Not a lot could be worse for the reputation of your business than being responsible for a case of food poisoning. This means that safely providing food should be paramount in the way you operate, as following strict procedure around how you handle food can be the difference between a successful business and bankruptcy.
The HACCP food management system has become a legal requirement for all food establishments, not only here in Australia but in other parts of the world as well. What is the HACCP? To put it simply, HACCP or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point is a method of identifying and managing risk so you can ensure that all the food you sell is safe for your consumers to eat. This method lets you identify what can go wrong in a food system and plan how to prevent it so you can control any hazards that could lead to foodborne illness. All businesses that manufacture, cater, and sell food are required to have a HACCP system in place. Following a HACCP system is more than just a law, it also may lead to several benefits for your business too.
ADVANTAGES OF IMPLEMENTING HACCP
First, you will gain the trust of your customers if they see that you’re taking food safety seriously. How likely would you be to eat somewhere if you knew the kitchen didn’t follow proper regulations? Customers will gladly return to your establishment if they see that you ensure food is prepared in accordance to regulation.
Second, you can prevent costly food safety incidents such as fines, and negative reviews. Health inspectors will look for anything wrong, regardless of how small, and fine you for it.
Third, with a successful HACCP system, you gain a competitive edge over your rivals. Being HACCP verified will make you more attractive to potential customers and can even help you become a recommended supplier.
In addition to these, numerous food establishments, such as food manufacturing businesses, retailers, and caterers nowadays are already implementing HACCP to cut down the chances of hazards occuring, so not having this system in place means falling short of your competitors and the industry standard.
“How do I establish a HACCP system to ensure food safety?”
Before anything else, you need to consider the seven principles that serve as the foundation for a HACCP system. These principles must be implemented effectively in order for you to become HACCP ready.
SEVEN PRINCIPLES OF HACCP
HACCP Principle 1: Perform a hazard analysis
This is where you look at each and every step of your food production process - from preparation, cooking, and chilling, to storage, purchasing, and delivery - and identify where potential hazards could occur. Hazards are classified into three categories:
- Biological (e.g harmful bacteria and viruses like trichinella or salmonella in cooked meat products because of cross-contamination)
- Physical (e.g. human hair, nails, or metal fragments from chipped utensils fallen into uncovered pastries)
- Chemical (e.g. too many food additives such as food colors and preservatives added to finished products)
HACCP Principle 2: Identify the Critical Control Points
The second principle of HACCP is all about determining the critical control points. CCPs are particular points or steps in your process that pose the MOST risk. These should be identified and managed.
Among the most common CCPs are cooking and pasteurization. Cooking raw seafood or meat thoroughly will kill harmful bacterias and viruses, while pasteurizing canned goods and dairy will destroy pathogens that can put a consumer at risk.
HACCP Principle 3: Set critical limits
Critical limits should be applied to each control point, in the form of minimums and maximums. A good example of this is the pasteurization time/temperature. When pasteurizing milk, for instance, you may set the limit to be 161° for 15 seconds to ensure that all pathogens from the dairy product are killed.
HACCP Principle 4: Monitor control points and limits
Putting in control points and limits is half the work, now a monitoring procedure standard must be set in place to make sure any changes or variances in the control points or critical limits that could result in risks are managed.
HACCP Principle 5: Plan your corrective actions
Remember, HACCP is all about correcting problems before they affect anyone’s health. Hence, the fifth principle must be taken seriously. This is where you establish what corrective actions must be taken if the critical control or limit you’ve set is not met. Your corrective action must guarantee that no unsafe product is released to avoid any illness to consumers.
Let’s take milk pasteurization again as an example. If the temperature of the milk doesn't meet the established 161° critical limit due to a technical problem in your equipment, dispose the affected product immediately and get yourself a new and working dairy pasteurizer. Setting corrective procedures ensures that mistakes are dealt with effectively.
HACCP Principle 6: Establish verification procedures
Your next step is to verify your HACCP plan to make sure it’s working effectively in preventing the food hazards you’ve identified. How do you do this? You can test your end product, double check if your controls are working properly as planned, or perform several verification activities, like internal and external audit, reviewing of records, and biological and chemical testing.
Procedures must be set forth to ensure that HACCP is followed not just sometimes, but constantly in the food manufacturing workplace. Each employee should be able to verify the steps that they are responsible for, so there is no confusion as to who is responsible for which control point.
HACCP Principle 7: Document everything
Of course, you will have to keep appropriate documentation and written records of all of the above. This is to make it easier for you to demonstrate and prove that you have correctly applied the principles of HACCP. Your documents should include the following:
- The HACCP Plan, Objectives, Scope, Regulatory & Customer Requirements
- Hazard Analysis
- CCP Determination and Validation
- Critical Limit Determination
- CCP Monitoring Procedures
- Corrective Action Procedures
- Finished Product Descriptions
- Process Flow Diagrams
- HACCP Development Team Meeting Minutes
HACCP is designed to monitor and control each step in the food production process to ensure that hazards are eliminated and foodborne illnesses and poisoning can be prevented. By outlining the advantages of implementing the system and the principles that serve as the foundation for it, we hope that you can finally answer YES to the question, “are you HACCP ready?”
To summarise, here are the steps involved in HACCP:
- Perform a hazard analysis
- Identify the Critical Control Points
- Set critical limits
- Establish a system or procedures to monitor control of the CCP
- Plan your corrective actions
- Establish verification procedures
- Document everything
Keep in mind that although you can always hire the services of industry professionals to help you get a HACCP certification, you can still choose to develop a food safety management system by yourself. Just be sure to be familiar with all the needed requirements and take time to review your current food safety procedures.
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