food-safety | 14 mins read

HACCP Critical Control Points- What They are and How to Keep Them in Check

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Debdutta Bhattacharjee

By Debdutta Bhattacharjee

What is a Food Safety Program?

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A food safety program entails a systematic approach to food safety management, ensuring that all food items satisfy quality requirements and are safe to consume.

Every stage of the food supply chainfrom production and procurement of food supplies, to their storage, transportation, processing, and final consumptionis covered by the food safety program. This means that each activity related to food preparation and handling has its own set of procedures.

In order to comply with food safety rules, keep food safety hazards at bay and serve safe food to your customers, a food business must implement a food safety program like the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system.

The importance of a food safety program will be better appreciated in the context of a deeply worrying report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that says America suffers from nearly 50 million cases of foodborne illness every year.

As many as 31 known pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites, and a number of unspecified agents are responsible for this huge disease caseload. The virulent coronavirus that has held the world to ransom for over two years now makes it even more important to guard against cross-contamination.

The implementation of a food safety program is also important because businesses can win over customers with their commitment to food safety, which would result in greater customer footfall and greater profits. Therefore, businesses should closely monitor the Hazard AnalysisCritical Control Points.

With HACCP principles and prerequisite programs thoroughly documented, guesswork is eliminated and restaurants can focus fully on food safety.

What is a HACCP Plan?

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When you interpret the CDC data, you realize that every year, one out of every six people in the US contracts a foodborne illness.

Food safety should, therefore, be a major priority for the food industry, not just to protect customers' health and the reputation of a business, but also to avoid government penalties.

HACCP is one of the most robust food safety requirements restaurants can adhere to. The HACCP system is recognized worldwide and aims to ensure food safety by analyzing and controlling biological chemical, and physical hazards at every step of the food chain.

Bacteria, parasites, viruses, yeast, and molds are examples of biological safety hazards. Chemical hazards can take the form of detergents, pesticides, food additives, and so on. There could also be a variety of physical hazards, such as packaging material, pieces of glass and metal, jewelry, human hair, animal feather and fur, dead insects, pest droppings, etc. Food allergens that may trigger allergic reactions in consumers constitute another food safety hazard.

A restaurant must have a HACCP Plan in place to put the HACCP requirements into operation.

A HACCP Plan consists of putting together a HACCP team, defining the product, being clear about its expected use, preparing a commodity flow diagram, and testing the flow diagram at the business site. HACCP Plans can be tailored to address specific products or processes.

HACCP Plans require the seven principles of HACCP to be applied. These principles include conducting a hazard analysis and critical control point identification, setting critical limits, and so on.

Restaurants must educate their workers about safe food preparation and handling practices, such as keeping cooked and raw food items separate, properly washing hands and cutting surfaces, and so on, in addition to diligently implementing HACCP Plans. They must also instill a culture of food safety among their staff and supervisors, apart from conducting frequent audits.

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What are the 7 Critical Control Points?

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1. Conduct hazard analysis- This entails compiling a list of food safety hazards that may be present or may emerge and cause disease if not effectively handled. The deadly Salmonella bacteria, for example, can infect a cooked chicken meal as a result of cross-contamination if the cooked dish is not kept away from raw meat. The risks connected with every step of food production and food processing, as well as control measures, should be listed. A safety hazard may require several control measures. On the other hand, a single control measure can handle multiple hazards, as in the case of the pasteurization of milk.

2. Identify critical control points- CCPs are points at which food safety hazards can be avoided, eliminated, or lowered to acceptable levels. A heat treatment at a defined temperature and time for killing a specific microbiological pathogen is an example. CCPs also include refrigeration of precooked meals, and examining if ingredients contain chemical residues or metal pollutants.

3. Determine Critical limits- These are the minimum or maximum levels to which chemical, biological, or physical parameters ought to be controlled at a CCP so that a food safety hazard can be avoided, removed, or reduced to an acceptable level. For example, the critical limit for cooking pork chops is 145 F for 15 seconds, according to the FDA Food Code of 2001.

4. Create monitoring procedures- This requires taking a series of measurements to keep track of variables such as temperature and time. It monitors how a food business has been responding to food safety rules, determines whether loss of control happens at a CCP, and provides records that can be used for verification later.

