One of the top priorities for any food retail or food service business is the health and safety of its customers. Foodborne illnesses and foreign bodies in food can be hugely damaging, not least because of the impact they can have on a person’s health, but also the potential business damage too.
There are many ways in which retail companies will go about ensuring the food they sell is safe, and HACCP is one of the most important that may be covered in health and safety training. In this article, we cover a brief introduction to HACCP and its principle, before explaining some of the ways HACCP can be applied in a retail setting.
An initialism of hazard analysis and critical control points, HACCP embodies a practical, scientific way of regulating food safety during production. It’s a procedure that aims to reduce the chances of biological, physical and chemical hazards being present in food by providing a risk assessment framework centred around critical control points.
The main purpose of HACCP is to prevent food products from becoming unsafe, as well as to avoid any issues during their production which could cause injuries. This is done by applying each of the principles to creating a HACCP plan which identifies potential hazards and implements control measures to remove or reduce these.
HACCP is informed by scientific research coupled with technical information, which allows for procedures and measures to be used in order to reduce risk and should be implemented within all food production settings. While it doesn’t guarantee that food produced under HACCP principles will be 100% safe, it provides a sizable reassurance to both retailers and consumers that the food produced on your site is as safe as possible.
HACCP is really important because food production and serving processes often have lots of points at which harmful elements could become an issue. Bacteria can cause illnesses, certain foods can cause allergic reactions, and physical contaminants can even pose choking hazards. Without sound measures in place, it would be difficult to ensure that food is safe to eat.
HACCP is seen as so important and critical to food safety that it is mentioned in EU regulations. Article 5 of Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 states that food businesses must put in place a procedure or system based on the HACCP principles in order to keep customers safe, and failure to do so could result in serious legal consequences.
HACCP works by introducing various hazard control procedures into the food preparation or serving process. These help to identify stages in the process where risk is present, decide how best to reduce or remove these risks, and then create a system for checking and maintaining these control measures to keep hazards to a minimum.
The HACCP framework is very commonly used in food production, but if you work in retail or catering, you will still certainly need to know how it works. Different authorities will recommend a different number of steps, but broadly they are as follows:
HACCP can be used in retail in a variety of ways. Although the framework is more commonly used in food production environments, there are still risks of contamination and injury present in the retail sector, which HACCP can be used to control.
If we think about food products that need to be chilled, a certain biological risk is present. If the food is left out of the refrigerator for too long when it is being moved from storage to display, it will no longer be safe to eat.
This is a good example of where critical control points might be introduced. Fridges need to be checked for operating temperature and the time that the food products are left outside of the fridge also needs to be checked. If the products are left out for too long, a critical control point will be exceeded and a hazard will be present.
Food sell-by dates are another element that a HACCP system could control. Before food products are put out for sale, a critical control point would be checking to ensure that they are still in date. Once perishable products in particular are out on display, they need to be checked every day to ensure out-of-date food isn’t for sale, which creates another critical control point to monitor.
If equipment is used to transport large or heavy food products in a warehouse, this presents a risk to the employees operating the equipment or working alongside it. HACCP could be used in these circumstances to implement checks that need to be done before using equipment like a trolley or forklift, both of the equipment and the surrounding environment.
If you’re selling unpackaged food products like loose fruit and vegetables, there’s a risk of contamination when these items are being put out for display. HACCP could be used to identify a critical control point before these products are handled where employees need to either wash their hands or wear PPE.
Larger food retail establishments might have counters where fresh food like meat, fish and dairy products are sold to customers. These are areas where HACCP should definitely be used to control potential hazards, from handling the products to displaying them for set periods of time and correctly packaging them before they are sold.
There are 12 good hygiene practices (GHPs) and practical attributes which make up the prerequisites before applying a HACCP plan. These include:
The principles of HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point) are procedures designed to create an adequate food safety management system. The framework outlined by roughly seven key principles of HACCP creates a guide that retail businesses can follow to safely manage their food preparation processes and appropriately control any risks that are present.
The three main types of food contamination are physical (foreign objects present in food), chemical (foreign chemical substances are present in food), and biological (living organisms such as pests or microorganisms are present in food). There is also cross-contamination, which is where any one of these contaminants can be transferred from one source to another, resulting in additional risk.
Some retailers may sell only pre-packed food items, in which case it’s less likely that HACCP will be a major element of health and safety. This is because packaging will likely remove most of the risks of biological, chemical and physical hazards, as the food will arrive at the retailer already packaged and be sold without leaving this packaging.
However, HACCP is a relevant and useful risk assessment framework for many food retail businesses, and employees need to understand the processes and systems that it controls to keep staff and customers safe. It can be really useful to have a set of principles to follow, like those outlined by HACCP, when you’re assessing and managing risk, as this gives you a clear set of instructions to follow and a method to refer back to if a new hazard appears.
If you work in food retail or food services and you feel it would be helpful to know more about HACCP principles, then taking training could be helpful. We offer an online ’Understanding HACCP’ course that is a great introduction to the topic and is ideal for people working in a food environment in the retail sector.