food-safety | 12 mins read

HACCP Plan Example- A Step by Step Guide to Food Safety

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Debdutta Bhattacharjee

By Debdutta Bhattacharjee

What is a HACCP Plan?

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One in every six people in the US suffers from domestically-acquired foodborne illnesses every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

Foodborne pathogens (bacteria, viruses, parasites, and a host of unspecified agents) are indeed some of the major contributors of disease in the US, and the CDC study adds that foodborne illnesses result in nearly 130,000 hospitalizations and more than 3,000 deaths every year in the country. The coronavirus, which has been on the rampage for the past two years, has queered the pitch further.

Ensuring food safety, therefore, should be the topmost priority for any foodservice business, not only to safeguard customer health and its own brand image but also to avoid penal action.

In this regard, one of the key food safety standards that restaurants must follow is the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP). It is a globally-recognized system that seeks to ensure the safety of food through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, or physical risks at every stage of the food chain, right from production, procurement, and handling of raw materials, to preparation, distribution, and consumption of the finished products. Now, to put the HACCP protocols into practice, a restaurant has to have a HACCP Plan ready.

The HACCP Plan involves assembling a HACCP team, describing the product, identifying the expected use of the product, developing a commodity flow diagram, and verifying the flow diagram on-site. A HACCP Plan may be product-or process-specific. Alternatively, it may use a unit operations approach.

After these preliminary tasks are completed, the HACCP Plan calls for the application of the seven HACCP principles, such as conducting a hazard analysis, determining critical control points, establishing critical limits, and so on.

Apart from a diligent implementation of HACCP Plans, restaurants would be well-served to educate their staff about safe food preparation and handling methods, including separating raw and cooked food, properly washing cutting boards, and so on. They should also inculcate a food safety culture among their employees and managers, and conduct regular audits.

Common Food Safety Hazards in a Restaurant

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1. Biological hazards- These are made up of bacteria, viruses, parasites, yeast, and molds.

2. Chemical hazards- These include cleaning agents, insecticides, pesticides, food additives, and so on.

3. Physical hazards- These may include pieces of glass, jewelry, packaging material, human hair, animal fur and feather, pest droppings, and dead insects.

4. Allergens- These refer to substances that may cause an allergic reaction. The presence of allergens would render the food unsafe, and cause the food to be recalled.

For example, earlier in March, Torn & Glasser announced the recall of Sprouts Farmer Market dark chocolate-covered cherries as the product was found to contain undeclared almonds. People who are highly sensitive/allergic to almonds could have faced serious or life-threatening reactions had they consumed this product.

Inadequate attention to the HACCP prerequisite programs can make food unfit for consumption. For instance, the servers and cooks not being mindful of personal hygiene, or poor pest control measures would invariably make food unsafe and hazardous.

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How Can a HACCP Plan Ward Off Food Safety Hazards?

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The HACCP food management system puts emphasis on personal hygiene, keeping raw and cooked food products separate, sanitization of surfaces, and sticking to a safe minimum internal temperature. The HACCP system looks to preempt food poisoning, and also prescribes corrective measures if food hazards do creep in. By being HACCP-compliant a restaurant is able to be in control of food safety requirements at every step of the food chain and ensure Disease Control.

The HACCP system lets a foodservice business identify critical control points at which intervention must be made to ensure food safety. For instance, a restaurant employee handling food products must be mindful of the temperature Danger Zone for that product. This allows the restaurant to fix consistent standards of food preparation and handling and also affords the scope of monitoring and corrective measures if the actual processes deviate from the norm.

Food businesses, by strictly following the HACCP guidelines, are able to convince their customers that the food they serve is free from biological, physical, and chemical contaminants, and also, allergens. They are able to assure the customers that all safety prerequisites are adhered to, and their employees carefully wash their hands, wear gloves and aprons, wash their cutting boards properly, and all products are stored under proper sanitary conditions, among other things. It would show that the restaurant is committed to the cause of public health.

Guesswork is taken out of the food safety management system with HACCP principles, prerequisite programs, and HACCP Plans in place and being continuously documented.

Food businesses, in this regard, would be well-served by the use of modern technology like the Zip HACCP software, which is available on the Hubworks restaurant app store. Zip HACCP enables the monitoring of vital food safety tasks in real-time.

7 Principles That Are Part of a HACCP Plan

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1. Conduct hazard analysis- This seeks to develop a list of hazards that are reasonably likely to occur and cause illness if not properly controlled. For instance, Salmonella may enter a cooked chicken dish due to cross-contamination with raw meat. Other potential hazards could be detergent or pieces of broken glass in uncovered food.

2. Determine the Critical Control Points (CCPs)- These are located at every stage where risks can be prevented, eliminated, or reduced to acceptable levels. An example is the heat process at a specific time and temperature for killing a particular microbiological pathogen.

3. Establish critical limits- These is the actual minimum/maximum level to which a biological, chemical or physical parameter should be controlled. According to the 2001 FDA Food Code, for example, the critical limit when cooking pork chops is 145-degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds.

4. Establish monitoring procedures- This entails a set of measurements to keep a watch over parameters like temperature and time. It tracks the functioning of a foodservice business in terms of the standards of food safety, decides whether a loss of control occurs at a CCP, and also generates records that can be subsequently used for verification purposes.

5. Establish corrective actions- These become necessary in case of deviations from the standard procedures. Corrective action is aimed at stopping contaminated food from reaching consumers. If, for example, the temperature inside a refrigerator goes haywire due to a technical glitch, the food must be discarded and the refrigerator repaired.

