HACCP (pronounced “hassip”) stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. It is a science-based approach to food safety that was developed by the Pillsbury company for use by NASA, to keep astronauts’ food safe. Before HACCP, food safety procedures were reactive; meaning safety standards were developed after an error was identified.
HACCP procedures are proactive. They look for potential food safety hazards and seek to correct and eliminate the threats before they occur. For example, rather than having to discard ground beef after learning that it may be contaminated with E. Coli, a HACCP plan outlines storage, handling and preparation procedures to minimize the chances of the ground beef becoming contaminated in the first place.
7 Steps of a HACCP Plan
All HACCP plans include the following seven steps:
Perform a hazard analysis.
This step identifies all of the potential hazards associated with each of your menu items and food preparation processes. Certain foods are more hazardous than others; raw ground beef is more hazardous than raw cucumbers for example. Employee knowledge and skill level can also be a potential hazard.
Identify critical control points (CCPs).
A critical control point is the time at which food is most susceptible to contamination. A HACCP plan identifies those CCPs. For example, cooking is a critical control point for ground beef.
Establish critical limits for each CCP.
A critical limit is the actual value that must be achieved in order to eliminate the threat of food poisoning at each critical control point. For example, cooking ground beef to a minimum internal temperature of 160 °F for a duration of 15 seconds is an approved critical limit for killing any bacteria that may be present.
Monitor the CCPs.
It is important that you have monitoring procedures in place for each critical control point to make sure critical limits have been met. The procedures should be easy to follow and should designate who is in charge of monitoring a particular CCP. For example, the cook should be in charge of checking the temperature of cooking ground beef to assure the minimum internal temperature is being achieved.
Establish corrective actions.
Your HACCP plan will have corrective actions in place for each CCP to tell employees what to do if a critical limit is not being met. For example, if the ground beef has not reached 160 °F, the corrective actions can include letting it cook longer or increasing the cooking temperature.
Establish system verification procedures.
Verifying that your HACCP plan is scientifically valid and that your time and temperature devices are accurate is essential to developing a successful plan. You should check with your local health department to make sure your preparation and handling procedures are approved and accurate. Also, regularly calibrating your thermometers will verify that your temperature checking procedures are accurate.
Establish recordkeeping procedures.
Recordkeeping procedures include flow charts, time and temperature logs and checklists so employees can easily record hazard control methods and any corrective actions they had to take to maintain food safety. During a health inspection, the health official will ask to see all of your food monitoring records to assure that your HACCP procedures are being followed and comply with local codes.
Required Documentation for a HACCP Plan
On a federal level, HACCP plans are currently required for seafood, juice, meat and poultry processing facilities. On the local level, many states and counties are starting to require approved HACCP plans for restaurants, too. When opening a new restaurant, you will want to check with your local health department to see if a HACCP plan is required.
If a HACCP plan is required for your establishment, it will have to include the following components, as outlined in the FDA Food Code:
Categorized list of potentially hazardous menu items.
All menu items must be categorized into similar food types. For example, all meat items will be grouped together on the list.
Flow diagram for the categorized foods.
Each food category must have its own flow chart that shows how food is handled once it enters your facility, from the time of receipt until it is served to the customer. At each step in the storage, handling and preparation process, you will have to identify critical control points.
Employee and supervisor training plan.
You will have to submit a plan that describes how you will train your managers and kitchen staff about your new HACCP procedures.
Statement of standard operating procedures.
The standard operating procedures for a HACCP plan are the aforementioned “Seven Steps of a HACCP Plan” that have been tailored to control all of the products in your establishment.
Additional information as required.
Your health department may require that additional scientific or procedural information be included in the HACCP plan to prove that your restaurant will not compromise food safety.
Where to Get Started with Your HACCP Plan
The first place you will want to go when developing a HACCP plan is your local health department. The health department will be able to tell you whether a plan is required for your restaurant, and health officials will work with you when developing your plan. Also, the United States Department of Agriculture has a Guidebook for the Preparation of HACCP Plans, that gives more detailed information. Though the guidebook speaks specifically to the meat and poultry industries, the necessary steps and procedures can easily be tailored to your restaurant.