food safety management system | 13 mins read

How to Implement an Effective Food Safety Management System in Your Restaurant

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Debdutta Bhattacharjee

By Debdutta Bhattacharjee

What is a Food Safety Management System?

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A food safety management system involves a systematic approach to managing food safety, making sure that all food items meet quality standards and are safe to eat.

The food safety management system encompasses every step, starting from receiving supplies to transporting the finished goods, implying that each activity and function must have its own set of procedures.

Furthermore, an FSMS should adhere to the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles, and it is the duty of each food service business to develop processes based on these principles.

Implementing a food safety management system is imperative for food service businesses to stay on the right side of food safety laws, keep food safety hazards at arm's length, and protect the health and safety of their customers. Moreover, by using a food safety management system, a food service business is able to adhere to international standards like ISO 22000.

Benefits of a Food Safety Management System

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1. Keep food safety hazards away
It is possible for a food service business that complies with the HACCP requirements, for example, to make sure that its dishes do not contain any physical, chemical, or biological contaminants.

A food safety management system like HACCP is extremely strict about food handlers practising high personal hygiene standards, ensuring that the food is cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature, that tables, utensils, and cutting boards are washed and sanitized, and raw and cooked food items are separated. It recommends corrective actions if standards are not met.

2. Fight food safety hazards throughout the supply chain
Food safety hazards can creep in at any stage of the supply chain, and the task of a food management system like HACCP is to control those hazards throughout the supply chain, from the production of raw materials, procurement, and handling of goods, to manufacture, warehousing, distribution, and sale of those goods.

The ISO 22000 norms of the International Organization for Standardization apply to all kinds of producers in the food industry, and offer a strong safety cover within the supply chain, helping food products to be transported across international borders.

3. Save and earn money
With HACCP prerequisite programs and food handling techniques being constantly documented, guesswork is eliminated. A restaurant that demonstrates a dedication to public health sees its image significantly boosted. This in turn means greater customer footfall and bigger earnings.

A food service business that implements a food safety management regime such as HACCP can shield itself from consumer lawsuits and government sanctions.

Therefore, a food service business would not only be able to earn big, it would also be able to save big, and in the final analysis, this would translate into higher profits.

4. Ensure strict adherence to food regulations
Food safety regulations in the United States are rather rigorous. The US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) prepares the Food Code, but local authorities have been given the power to frame their own food safety laws along USFDA guidelines.

By being fully committed to HACCP and other regimes of food safety management, a restaurant can not only ensure the consumers' health and safety, it can also make sure that it complies with food safety laws.

Contravention of these laws may lead to large fines imposed on the restaurant. Repeated violations can even cause the restaurant to close down.

Lawsuits and official sanctions will severely disrupt business functioning. The requirement for a restaurant to display its inspection grade at its premises would mean that customers will immediately know where the restaurant stands in terms of food safety. A less-than-perfect grade or a 'grade pending' sign may drive customers away. This will ultimately lead to a loss of income.

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Risks of Not Implementing a Management System

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A food service business that lacks a food safety management system is severely handicapped. It poses risks to diners, and is prone to litigation and federal action. A food safety management system like HACCP lets business owners know exactly what prerequisite programs are to be followed, and staff can accordingly be trained.

HACCP prerequisite programs deal with certain basic operational and environmental conditions that are needed for safe and wholesome food to be produced. Among other things, they impress on the restaurant employees the importance of following high standards of personal hygiene.

A restaurant that does not have a food safety management system may ignore the fact that its employees have not been washing their hands properly, or not washing and sanitizing table surfaces and cutting boards. Also, the food may not be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature and raw and cooked food may be carelessly kept close to each other.

Pathogens may enter the food served at such restaurants at any point, right from when the raw materials are taken from the shelves, to when the food is prepared and served. Poor hygiene and cleanliness may cause people to catch deadly viruses from surfaces like knives, doorknobs, or handles of cash registers that may contain infected respiratory droplets.

