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HACCP Food Safety | Deciphering the Regulatory Guidelines

haccp food safety deciphering the regulatory guidelines
Daphne Blake

By Daphne Blake

Understanding HAACP food safety regulations and how to comply

Search HACCP online, and you may walk away more confused than before. Check out our easy guide to HACCP food safety and help your food service business thrive by deciphering the code.

What is HACCP?

This is a very common question with a simple answer, but searching online can turn up any number of strange results leading to confusion and frustration. The FDA website is especially good at adding to the mystery if you're not used to reading detailed legal definitions and official HACCP documentation. Their website covers all aspects of the food industry, not just restaurants and food service, which only increases the difficulty in finding the parts that pertain to restaurants specifically. You can certainly find restaurant-specific documentation there, but it can take a little digging, and we know you're busy trying to run a successful food service business.

That's where our frustration-free guide to HACCP food safety comes in to save the day.

The jarring official title and what it means

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Officially, HACCP stands for "Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point," and we know it can sound a bit concerning when reading aloud. The truth is, the HACCP acronym is just a fancy way of describing a simple, internationally recognized concept. For food service specifically, think of it as a management system designed to keep foods safe for consumers and help restaurants reduce the risks of foodborne illnesses in their kitchens.

The seven principles of HACCP

There are seven principles of HACCP that restaurants should be aware of. You can find many exhaustive lists and long explanations online, but most of them cover the entire food industry. We know you're mostly interested in how it affects your food service business or restaurant, so we'll distil it down to the main points that can affect you.

1. Hazard analysis -It sounds like something you might do in a nuclear power plant and under the watchful eye of someone decked out in a hazmat suit, but it's not quite so dramatic. At this first and most important stage of the HACCP process, you will look at your restaurant and identify any places or situations where hazards can be introduced. This might be the risk of cross-contamination during thawing or rinsing raw meat, or any opportunities where cleaning products or other chemicals can come in contact with foods. You're looking for physical, chemical, or biological hazards here. Once hazards are identified, their degree of risk should be determined.

2. Critical control point identification -Here's another term that sounds vaguely like something from a sci-fi novel, but again, it's a very simple concept. Critical control points, or the CCPs, are the places where the hazard needs to be controlled to prevent contamination of food. This can be as simple as maintaining the proper temperature and ensuring safe handling procedures, at the core of the HACCP food safety objective.

3. Establish a max and minimum limit for processing characteristics -This boils down to how long will you need to thaw an item in the fridge, for example, or what temperature must food reach during cooking to ensure any bacteria have been killed. There's a processing procedure for everything, and knowing what the HACCP limit is for each process will help control any hazards you identified in step one.

4. Establish critical limits -For each critical control point, you will need to establish the criteria that need to be met to control the hazard. Let's say your hazard is the threat of salmonella in undercooked chicken. Your HACCP critical limit for this hazard would be to cook the chicken to the proper internal temperature.

5. Establish monitoring procedures -This is your call to figure out how you'll monitor the situation. We'll use our salmonella example from before. If we know that cooking the chicken to the proper internal temperature will prevent salmonella, then our procedure for monitoring this process is simply taking the temperature before we serve it to our customers. To be in HACCP compliance, you would need to log this as part of your monitoring procedure. More on that a little later though.

6. Establish corrective actions -For every hazard, control point, and monitoring procedure, you will need to establish HACCP compliant corrective actions. In our salmonella example from above, our corrective action, should the temperature be too low, is as simple as putting the chicken back in the oven until the correct temperature has been reached.

7. Establish record keeping procedures -Your records need to reflect your steps from start to finish, including your corrective actions. How you keep compliant HACCP food safety logs is up to you, but finding an efficient way to do so will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Using our salmonella example one last time, you would want a set procedure for logging the temperatures at set intervals, and a way to note if there were any misreads or possible equipment failure. Of course, equipment failure also falls under step one where we've identified possible hazards. However, if you've been following the HACCP standards, you should have corrective actions in place to handle that situation, too.

Piles of logbooks or the easy way?

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At this point, you've probably guessed that keeping records is pretty important to staying in compliance with HACCP food safety. But who has time to write all these things down, and who wants to pay for the paper and ink? Let's not even get into the cost of storing all the logbooks and files, either.

Modern technology has given us a great gift. Food safety software, such as Zip HACCP, was designed to take the tedium out of logging and making reports, leaving you more time to handle the more interesting parts of running a restaurant. A nice bonus to Zip HACCP is that any changes that need to be made can be done quickly, in real-time, and synced across all devices with a click or tap. It also comes with a built-in food safety and hazards control list and corrective action lists, so you don't have to go through all the steps listed above. The hard work is already done for you!

With so many features, you'd expect a powerful tool such as Zip HACCP to cost a small fortune, but that's another bonus to modern technology. It was designed with small to medium businesses in mind, and it's incredibly affordable, especially when you compare it with the cost of paper, ink, logbooks, storing files, shredding outdated files, and the cost of your time and manpower to fill everything out by hand. If you'd like to learn more about Zip HACCP or other food service apps and productivity software, we've got some other great articles right here.

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