training activities for the staff of competent authorities in the Member States and for the staff in third countries responsible for controls. In 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, all the scheduled face-to-face BTSF courses currently overseen by AETS were suspended. After a few months it became obvious that this situation would last much longer than anyone had anticipated. Discussions began with the client, the European Commission, about the possibility of digitalising the training courses to ensure continuity. One of the arguments in favour of going virtual is that would make it possible for people to attend the training sessions who wouldn’t otherwise have had the opportunity, and there has been a marked increase in interest from candidates from non-EU countries.

 After months of exchanges with the EU, we are happy to announce that AETS finally hosted its ever first virtual session on the 19 April 2021 after more than a year of suspended BTSF activities. The training course fell under the scope of the Food Composition and Information (FCI) contract, which provides training focused on the EU rules on general food labelling and claims, as well as on specific categories of foods such as food supplements, foods with added vitamins and minerals and foods for specific groups.

 This first virtual training session lasted for five days and was led by a team of five tutors, as well as an AETS virtual event manager and an assistant event manager, with a total of 35 participants, despite a very short registration window. Prior to the session, short training workshops were held with all of the tutors to teach them how to use the many features of the new platform, and the tutors adapted very quickly.

One of the many advantages of using popular open-source technology is that there is a wealth of resources available online, which enabled the AETS teams to become proficient in a short time. AETS set up the platform in a format that attempted to maintain the ethos and qualities of the face-to-face training as much as possible, providing the participants with opportunities to network and get to know each other in the form of social chat rooms and forums, and to learn.

Overall, the feedback from participants was very positive, including a pointed interest in seeing some form of virtual training continue, even when face-to-face sessions resume.

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