What is HACCP and What are Food Safety Management Procedures?
Did you know that food safety boils down to the use of a single acronym? Yes, the term ‘HACCP’ has been enshrined in European legislation for many years now. European law (based on international standards) requires food operators to put in place food safety management procedures based on HACCP principles and businesses who are involved in the preparation of open food are expected to have a grip on it.
The term HACCP stands for ‘Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point’ and is based on a theoretical and practical approach to food safety management. It sounds more complicated than it actually is; essentially it refers to the systematic approach taken by a business when they analyse what could go wrong and what measures need to be put in place to ensure that food remains safe.
What does HACCP involve?
The following steps outline the HACCP process:
- Identify potential hazards at each stage of the operation and develop measures to control them.
- Establish critical control points (CCPs are points in a process at which hazards can be controlled or eliminated).
- Determine critical limit(s) for each CCP (these are thresholds like temperature limits that must be met in order to maintain safety).
- Establish systems to monitor those controls.
- Formulate corrective actions (i.e. outline what must be done when things go wrong).
- Establish verification procedures for the whole HACCP system (check that it is working effectively).
- Document procedures related to the aforementioned principles.
It is also worth mentioning the hygiene pre-requisites. Once you have an awareness of the pre-requisites that are outlined in the law the HACCP process can be simplified. They comprise of a number of specific requirements standing outside of the HACCP process which must be complied with regardless of your analysis. These are known as the ‘pre-requisites’ and they constitute a baseline standard for food safety in catering establishments.
Many of the pre-requisite requirements relate to matters such as the structure of the premises, training and food contamination. It is these prerequisites which underpin a HACCP system. As a result, as long as these are being complied with separately, it may not be necessary to consider these requirements within your HACCP procedures. However, in the catering sector, both HACCP and pre-requisite elements are often included in food safety management systems in order to provide a more comprehensive approach to food safety.
Why do food safety procedures?
Food safety inspectors will identify the absence of a documented food safety management procedures as a contravention in many businesses. In some countries the absence of a suitable this will restrict your ability obtain a good hygiene rating. If you don’t comply with the law enforcement action can be taken; which may subsequently lead to a fine.
The systematic approach to food safety has improved the management of risk in food businesses and prevents people from getting food poisoning. As such it makes sense, that if you are serious about protecting public health, that you invest time and resources to the process. Financially, it also makes sense. The costs of a poor reputation, legal action or civil claims for food poisoning can easily put an end to any business.
What are your options for food safety procedures?
If you are in a situation where you need to document food safety management procedures (and every catering business must) you have three options:
a) Do some basic training or research and attempt it yourself;
b) Choose an ‘off-the shelf’ (or ‘ready-made’) package and implement it in your business;
c) Use or appoint a consultant to help you draw up your food safety management procedures.
The first option is a good option for those who run independent businesses and are confident in their abilities. Many managers and operators will have already undertaken a degree of training in this area (there are legal requirements for those responsible for this task to be suitably trained) and are able to use the knowledge that they have accrued to good use.
‘Off-the-shelf’ packs will make the task simpler and quicker. In the UK, for example, there is a system called ‘Safer Food Better Business’. The pack is designed for operators of catering establishments like pubs, restaurants, takeaways and cafes to complete themselves. You can find a ready-completed example here that makes the task even simpler. The third option is to turn to a food safety consultant for help.
(A further overview of HACCP can be found here).