How to manage critical control points for food safety
Develop a plan to manage the critical control points of your food service business through hazard analysis, monitoring procedures and record keeping.
Complying with federal food safety and 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 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 laws vary widely. Those in the food industry must follow an overarching food safety management system known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP).
While not always necessary for restaurants, adjacent businesses such as school cafeterias, assisted living homes, and food production facilities must conform to guidelines that ensure the safety of various “Critical Control Points” or CCPs. Critical Control Points refer to areas of your facility that contain food safety hazards with a high potential to transmit foodborne illness. To protect consumers, the FDA mandates that facilities develop a HACCP plan to control the CCP. Therefore, learning how to correct and implement a HACCP plan is crucial to protect your customers and comply with the law.
Failure to comply with a HACCP program may cause shutdowns of your facility, wasting time and 1583money while endangering your patrons and potentially damaging your reputation. Therefore, it is vital (and frequently 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 system for your business.
Prerequisites for developing a HACCP plan
First, familiarize yourself with what HACCP stands for (Hazard, Analysis, Critical, Control, Points)
- Hazard refers to the food safety hazards present in your facility.
- Analysis refers to the planning and record-keeping involved in preventing contamination.
- Critical refers to the importance of protecting consumers.
- Control refers to the implementation of actions that ensure safety and efficacy.
- Points refer to the areas of your production process and activities in which food safety could be a problem.
At the outset of developing a HACCP system, you should create a committee of professionals, otherwise known as a HACCP team, to confer on a thorough risk assessment. You will need to include your staff, but also consider looking for people with expertise in technology and science. This list is not limited to food safety, food production, sanitation, or food science experts. The wider the breadth of experts you consult, the more identified hazards will be found.
Next, create a tangible goal for your application of HACCP. A clearly defined plan for what you do and why you do it is essential, 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 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends creating a visual aid, such as a flow chart, to better comprehend your system’s finer points.
Conduct a hazard analysis
One of the primary principles of HACCP is to begin by conducting a formal hazard analysis. The objectives of this step are:
- To identify hazards (Including physical hazards, chemical hazards, biological hazards, and potential pathogen exposure)
- To create associated modifications to existing protocols and monitoring procedures
- To create preventative measures that avert hazards
Conducting a hazard analysis is a two-stage process that begins with a brainstorming session. Together with your hazard planning cohort, identify all the products used in your operations, review the equipment used to conduct operations, and then consider your final product and your storage method. While performing this brainstorm, consider all potential health risks for your patrons. Experts will improve the analysis you conduct 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. 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 in a flow diagram 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, also known as an area with potential for “loss of control.” Some foodservice examples include:
- Dry storage
- Inventory restocking
- Serving temperatures
- Pesticides on produce
- Improper storage of potentially hazardous foods
- Cross-contamination on your hotline
- Dirty food preparation areas
In each of those examples, at least one risk factor could be potentially dangerous. Consider this step a more action-oriented follow-up to your risk assessment and 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 for raw materials and finished products. Remember that 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 the following:
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 and preventative controls in place
Now that you have established standard operating procedures 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 techniques, 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 robust 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 incidents is essential. Whenever your efforts deviate from thresholds, corrective action needs to happen. As with monitoring, it is also vital to record these scenarios.
Your corrective action log should include the following:
- 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, contacting your advisors from earlier in the process is helpful. 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 activities” in HACCP planning.
Some examples of verification procedures for food businesses include:
- The use of approved record keeping procedures
- Validation that the HACCP planning is working as intended
- Evidence that the plan is scientifically and technically viable for your food establishment
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 must ensure that the action plan accounts for new risks posed by those changes. Relying on your external team will be of great help here as well. 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. Your documentation should include the planning process, critical control points, critical limits, record keeping, verifications, corrective actions, sign-offs from responsible parties, and ongoing monitoring data.
With Therma°, the temperature and humidity record across your facilities is entirely automated, removing the ongoing work required to keep HACCP processes in compliance and your critical control points safe.
How to develop a HACCP action plan with Therma°
HACCP takes expertise to create, and ongoing attention to run correctly. By using Therma° temperature monitoring, food processing 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.