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HACCP system: what is it and how to implement it in your restaurant

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Every finished product you serve your customers goes through a series of steps, from growing, harvesting and shipping to receiving, preparing and serving. At each of these steps, potential food safety hazards are present that could make the end consumer sick or injured. However, with a HACCP system, these hazards can be prevented, reduced to safe levels, or even eliminated completely. Read on to find out what an HACCP plan is and the steps needed to create your own.

What is an HACCP system?

HACCP refers to Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. It is a plan that restaurant operators implement to help them identify, reduce and react to biological, chemical or physical food safety hazards.

The goal of this food management system is to control these hazards and prevent contaminants from causing foodborne illness. Although there are seven essential parts to the HACCP plan, each step must be tailored to your company’s menu, customers, equipment, processes and operations.

Steps and examples of the HACCP plan

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There are seven principles that are used to make an HACCP plan. Each step is explained below and an example of an HACCP plan is provided for each step.

1. Performing a risk analysis

The first step in developing a HACCP plan is to conduct a risk analysis. This involves assessing the potential hazards that may arise during the food preparation process.

Some processes that should be evaluated during food preparation include

✔️ Serving uncooked foods such as salads, fruit and cold cuts.
✔️ Cooking foods, such as roast beef, for immediate consumption.
✔️ Spicy condiments, soups and sauces that are prepared, cooked, kept, chilled, reheated and served.
✔️ Foods such as potato salad and coleslaw that are simply prepared and stored

During the hazard analysis, you will want to identify where biological, chemical, or physical hazards are likely to occur in relation to the processes listed above. This is especially important when working with TCS foods.

Example: Raw chicken breast is often prepared, roasted and served on the same day. The potential danger with chicken is that bacteria may be present in the finished product if it is not cooked properly. Bacteria are a potential biohazard.

2. Determining critical control points

Once the potential hazards have been analyzed, it is important to identify where hazardous contamination may occur. At this point, you will want to find specific steps in the process where you can prevent, eliminate or reduce hazards to safe levels.

What is a critical control point?
A critical control point, or CCP, is the point in time at which you must apply control to eliminate potential food safety hazards.

The most common critical control points include:

✔️ Receive food from your supplier.
✔️ Store food before preparation.
✔️ Food handling and preparation.
✔️ Retaining heat or cold.
✔️ Cooking and reheating food.
✔️ Transporting prepared food to a different location.
✔️ Keeping food hot or cold during service.

Example: cooking raw chicken breast is the only step where bacteria can be killed or reduced to a level that is safe for consumption. Therefore, cooking raw chicken can be identified as a CCP.

3. Setting critical limits

For each step identified as a CCP, it is necessary to establish minimum or maximum limits that must be met to eliminate or reduce the hazard to a safe level. The establishment of critical limits at each CCP provides staff with strict and easy to follow guidelines to help them understand how to keep food safe.

Example: To kill bacteria, raw chicken breast must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds. This minimum is the critical limit, and can be achieved by cooking the chicken breast on the grill for the appropriate amount of time.

4. Establish monitoring procedures

After establishing the critical limit, employees must be provided with a way to check that each limit has been met. Implementing monitoring procedures is the most effective way to identify where, when and with whom something may have gone wrong.

Start by identifying who is responsible for measuring the critical limit and how often it should be noted. This serves several purposes, including

✔️ Return the process to control if a deviation occurs.
✔️ Track the process to show any regular deviation.
✔️ Provide documentation for verification.

Example: The best way to monitor the chicken is to use a clean and sanitized probe thermometer to record the temperature in the thickest part of the chicken breast. Each piece of chicken cooked on the grill should reach the minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds.

5. Establish corrective actions

If a critical limit is not reached during the process, it is called a deviation. When a deviation occurs, the staff needs to have the tools and knowledge to take corrective action to ensure that the contaminated food never reaches the final consumer.

Steps for corrective action should include

✔️ Determining the cause of the deviation.
✔️ Correct it (if possible).
✔️ Document deviation.

Example: if after checking the chicken breast with the thermometer, the food is not at the right temperature even though it has been cooked for the right time, then the chicken must continue to be cooked until it has reached the critical limit of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds. This additional cooking time must be recorded.

6. Verify that the system works

Re-evaluate and review your HACCP plan periodically to ensure its effectiveness. It is during this step that all records, documentation, control charts and analysis come into play. They will help you determine whether the plan successfully prevents, reduces or eliminates food safety risks.

Example: In this step, a trough might review the temperature monitoring charts after each shift change to ensure that the critical limit for the chicken breast was met each time it was prepared. Reviewing documented temperatures over a period of time can also help your staff identify trends and adapt their entire process to further prevent food safety hazards.

7. Maintain accurate records and documentation

Accurate record keeping allows you to organize and respond effectively to food safety hazards. That’s why developing procedures for accurate record keeping is the final stage of implementing a HACCP plan. Take the time to put in place a system that defines who documents what and how long records are kept on file.

Below are some types of documentation that should be kept:

✔️ Temperature records.
✔️ Notes on when corrective action was taken.
✔️ Information on maintenance and service performed on the equipment.
✔️ Supplier information, including shipping invoices and specification sheets.

Example: Temperature control charts, corrective action notes and chicken receiving invoices are kept for six months. Grill specification sheets and maintenance performed on the grill are kept for one year. In case of problems, this information can be used to support and verify the HACCP plan.

Important HACCP terms to know

When creating, implementing or reviewing a HACCP plan, it is important to understand the terminology. Below are some terms that should be known:

✔️ Biological contaminant – bacteria, viruses, pollen and other living organisms that can cause disease
✔️ Chemical contaminant – substances not naturally found in food that can cause disease (acrylamide, benzene, dioxins, melamine, etc.).
✔️ Corrective action: procedures followed when a critical limit is not met.
✔️ Hazard: a biological, chemical or physical contaminant that can cause illness or injury if not controlled.
✔️ Monitor: using a system of observations and measurements to judge whether a CCP is under control and to produce an accurate record for future verification.
✔️ Physical contaminant: a foreign object or foreign matter that can cause an injury or illness (bone, rope, hair, etc.).
✔️ TCS Food – food that requires time and temperature control for safety.

Remember that by implementing your own HACCP plan you can keep your employees accountable and prepared to handle food safely. Most importantly, you are protecting the end consumer from harmful biological, chemical and physical contaminants.

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