Without a food safety management system in place, a restaurant will be unable to make sure its employees food safety norms. It cannot build a food safety culture that necessitates regular food safety audits. Such audits will prevent restaurants from taking short-cuts, like using items that has become stale. Without a food safety management system, a restaurant would not be able to identify and get rid of problems before they assume menacing proportions.

Furthermore, as far as food laws and federal regulations are concerned, a restaurant lacking a food safety management system is walking on thin ice. If a restaurant fares poorly in a food safety inspection, the business owner will be given a warning. He/she will receive an official notice to correct the health code violation as quickly as possible.

If the restaurant flunks the test for the second time, the regulators may propose that the restaurant be closed. Businesses may be slapped with heavy fines for violating food codes. Challenging inspection grades and fighting customer lawsuits can lead to a lot of time and money being wasted.

A food safety management system ensures that the brand image of the restaurant is safeguarded and it does not have to go through the embarrassment of having to display a poor grade or a 'grade pending' sign on its window.

A food safety certification such as HACCP certification, on the other hand, shows diners right away that the food service business is serious about dealing with safe food. Strictly adhering to food safety norms will therefore protect the restaurant's revenues.

Why QSRs Can't Do Without Food Safety Management

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The implementation of food safety management systems becomes all the more necessary for quick-service restaurants. These work with bulk orders and heavy customer demand, and are geared towards providing fast service.

However, it's easy for food safety norms to get compromised in the rush to serve, especially when restaurant look to cut corners. For example, employees may not change their aprons and gloves after touching raw food, forget to change sanitizers on a regular basis, or may be unaware of water getting contaminated.

A food safety management system, however, is able to bring a restaurant on track and prescribes corrective actions if deviations from the food safety norms do occur.

There are an estimated 200,000 fast-food restaurants in the United States, with around 50 million people eating there every day. Consequently, even the tiniest miscalculation on the part of the restaurant employees might have disastrous consequences, affecting a large number of customers.

An example is the Taco Bell case of December 2006, when 71 customers became ill after eating contaminated lettuce. Overall, one in six people in America suffers from foodborne illnesses each year. This is a shocking statistic that makes food safety management systems all the more necessary.

Examples of Food Safety Management Systems

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HACCP, Food Safety System Certification 22000, and ISO 22000 are some of the widely-recognized international food safety management standards.

HACCP is essentially a Risk Management regime that seeks to make the functioning of thefood industry more secure. The HACCP principles and prerequisite programs help businesses analyze and control food safety hazards, from the production, sourcing, and handling of food, to its preparation, distribution, and consumption. All segments of the food supply chain need to follow food safety management measures in their functioning.

The HACCP system aims to identify and control potential risks at specific stages of the food production and handling processes.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) promotes the Codex Alimentarius General Principles of Food Hygiene, which provides a solid foundation for food hygiene. Hygiene measures are outlined in this FAO document at every level of the food supply chain, from the production of raw materials to ultimate consumption. It suggests using a HACCP-based strategy to ensure the safety of food.

ISO 22000 is a standard that specifies the need for an FSMS. It lays forth what an organization must undertake to show that it is capable of controlling food safety concerns. Any business, regardless of size or place in the food chain, can use this standard.

The FSSC 22000 scheme provides a comprehensive framework for the purpose of auditing and certifying food safety management systems. It also provides certification for combined food safety management and quality management systems.

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How Can the HACCP System be Implemented by a Food Business?

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A food service business must first put together a HACCP team. Then the food product, components, and methods of production and distribution must be defined. The restaurant must also specify the use that it intends to put the food product to, as well as its target consumers, for example, infants, elderly people, and immunocompromised patients.

This will be followed by the preparation of a flow diagram to illustrate the steps involved in the processes that the business directly controls. The HACCP team that reviews operations on site must verify the accuracy of the flow diagram. The principles of HACCP may then be applied to specific goods and processes to ensure food safety and disease prevention.