5. Implement corrective actions- These are required in the event of deviation from set processes. The goal of corrective action is to prevent contaminated and unsafe food from reaching the customer. If, for example, a technical problem causes the refrigerator temperature to go haywire, the food has to be discarded and the refrigerator fixed.

6. Establish verification processes- These procedures are required to determine the validity of the HACCP Plan and to ensure that the system is operating as intended. Verification involves the validation of the HACCP Plan to ensure that it is technically sound, every safety hazard has been identified, and the HACCP Plan is properly followed. Since adequate verified safeguards are applied early, a well-functioning HACCP system needs minimal end-product testing.

7. Establish record keeping procedures- Proper record keeping and documentation helps a restaurant prove that food was prepared and handled according to HACCP regulations. Information on the HACCP Plan, critical limits, hazard analysis and the reasons for determining food safety hazards and control measures, corrective actions, and so on are documented as part of the HACCP system.

Examples of Common Critical Control Points

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Thermal processing, testing ingredients for chemical residue, chilling, testing products for metal contamination, and product formulation control are all examples of Critical Control points. CCPs must be carefully documented. A CCP could be a defined heat process carried out at a set time and temperature to eradicate a specific microbiological infection.

CCPs could also include the chilling of precooked food in a refrigerator to prevent harmful germs from proliferating, or adjusting the pH of a dish to prevent toxin development. The dangers recognized and the CCPs may differ across different facilities preparing similar dishes.

Pathogens are known to double every 20 minutes if food is allowed to sit at temperatures between 40 and 140 F. This is the food temperature danger zone, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). On the other hand, according to the US National Restaurant Association's training and certification program ServSafe, this zone lies between 41 and 135 F.

The risk of infection can be prevented or minimized by ensuring that the food doesn't sit in the temperature danger zone for over four hours. Food products should be cooked in such as way that a safe internal temperature is reached. Examples of safe internal temperatures are 165 F for leftovers and poultry products; 160 F for ground beef and egg dishes; and 145 F for fish. A food thermometer is extremely handy for monitoring food temperatures.

Critical risks to food can also be minimized by storing meals that are to be consumed later, in the refrigerator as quickly as possible. Within two hours of purchasing or cooking, food items should be refrigerated or frozen. If the temperature outside is 90 F or higher, meals should be put in the refrigerator within an hour.

Cold-holding equipment should retain food at 40 F or lower. Cold foods must be used within six hours of being taken out from the refrigerator. Cold food items should be examined every two hours, and should not be consumed if the temperature had risen to 70 F or higher.

Frozen food should never be thawed at room temperature. The safest way to do so is in the refrigerator. It has to be kept refrigerated at or below 41 F to keep microbes at bay. Food can be thawed in the microwave, in cold water, or during the cooking process itself. Cook food thawed in the microwave oven or in cold water as soon as possible.

What's the Best Way to Monitor CCPs?

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An absolute commitment to Disease Control requires the fullest and the most accurate identification of CCPs. To make sure that the HACCP principles are effectively implemented, a HACCP team must be constituted. The team needs the information gathered at the time of hazard analysis to determine which steps are CCPs. Using a CCP decision tree is a technique for identifying CCPs.

A HACCP team should establish the range of its functions from the very beginning whether it is to cover the full commodity system or only a portion of it. This team ought to include individuals with diverse backgrounds. A specialist who knows the commodity system inside out should be a part of the HACCP team. Additionally, there should be individuals who understand the nature of specific hazards.

In order to conduct a complete hazard analysis, the HACCP team should have a detailed understanding of the product in question.

As a result, the composition of the product, its chemical and physical qualities, mycotoxin target/regulation level, pH value, and the quantity of water available for microbial development should be included in the product description.

In addition, information on how the product should be stored, packaged, and delivered, as well as its shelf life and appropriate storage temperatures, should be provided. It should be made apparent whether the food has to be consumed raw, further processed, or cooked.

The product's intended customers must also be determined. They can be members of the general population or people who are vulnerable, like malnourished individuals, infants, patients with weak immune systems, and the elderly. One also needs to consider the possible misuse of food products, such as pet food being inadvertently consumed by humans.

With the assistance of a commodity specialist, a detailed commodity flow diagram needs to be created. Commodity systems can differ significantly between countries and also within the same country. The diagram should provide a simple summary of the steps involved in processes that are under the establishment's direct control.

