Foodborne diseases are an overlooked and often underreported public health concern. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) estimates 2.4 million foodborne illnesses happen in the UK annually. Another research reveals that foodborne diseases from pathogens cause around 180 deaths in the nation every year.
The concept of creating a system to ensure food is safe for consumption first emerged in the 1960s. This method became known as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP). However, it wasn’t until 1996 that the UK started using HACCP in the food industry after an E. coli outbreak in Scotland. By 2006, HACCP became mandatory for all food businesses.
What exactly is HACCP? Why is it important? How does it impact the food catering sector? This article aims to answer these questions.
What are the Basic Principles?
HACCP is an internationally recognised system that identifies, evaluates, and controls potential health and safety risks during the food production process. It covers organisations that deal with the food chain, such as dairies, farms, fisheries, and food providers, including restaurants, hotels, and catering services. All food business operators must implement a food safety management program based on the HACCP principles. These are:
Conduct a hazard analysis. Determine what could go wrong with the product. The three main hazards that can affect food are bacterial (salmonella, E. coli), chemical (bleach and other harmful substances) and physical (dirt, glass, insects, droppings).
Identify the critical control points. Find out at what part of the food preparation process you must control the hazard. This stage is called critical control point (CCP). For instance, cooking is a critical control point as it enables you to kill all bacteria that could cause food poisoning and infection to spread.
Establish critical limits. Once you’ve listed the hazards, decide how to remove or reduce them to a safe level. For example, cooking high-risk food at the appropriate temperature kills harmful organisms, or preparing raw food in a separate area prevents cross-contamination.
Establish a system for monitoring the CCPs. Create a structure that specifies how, when, and where to undertake the safety measures. Include in your details how often checks should be done and who is responsible for the task.
Have procedures for corrective action. If you discover that your safety measures are not working, do something to correct and improve them. Review the entire food preparation process and create new ways to prevent the same problem from happening again.
Verify the effectiveness of your system. Confirm the efficiency of your safety measures. Do this by reviewing records, inspecting the working area, and testing the finished product.
Document all procedures and actions. Keep a record of all the safety measures you implemented, including hazard analyses, CCP monitoring, corrective actions, critical limits, and product information. Documentation also enables you to determine whether the safety standards are consistently met and dutifully followed by the staff.
How to Develop a Plan
A HACCP plan identifies all possible hazards so you can create measures to counter them. The primary aim of the plan is to remove the risk of food contamination or reduce the risk to an acceptable level if wholly eliminating it is not possible.
To create a HACCP plan, assemble a team of individuals who have in-depth knowledge of the product and the production process. Consult with outside experts to assess potential biological, chemical and physical hazards. However, do not disregard your local personnel because their insights may prove valuable.
Next, describe your product by indicating the ingredients, processing methods, and distribution instructions (i.e., should the food be frozen or refrigerated). Then specify its intended use and its consumers. Is the food ready to eat? Can it be distributed directly to consumers? Or is it an ingredient used by foodservice providers? Are your consumers the general public or a particular demographic such as infants, immunocompromised persons, or the elderly?
Lastly, construct a flow diagram that illustrates the food production and preparation process. At this point, you incorporate the seven principles of HACCP. You should clearly and concisely outline each stage of production for every type of food you make. You don’t have to cover steps that occur outside of your workplace. In other words, you only include processes that are directly under the control of your business.
Why is it Important
During production and preparation, food undergoes several critical points that could expose it to harmful elements. Bacteria cause foodborne illnesses, certain ingredients result in allergic reactions, chemicals lead to poisoning, and foreign objects such as glass are choking hazards.
Without HACCP, it would be hard to form an effective control system that guarantees products are safe and suitable for consumption. The HACCP principles help foodservice providers protect the health and well-being of their clients and customers.
Furthermore, food contamination can be immensely damaging to your business reputation. A competent food safety management program will decrease the likelihood of consumer complaints, product recalls, and lawsuits. It also creates public trust and assures regulatory agencies that you comply with the highest food safety standards.
Every catering establishment should practice food hygiene to avoid contamination. Always keep the working areas clean by disposing of food scraps and trash properly, disinfecting surfaces regularly and sanitizing utensils after each use.
When it comes to preparation, be sure to separate raw animal products from other foods. Cook food, especially high-risk items such as meat and poultry, at the recommended temperature and wash fruits and vegetables with running water before cooking or serving. Never leave food exposed in the open for more than two hours. Store it in the refrigerator until it’s time to reheat for serving.
People preparing the food must observe personal hygiene. Always wash hands before performing a task, especially after touching raw ingredients, smoking, eating, taking out the garbage, or touching body parts like the mouth. Wear hairnets to keep loose hair from falling on the food. Avoid wearing jewellery, particularly rings, and keep nails trimmed and free of nail polish. Touch food with hands as little as possible and use utensils to serve.
Finally, the staff should undergo food hygiene awareness training courses to enhance their knowledge on proper food preparation and ensure that they follow the HACCP plan accordingly.
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Hospitality & Catering News: HACCP in Food Catering – Everything You Need to Know. – 22 September 2021 – HACCP in Food Catering – Everything You Need to Know.
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