Therefore, a food business must perform hazard analysis to draw up a list of food safety hazards that may creep in and make people sick if not appropriately handled. For example, a cooked chicken meal kept together with raw meat may suffer cross contamination, and this may lead to a deadly pathogen like Salmonella infiltrating the cooked dish.

Critical control points must also be identified. These can be found at any point in the process of food handling and preparation where food safety hazards may be avoided, eliminated, or lowered to an acceptable level. Heat treatment at a defined temperature in order to destroy a specific microbiological pathogen is a good example of this.

Corrective actions are required when deviations from conventional procedures occur. These are designed to keep hazardous food out of the hands of consumers. If, for example, a technical problem causes the refrigerator temperature to go awry, the restaurant must discard the food and get the refrigerator repaired.

The restaurant should have verification procedures in place for assessing how valid the HACCP Plan is and for ensuring that the system is operating as intended. It should also have record-keeping and documentation processes in place to demonstrate that it handles and prepares food in accordance with all food safety standards.

Top 3 Food Safety Management Systems

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1. Zip HACCP
Zip HACCP makes food safety monitoring simple and straightforward. It allows a food service company's management to keep track of important food safety duties in real time and ensure that the employees do not deviate from regular operating practices.

The Zip HACCP software allows restaurant owners to monitor the operation of their business and take care of food safety concerns in real time, with updates syncing across all devices. The Zip HACCP food safetyMobile App generates reports that help business owners make better decisions wherever they may be.

The Blu 2 Bluetooth food temperature monitor can easily be linked to the Zip HACCP application to make sure that food is not overcooked or undercooked, and that pathogens are not present. Users can also benefit from hazard control checklists and mandatory checklists for corrective actions. Restaurants can buy this high-quality software solution from the Hubworks app store.

2. Jolt- This is a smartphone and tablet-based operations execution software. It lets restaurants, hospitality, retail, and other industries improve digital food safety compliance, team accountability, and staff performance.

The software helps businesses ensure quick service, and clean stores, and allows them to serve food piping hot and fresh with the help of automated monitoring of temperatures, food and date labeling, and temperature logs.

3. FoodDocs-
This is a food safety management system that comes with a HACCP builder. With the help of FoodDocs, a restaurant owner can draw up a HACCP Plan with the assistance of artificial intelligence and ensure that the business meets all regulatory criteria.

Without having to deal with reams of paper or employ a food safety specialist, the entrepreneur is able to swiftly construct a completely digital and customizable HACCP Plan.

Food safety activities can be created, monitored, and completed in a frictionless manner. Business owners can access real time dashboards and monitoring sheets that are generated automatically.

With just four clicks, critical control components can be tracked. To have automated barcode reader and temperature sensor readings, a business owner has to use the integrations offered by FoodDocs. The software allows all the food safety data to be gathered in one place and prepares businesses for impending audits.

Food Safety FAQs

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Q. What is meant by the New Era of Smarter Food Safety?

A. This is a new approach to food safety that incorporates technology to produce a safe and traceable food system digitally. It looks for ways and processes that are simple and effective. The ultimate objective of the New Era of Smarterfood safety is to reduce the load of foodborne illnesses in the United States.

Q. Is it true that cooking kills coronavirus?

A. According to Cornell University's Institute for Food Safety, the coronavirus is indeed eliminated if food is cooked to the safe minimum temperatures stipulated by the USFDA and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Q. How can HACCP be implemented in distribution and retail?

A. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) looks to collaborate with the USFDA on defining federal guidelines for the safe distribution, transportation, and storage of food items before those food products are supplied to retail outlets. The FSIS and USFDA look to provide joint guidance to retailers on food safety by using the Food Code.

Q. Can HACCP be made use of by consumers?

A.Yes, HACCP-like procedures can be adopted in the household. For this, correct handling, storage, cooking, and cleaning methods should be followed.

For instance, one has to follow the right method for refrigerating meat and poultry items, separate poultry and raw meat from ready-to-eat and cooked food, fully cook poultry and meat, and keep leftovers in the fridge so that the growth of harmful bacteria is slowed down.

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