The HACCP team must undertake an on-site inspection of the processes to ensure that the commodity flow diagram is comprehensive. Changes to the diagram can be made as needed, and they must be documented.

After these activities are done, the HACCP Plan can be completed by applying the seven HACCP principles to specific processes and products.

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Top HACCP Software for Restaurants

1. Zip HACCP-
This software for restaurants makes food safety management incredibly simple. It lets a food service organization keep track of critical tasks in real-time from any location and makes sure that employees adhere to standard operating procedures.

Restaurant owners using Zip HACCP can rest assured that food safety procedures are being diligently followed at their establishment, and they would be notified immediately if serious issues arise. Business owners can swiftly analyze and follow up on checklists and call for corrective action using the reports generated by the Zip HACCP mobile app.

The Blue2 Bluetooth food temperature monitor, which can readily be linked with the Zip HACCP software, can be used to ensure that the meals are neither undercooked nor overcooked, and the temperature Danger Zone is avoided. Zip HACCP is priced at $59.99 per location per month and includes free support. It's available on the Hubworks app store, a one-stop online restaurant management store.

2. Safefood 360 Degree-
This product enables food businesses to stay on top of food safety, quality, and compliance management. It includes more than 30 software modules that integrate all areas of food safety management. Businesses can use sophisticated risk evaluation models and decision trees, tap the software's built-in hazard database, and create and maintain its HACCP Plans in one location.

The software also allows all prerequisite programs to be managed in one convenient location. Modules cover cleaning, pest control, staff training, glass and plastic management, and so on. Safefood 360 Degree lets business owners track manufacturing processes, material deliveries, and almost all other aspects of the business. It allows notifications to alert users when results aren't up to par. The price is custom-quoted.

3. Effivity-
It provides automated food safety control, and lets businesses meet the requirements of HACCP and other recognized food safety norms like the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and ISO 22000-2018. It provides a simple configuration that adjusts to your organization as you scale up. Efficiencies include a configurable HACCP Plan, business process management automation, and paperless procedures.

Businesses of all types and sizes use Effivity to automate and improve their compliance with Quality Management System (QMS), Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) system, Food Safety Management System (FSMS), and HACCP.

Effivity has a Starter Plan priced at $97 per month and a Growth Plan priced at $243 per month. The billing is done annually. There are discounts of 20% and 30% on two-year and three-year subscriptions respectively for both plans. Free trial is available, but it doesn't have a free version.

Types of Food Safety Programs

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Some of the most commonly recognized international food safety management standards include HACCP, ISO 22000, and Food Safety System Certification 22000.

HACCP or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point is a risk management system that aims to make food businesses more secure. From food production, procurement, and handling to preparation, distribution, and consumption, the HACCP principles, and prerequisite programs assist organizations in analyzing and controlling food safety risks. Food safety management protocols must be adhered to by all parts of the food supply chain.

The HACCP system seeks to discover and mitigate potential hazards at specific phases of the processes for food preparation and handling.

The Codex Alimentarius General Principles of Food Hygiene, which offer a sound framework for food hygiene, are promoted by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This document outlines hygiene precautions at every stage of the food supply chain, from raw material production to final consumption of the food product. To ensure food safety, the Codex Alimentarius recommends utilizing a HACCP-based plan.

The International Organization for Standardization's ISO 22000 framework establishes the necessity for a food safety management system. It outlines what an organization must do to demonstrate its capability in addressing food safety issues. This standard can be used by any company, irrespective of its size or position in the food chain.

This food safety management standard from ISO lets businesses discover and manage food safety threats, and works with other ISO benchmarks, such as ISO 9001 that deal with quality management. Producers, manufacturers, retailers, regulators, and consumers all benefit from ISO's food standards.

The FSSC 22000 certification program provides a comprehensive framework for assessing and certifying food safety management systems. It also offers accreditation for systems that combine Food Safety and quality management.

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"Our customer's trust is what keeps us in business. They expect fresh tasting food with no threat of ill-born diseases. Zip HACCP keeps us compliant with HACCP and FDA regulations through its integrated temperature solutions, food safety assurance, and end-to-end task reporting. We also use Zip Inventory to save time on inventory counts and have much-needed predictability to our ordering process. The Hubworks business management apps are perfect for our restaurants."

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