Food businesses require Food Safety Plan to manage the risks related to products that can make a customer sick. The Food Safety Plan is a set of procedures that can reduce, prevent or eliminate food hazards that compromise consumers' health.
The food safety plans protect a business from
• The reputational loss that causes loss of customers due to food borne illness.
• Loss as a result of legal and financial consequences arising out of food poisoning or allergy to customers.
The Food Safety Management System is based on the seven principles of HACCP. HACCP is an acronym for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points. HACCP is a systematic preventive system developed by NASA and a group of food specialists. These principles are applied to processes involved at every stage of the food supply chain, including preparation, production, packaging, and distribution. They apply to all types of the food business for food safety.
1. Conducting Hazard Analysis
2. Identification of critical control points
3. Establishing Critical Limits
4. Monitoring Critical Control Points
5. Establishing Corrective Actions
6. Establishing Record-Keeping Procedures
7. Establishing Verification process
Identifying all possible food safety hazards that can take place in a food business is essential. A typical process would include receiving raw materials, cooking food, serving food, and disposing of the leftover waste. During any of these processes, hazards can lead to contamination of food and unsafe to consume.
Three categories of Food Contamination
• Biological - Bacteria and viruses
• Physical – pieces of metal staples and broken glasses
• Chemical – sanitizers, detergent
Once the hazard is identified in a business, it should be classified accordingly.
To control the hazards identified, one needs to identify Critical Control Points (CCP). These are steps that help to prevent or eliminate risks to acceptable levels. The identification points prevent contamination and reduce food borne illness. Sometimes cross-contamination between different types of food leads to severe allergic reactions in some consumers.
Some examples of CCP
• The step when receiving deliveries
• Checking food temperature before serving
• Cooking food at certain temperatures
There is no fixed template for identifying CCPs in the food business. Every business is unique. Various factors depend on the different types of business, the physical layout of business premises, equipment, and the process used. Even similar types of food businesses have a different approach for identifying food hazards.
Assigning values for food safety hazards is critical. Whether physical, biological, or chemical, each hazard must have a critical limit by which it can be controlled to an acceptable level. These limits must be measurable in specific parameters like temperature, time, acidity, or expiry dates.
For example, a critical value in the case of temperature for a high-risk food can be a minimum temperature of 165°F or 74°C.
Determining actual values for different hazards can be challenging as different hazards have different acceptable values. At times setting critical limits can be done only by taking the help of external sources. If the information on critical values is not available, it is better to take a judgment call and play safe. For example, best before use expiry date limits.
For any quality control process, monitoring is a must.
In the case of food, monitoring critical limits helps to ensure that food is safe. There are four categories of monitoring techniques.
• Observation – monitoring delivery schedules, cleaning schedules, etc.
• Sensory - tasting, smelling, and touching to check food quality.
• Chemical – conducting nutritional analysis, checking acidity levels, etc.
• Physical – checking pressure, weight, and temperatures
These monitoring tests are done regularly with the help of checklists and other documentations whose results are recorded for reference points.
Corrective actions are administered when found that there are deviations from acceptable critical limits. The steps can be immediate or preventive. Immediate actions can be throwing away the contaminated food, rejecting food deliveries infested with pests, or refrigerating food at appropriate temperatures to keep it out of the danger zone.
Preventive actions are stopping the breaches mentioned above from reoccurring in the future. It can include changing the work process, strengthening routine maintenance on equipment, and training staff for better hygiene and best practices for food safety. The corrective actions are recorded and communicated to the stakeholders. >HACCP Consultants can play a pivotal role in providing inputs for such actions.
Establishing any procedure and process requires documentation. For food safety plans, it is essential to keep records for effective operations. These records contain details of hazard analysis and corrective actions taken. Many vital, day-to-day records need to be maintained without any lapse, especially in the food business.
Some examples are
• Checklists of all types of deliveries
• Recording of cleaning schedules with sign-offs
• Recording of temperatures for storing and cooking food
• Results of pest inspection
• Records of staff training
The record-keeping for Food Safety plans must be accessible to all the employees. They need to update daily on what they are responsible for and their actions. For example, employees responsible for cleaning must enter the cleaning schedules details in the log register. Staff must know what they are responsible for, what they do daily, and whom to report.
These documentations are helpful during scrutiny by Health inspectors when they visit the business premises for inspection.
Developing a food safety plan is only the first step. It requires be implementing, testing and tweaking from time to time to fine-tune processes. The continuous real-world testing of critical limits, procedures, and tests keeps changing the original food safety plan. The food safety plan needs to be audited to identify gaps and take corrective actions.
Internal inspections, employee and customer feedback, and external audits are methods that give vital information.
How to get HACCP Certification?
To get HACCP certified, a business has to undergo a successful third-party external audit. Qualified Food Safety auditors handle this HACCP Certification process. The entire audit process can be a source of anxiety for a business that has embraced HACCP principles. However, in maximum cases, the experience is of learning and positive takeaway.
Establishing HACCP procedures and getting certified requires the help of experienced and reputed HACCP Consulting Services. These consultants are well versed in implementing HACCP food safety plans for different types of the food business. Their consulting and certification fees vary and depend on several factors.
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