HACCP Plans Are for Anyone Handling Food

When I talk to people about HACCP or ask if they have a HACCP plan, most think it only applies to large operations, but in fact anyone handling food in any way could use HACCP principles to make sure they are safely preparing food.

HACCP Plans: What You Should Know for Food Safety | ResproFSP.com

HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points system. This system can be used at every stage in the food chain, from farms and food processors to retail outlets like supermarkets and restaurants.

We could go into great detail about how large operations use HACCP starting with assembling a team, designing flow diagrams, and decision trees, but some of these principles are a bit overkill for small retail operations. Let’s break this down for the small operator. The goal of HACCP is to prevent, eliminate, or reduce biological, chemical, or physical hazards to food. The main HACCP principles to focus on are:

  • Identify hazards
  • Set critical limits
  • Establish monitoring procedures
  • Develop corrective action protocol
  • Implement verification/record-keeping policies

Identify Hazards

Hazards to food safety can be biological, physical, or chemical agents that  are most likely to cause illness. Pathogens are microorganisms that cause disease. It’s important to identify what are the hazards or pathogens that can contaminate food at every stage of the process being evaluated.

Set Critical Limits

Once a hazard has been identified, critical limits need to be set to prevent, eliminate or reduce the hazard from leading to contamination. Some examples are cooking chicken to 165 degrees F to kill pathogens, storing meats at 41 degree F or below, and mixing sanitizer chemicals at the proper concentrations. These control measures should be trained and documented to show they are being followed every shift.

Establish Monitoring Procedures

Monitoring procedures should be set in place to verify the critical limits at the control points are being followed. Examples of monitoring are temperature checks of cold-holding units, using sanitizer test strips and checking cooking temperatures of raw meats.

Develop Corrective Action Protocol

Things can go wrong at any time. When this happens, a preset plan needs to be put into action. If at any time a critical limit is not met, steps should be taken to make sure the food doesn’t get served. For example, if raw chicken isn’t cooked to 165 degrees F, then it needs to be reheated back up to 165 degrees F before it is served. If cooling food doesn’t meet the required cool-down time, it should be discarded or treated to ensure it doesn’t cause illness. Monitoring procedures will identify times when critical limits aren’t met and the corrective action will correct the problem.

Implement Verification/Record-Keeping Policies

Now that all of these important control measures are in place, it’s important to be able to prove it. If there is a foodborne illness complaint, the documentation needs to be available to prove that the critical limits are being followed to show that every step is being taken to ensure the food produced won’t make someone sick. Temperature and cooling logs need to be kept and retained for easy checking when needed. Regular audits from third-party inspection companies can be used to verify HACCP plans are being followed. Having all of the processes in place won’t mean anything if it can’t be proven that they are taking place every shift.

We can spend months trying to understand the complexities of HACCP, but small operations that may not be required to implement HACCP principles can still benefit from them.

Respro works with food processors and retailers like restaurants to verify their food safety or HACCP plans are being followed. If you would like Respro to verify your food safety program, please contact us:

  • Email: dennis@resprofsp.com
  • Toll-free: 1.877.718.4709

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