6. Establish verification procedures- These procedures become necessary for determining the validity of the HACCP Plan and seeing if the system is working according to the plan.

7. Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures- Proper documentation and record-keeping help a restaurant in proving that the food was prepared and handled in accordance with all the food safety protocols. Records kept as part of the HACCP system include information on the HACCP Plan, Hazard Analysis, critical limits, monitoring, corrective actions, verification procedures, schedules, and so on.

12 Steps to an Effective HACCP Plan

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1. Build a HACCP team- The HACCP team should determine at the outset the scope of its activities - whether it is to deal with the entire commodity system or a part of it. This team should comprise people from different areas of expertise. There should be a specialist who has a detailed understanding of the commodity system. There should also be specialists who can make sense of specific hazards and the problems that those hazards could cause.

Accordingly, a HACCP team should include microbiologists, toxicologists, mycotoxicologists, chemists, quality control managers, and process engineers.

Individuals like raw material buyers, packaging specialists, distribution or production staff, farmers, and brokers, who are involved in various processes in the food supply chain may also be incorporated into the team to provide relevant and valuable knowledge and experience.

The team must be held together by a leader, who should direct the team and ensure that the HACCP concept is effectively put into practice.

2. Define and describe the product- The HACCP team must have the fullest knowledge of the product it is dealing with in order to do a thorough hazard analysis.

Therefore, the product description should include information on the product's composition, physical and chemical properties, mycotoxin regulation/target level, the amount of water available for the growth of microbes, and pH value.

Information should also be provided on how the product must be packaged, stored, and transported, along with its shelf life and recommended storage temperatures. Labeling information would add to the knowledge about the product.

3. Determine the product's intended use- It should be amply clear if the product is to be consumed directly, processed further, or cooked.

The intended consumers of the product also have to be identified. They can either be the general public, or vulnerable sections like infants, immunocompromised individuals, malnourished individuals, or the elderly. The possible misuse of a product, for instance, the use of pet food for humans accidentally, must also be considered.

4. Prepare a commodity flow diagram- An in-depth commodity flow diagram should be prepared with the help of a commodity specialist. Commodity systems may vary in terms of detail between different countries and even within a country. The diagram should be an uncomplicated outline of steps involved in the processes that are directly under the control of the establishment. The flow diagram may also include steps in the food chain that precede or succeed the processing in the establishment.

5. On-site verification of the flow diagram- The HACCP team needs to conduct an on-site review of the operations to check the completeness of the commodity flow diagram. Changes may be made to the diagram as necessary, which are then duly documented.

Once these initial tasks are completed, the HACCP Plan can be given completeness by applying the seven HACCP principles mentioned in the preceding section to specific products and processes.

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How the HACCP System Can Save Your Business Money

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1. Customers would keep coming back to a restaurant that they believe serves safe food. The brand image of a HACCP-compliant and HACCP-certified food business would rise significantly among the customers, and more customers would mean brisker business.

2. Food safety laws are pretty strict in the US and the biggest threats for a business that neglects food safety protocols are government penalties and litigation. Legal battles can be extremely costly, lead to customer backlash and cause the reputation of the business to suffer irreparable damage. Customer dissatisfaction would in turn lead to lesser and lesser revenues. Plus, the government fines can be quite hefty. Following the HACCP norms diligently would protect the business from such loss of money, and allow it to prove its case if it does have to get into legal fights.

3. Food prepared in keeping with safety norms would also mean that the food quality would be significantly enhanced. For instance, cooking at the right internal Food Temperature would ensure that the food is neither undercooked nor overcooked. In this regard, the Blu 2 Bluetooth food temperature monitor, which can be connected to the Zip HACCP application, comes in handy. The Blu 2 probe is available on the Hubworks app store.

4. By clearly laying down the Food Safety norms, and providing specifications for all products, ingredients, and packaging materials in written form, the HACCP Food Management system ensures that employee efficiency is increased. It also makes sure that downtime is reduced. Efficient employees would be able to provide better customer service, contribute to customer satisfaction, and add to the company's bottom line.

HACCP System FAQs

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1. Do I need to review my HACCP Plan when it is complete?

The HACCP Plan must be up to date. Yes, it should be periodically reviewed, more so when something in the food operation changes. For instance, if your business starts hot holding food, the HACCP Plan has to be updated to take this additional step into account.

2. Is the HACCP program new?

No. HACCP was first used in the 1960s. HACCP guidelines were used by the Pillsbury Company to prepare safe and high-quality food for astronauts. The National Academy of Sciences, the National Advisory Committee for Microbiological Criteria for Foods, and the Codex Alimentarius have all endorsed HACCP.

3. Can consumers make use of HACCP?

It is indeed possible to implement HACCP-like practices at home. One simply needs to follow proper storage, handling, cleaning, and cooking procedures. For instance, one should properly refrigerate meat and poultry products, keep raw and cooked meals separate, thoroughly cook meat and poultry products, and refrigerate leftovers to prevent bacterial growth.

4. How does microbiological testing help in HACCP programs?

Microbiological testing allows one to check if the HACCP system is running properly. It helps in trends being tracked and products being monitored. Microbiological data alerts the user when production processes are not adequately controlled; it also verifies if prevention measures are being successful in decreasing the level of pathogens.

5. How can HACCP be built into distribution and retail?

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) seeks to work with the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) to develop federal standards on the safe handling of food products during storage, transportation, and distribution before they are delivered to retailers. Also, the FSIS and USFDA look to undertake a joint effort to guide retail stores on matters of food safety through the Food Code.

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