How to develop a HACCP action plan
Complying with federal food safety regulations may seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Read this article to learn step-by-step instructions on how to develop a HACCP action plan.
One of the most challenging aspects of opening a business in the food industry is complying with safety regulations. Depending on your location and organization, the regulations vary widely. For some in the food industry, they must follow an overarching set of guidelines known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). While not always necessary for restaurants, adjacent businesses such as school cafeterias and assisted living facilities must conform to these mandates to ensure the safety of their patrons. Therefore, learning how to correctly develop and implement an HACCP action plan is crucial.
Failure to comply with HACCP regulations may cause shutdowns of your facility, wasting time and money while endangering your patrons and potentially damaging your reputation. Therefore, it is vital (and oftentimes mandatory) to create a HACCP action plan ahead of time that puts a system in place to identify and respond to critical food safety risks. Read on to learn how to develop a HACCP action for your business.
Before developing an HACCP action plan
To successfully develop and implement a successful HACCP plan, there are several steps you need to follow first. At the outset, it is pertinent to create a committee of professionals to confer with. You will need to include your staff, but you should also consider looking for people to consult with who have technical and scientific expertise you may not possess. This includes, but is not limited to, experts in food safety, food production, sanitation, or food science. The wider the breadth of experts you consult, the more well-rounded and informed your plan will be.
Next, create a tangible goal for your operations. It is essential to have a clearly defined goal for what you do and why you do it, as this will ultimately guide your HACCP planning. Consider the procedures that guide your operations from beginning to end. This process includes everything from how you receive and intake inventory to serving it to your consumers. To better aid this process, the FDA recommends creating a visual aid, such as a flow chart, to comprehend your system’s finer points better.
Conduct a hazard analysis
Once the preliminary work is completed, it is time to conduct a formal hazard analysis. The objectives of this step are:
- To identify hazards
- To create associated modifications to existing protocols
- To create measures to prevent hazards from occurring
Conducting a hazard analysis is a two-stage process that begins with a brainstorming session. Together with your hazard planning cohort, identify all of the products used in your operations, review the equipment used to conduct operations, then consider your final product and your method for storing it. While performing this brainstorm, consider all potential health risks for your patrons. This is an area where it especially helps to have experts outside of the food industry. Their expertise will make it easier to conceptualize the weaker links in your chain.
Once you list all potential hazards, select the most critical areas to focus on as part of your formalized plan. This step focuses on the likelihood of occurrence and severity of consequences. Make sure to review technical and epidemiological data and the short-term and long-term effects of failing to control these points. Once you perform a thorough analysis, document your findings to present as part of your larger plan.
Determine critical control points
A critical control point is an area where it’s possible to reduce or eliminate a potential safety hazard. Some foodservice examples include:
- Dry storage
- Inventory restocking
- Serving temperatures
In each of those examples, at least one risk factor could be potentially dangerous. Consider this step to be a more action-oriented follow-up to your hazard analysis. You may already know where potential risks lie, but determining your critical control points creates a deeper understanding of what could happen.
Establish critical limits
Critical limits refer to specific numerical values that help you judge success or failure. For example, a critical limit in cold storage may be static food holding temperatures of 40°F. Remember that all of these metrics should be science-based to provide the most objective guidelines possible.
Another good aspect to keep in mind is that these limits should have a specific outcome. With the previous example around cold storage holding temperatures, you may specify:
Cold storage holding temperatures must constantly stay between 33 and 40°F to prevent the spread of microorganisms that cause foodborne illness.
Remember, these critical limits are only viable if some control measure may be applied.
Put monitoring procedures in place
Now that you have established your risks and a baseline of what constitutes success, it’s time to implement monitoring procedures. Monitoring is crucial because it creates accountability for your risk management. Should a safety issue arise, it is critical to know when and why that issue occurred. Using an empirical, data-driven approach will only make this process more effective.
Monitoring takes many forms, often as a hardware component. Whether that component is a thermometer, wireless sensor, or other device depends on the metrics used to judge its critical limits. Make sure your monitoring method is possible to accomplish in real-time. Specific methods, such as biological testing, require processing and gaining results. As food safety hazards can develop quickly, you will need frequently and easily measured protocols.
Using an automated temperature monitoring solution like Therma° creates a strong monitoring process and reduces the manual work involved with maintaining HACCP processes. Using Therma° ensures your cold storage spaces stay within safe guidelines and alerts you when to take corrective actions while providing reputable reports and verification.
Institute corrective action
Despite best intentions, food safety hazards can and will occur. Therefore, having a plan to rectify such incidents is also important to keep top of mind. Whenever your efforts deviate from thresholds, corrective action needs to occur. As with monitoring, it is also essential to record these scenarios.
Your corrective action log should include:
- A determination regarding the cause of non-compliance
- The state of the non-compliant item or items
- Corrective actions taken
Ensure that there is an individual within your hierarchy with experience in HACCP planning to validate and ensure that your team executes corrective actions correctly. In this stage, it is helpful to contact your advisors from earlier in the process. These people can help you ensure that the corrective actions are as thorough as possible and may inform you of other methods to prevent the incident from reoccurring.
Construct verification procedures
Outside of monitoring, there are a variety of other protocols that may help determine the viability of your plan. These other protocols are referred to as “verification” in HACCP planning.
Some examples of verification procedures include:
- Validation that the HACCP planning is working as intended
- Evidence that the plan is scientifically and technically viable
It is crucial to perform verification on a basis determined by the velocity of organizational shifts. Should your business model, procedures, or critical limits change, you need to ensure that the action plan accounts for new risks posed by those changes. This is another area where relying on your external planning is beneficial. Given that they helped you create your plan, their expertise will be instrumental in evaluating whether your current plan is comprehensive enough to account for your transition.
Make sure that you have clear, concise documentation of your plan. This includes the planning process, critical control points, critical limits, verifications, corrective actions, and sign-offs from responsible parties, and ongoing monitoring data.
With Therma°, the record of temperature and humidity across your facilities is completely automated, removing the ongoing work required to keep HACCP processes in compliance.
How to develop a HACCP action plan with Therma°
HACCP takes expertise to create and ongoing attention to correctly run. By using Therma° temperature monitoring, teams can streamline the execution. Using Therma° ensures your cold storage spaces stay within safe guidelines and alerts you when to take corrective actions while providing reputable reports and verification.
While ongoing monitoring may seem complicated, it doesn’t have to be. Take the legwork out of your HACCP development processes by trying Therma° today.