Every finished product you serve to your customers goes through a number of steps from growing, harvesting, and shipping to receiving, prepping, and serving. In each one of these steps, potential food safety hazards that might sicken or injure the final consumer are present. However, with careful planning, these hazards can be prevented, reduced to safe levels, or even eliminated altogether. Keep reading to learn what a HACCP plan is and the steps needed to create your own.
What does HACCP Stand For?
HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. It is a system restaurant operators put in place to help them identify and react to dangerous biological, chemical, or physical food contamination.
The goal of this food management system is to control these risks and prevent contaminants from causing foodborne illness. While there are seven essential parts to the HACCP plan, each step must be tailored to your individual business’s menu, customers, equipment, processes, and operations.
There are seven principles used to make up a HACCP plan. Below is an explanation of each step and a HACCP plan example to follow along with as well.
1. Conduct a Hazard Analysis
The first step in developing a HACCP plan is to conduct a hazard analysis. This involves evaluating potential hazards that may arise during your food preparation process.
Some processes that should be evaluated during food preparation include:
- Serving foods without cooking such as salads, fruit, and cold cuts
- Cooking foods, such as grilled meat, for immediate consumption
- Chilis, soups, and sauces that are prepped, cooked, held, cooled, reheated, and served
- Foods such as potato salad and coleslaw that are simply prepped and stored
During the hazard analysis, you’ll want to identify where biological, chemical, or physical hazards are likely to occur in regards to the processes listed above. This is especially important when working with TCS food.
Example: Raw chicken breast is often prepped, grilled, and served in the same day. The potential danger with chicken is that bacteria may be present in the finished product if it is not cooked correctly. Bacteria are a potential biological hazard.
2. Determine Critical Control Points
Once you’ve analyzed potential hazards, it’s important to identify where hazardous contamination could occur. At this time, you’ll want to find specific steps in the process where you can prevent, remove, or reduce hazards to safe levels.
What Is a Critical Control Point?
A critical control point, or CCP, is the point in time in which you must apply control in order to eliminate possible food safety hazards.
Common critical control points include:
- Receiving foods from your supplier
- Storing the food before preparation
- Handling and preparing food
- Hot or cold holding
- Cooking and reheating food
- Transporting prepared food to a different location
- Holding hot or cold food during service
Example: Cooking raw chicken breast is the only step where bacteria can be eliminated or reduced to a level safe for consumption. Therefore, cooking raw chicken can be identified as a CCP.
3. Establish Critical Limits
For each step identified as a CCP, you need to establish minimum or maximum limits that must be met to remove or reduce the hazard to a safe level. Establishing critical limits at every CCP gives your staff strict, easy-to-follow guidelines to help them understand how to keep food safe.
Example: In order to kill bacteria, raw chicken breast needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds. This minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds is the critical limit, and this critical limit can be met by cooking the chicken breast on the grill for the appropriate amount of time.
4. Establish Monitoring Procedures
After establishing the critical limit, you need to provide employees with a way to check that each limit has been met. Putting monitoring procedures in place is the most effective way to identify where, when, and with whom something may have gone wrong.
Begin by identifying who is responsible for measuring the critical limit and how often it should be noted. This serves several purposes including:
- Brings the process back into control if a deviation occurs
- Tracks the process to show any regular deviations
- Provides documentation for verification
Example: The best way to monitor the chicken is to use a cleaned and sanitized probe thermometer to record the temperature at the thickest part of the chicken breast. Each piece of chicken cooked on the grill must meet the minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds.
5. Establish Corrective Actions
If a critical limit isn't met during the process, it’s called a deviation. When a deviation occurs, your staff needs to have the tools and knowledge to take corrective action and ensure the contaminated food never reaches the end consumer.
The steps for corrective action should include:
- Determining the cause of the deviation
- Correcting it (if possible)
- Documenting the deviation
Example: If, after checking the chicken breast with the thermometer, it is found that the food is not up to temperature even though it was cooked for the appropriate amount of time, then the chicken must continue to cook until it has reached the critical limit of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds. This additional cooking time should be recorded.
6. Verify That the System Works
Reevaluate and revise your HACCP plan periodically to ensure its effectiveness. It is during this step that all of your records, documentation, monitoring charts, and analyses come into play. They’ll help you determine whether or not your plan successfully prevents, reduces, or removes food safety hazards.
Example: In this step, a manger might review temperature monitoring charts after each shift change to ensure that the critical limit for the chicken breast was met every time it was prepared. Looking at the documented temperatures over a period of time can also help your staff identify trends and adapt their entire process to further prevent food safety hazards.
7. Keep Accurate Records and Documentation
Keeping accurate records allows you to stay more organized and effectively respond to food safety hazards. That’s why developing procedures for accurate record-keeping is the final stage of implementing a HACCP plan. Take the time to put a system into place outlining who documents what and how long records are kept on file.
Below are a few types of documentation to keep:
- Temperature logs
- Notes about when corrective action was taken
- Information about the maintenance and service performed on equipment
- Supplier information including shipping invoices and specification sheets
Example: The temperature monitoring charts, notes about corrective actions, and receiving invoices for the chicken are kept for six months. Specification sheets for the grill and the maintenance performed on it are kept for a year. In the event of any problems, this information can be used to support and verify the HACCP plan.
How to Get a HACCP Certification
Independent restaurant owners and their workers don’t generally become HACCP certified, but implementing a HACCP plan for use in day-to-day operations can make a big difference in promoting food safety within your organization.
However, if you’d like receive a HACCP certification through NSF, the certification process is made up of five steps:
- An NSF auditor will come to your facilities and conduct a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) audit.
- An auditor will then conduct an off-site HACCP documentation review.
- With an on-site visit to your facilities, an auditor will determine how effective your HACCP plan will be and make any necessary changes.
- Once a certification has been awarded, NSF will conduct annual surveillance audits.
- Re-certification must be done every 3 years.
Important HACCP Terms to Know
When creating, implementing, or reviewing a HACCP plan, it’s important to understand the terminology. Below are a few terms to know:
- Biological Contaminant: Bacteria, viruses, pollens, and other living organisms that may cause illness
- Chemical Contaminant: Substances not naturally found in food that may cause illness (acrylamide, benzene, dioxins, melamine, etc.)
- Corrective Action: Procedures followed when a critical limit is not met
- Hazard: Biological, chemical, or physical contaminant that is likely to cause illness or injury if not controlled
- Monitor: Using a system of observations and measurements to judge whether a CCP is under control and producing an accurate record for future verification
- Physical Contaminant: An extraneous object or foreign matter that may cause injury or illness (bone, string, hair, etc.)
- TCS Food: Food that requires time and temperature control for safety
A HACCP plan refers to a system that helps restaurant operators understand where and when food is at risk. By implementing your own HACCP plan, you can keep your employees accountable and prepared to handle food safely. And, more importantly, you’re protecting the end consumer from harmful biological, chemical, and physical contaminants.