If we think of all the work, processes, and parties involved in the production of a meal or food product, it becomes clear how many opportunities there are for risk to be introduced. HACCP is a framework that was created in response to the potential risks that are present when food is being prepared, manufactured or packaged, helping those responsible to identify, control and minimise risks.
HACCP is a key part of food health and safety because it’s a standardised process that is used to conduct risk assessments and manage the possible hazards in a kitchen. In this article, we’re going to take a look at what HACCP is, explain why it’s such an important part of food safety training and share how you can ensure either your employees understand it fully, or you yourself have the appropriate training.
HACCP is a food hygiene risk assessment framework that is used to ensure that food products are safe to eat. It looks to introduce checks and standards to food manufacturing or preparation processes that reduce risks as far as possible, reducing chemical, physical and biological risks to people.
You can implement HACCP into processes in any size of environment, from large factories where products are mass produced to small working kitchens where food is prepared by hand and served straight to customers. It’s also useful to know that HACCP was designed so that it can be used at any stage of the food production process.
There are potential risks where the raw foods are produced, where they are cooked and combined, where they are packaged, and where they are stored ready for sale. HACCP aims to deal with all of these and is a structured approach that can fit with most processes.
HACCP is now an international standard (ISO 22000 FSMS 2011) and within this, there are seven clear principles which must be adhered to be correctly abiding by HACCP. In order to understand how important HACCP is, and what it does, it helps to know the main principles of the approach.
As with most hazard reduction frameworks, the very first step in HACCP is in conducting a full hazard analysis, or risk assessment, of the processes that you’re responsible for. This means looking for any biological, physical or chemical risk that might arise during the food production, storage, packaging or any other process.
Could bacteria pose a problem? Could foreign bodies find their way into the food? Could allergens find their way into mislabelled products? There are many questions to ask at this stage if you want your hazard analysis to be thorough and effective.
Once risks have been noted and evaluated, it’s time to identify the exact points in the food manufacturing process at which the risks may arise, and could ultimately be controlled. These CCPs (critical control points) can be anywhere where you’re able to introduce any controls.
For example, if you’re cooking a piece of meat that needs to be at a certain temperature to be safe, a CCP is the point at which you determine whether or not the item has been cooked safely and is ready to be served to a customer.
For each of the established critical control points, it must be decided what exactly the critical limits are, and how the risks can be controlled by this. A critical limit is a value or state that determines whether a hazard is present or the risk has been controlled, giving a clear way of knowing whether a control is doing its job
If we go back to the example of cooking a piece of meat, the risk is that undercooked food could contain harmful bacteria, which means the meat has to reach a certain temperature to kill these bacteria. Establishing a critical limit means deciding the exact temperature that the meat must reach so that it is safe to eat, with no risk of harmful bacteria.
The way in which the CCP is monitored is very important indeed, and in some cases, it’s much trickier than in others. In our example, using the appropriate thermometer and reading method is all it takes to ensure that food is cooked to the right temperature.
However, monitoring may be more complex, for example in food production facilities where high-tech solutions are used to determine whether foreign bodies have found their way into foods and whether they’re at or above the critical limit.
Identifying your critical limits can make it easier to determine monitoring requirements in some cases - if your limit is a temperature value then you’ll have to monitor it with a thermometer. But other control points may need to be monitored by adding additional processes to an existing system or choosing an employee to keep records.
Where monitoring has established that critical limits at a CCP have been exceeded, corrective action must be taken to ensure that the hazard does not become a problem. This might mean disposing of any items that are not cooked properly, withdrawing from sale items that might have been compromised, or taking any other action that prevents a hazardous item from being consumed.
Having established corrective actions for each CCP is essential, as if a hazard is identified you’ll save time trying to think of a solution by already having a process to follow.
Policies and processes are only effective if they are achieving their aims. Good HACCP protocol means regularly checking your controls to make sure that the risk management methods put in place at the CCPs are working as they should.
Similarly, HACCP should not prove overly restrictive to the normal production of food unnecessarily. Are the procedures at a reasonable level?
The final element of HACCP is to keep records of everything that has been documented. Traceability is important in order to resolve problems if they arise later, as well as help with the evaluation process.
As an example, many restaurants will record all temperatures that they measure, whether this is in terms of cooked food or refrigerated food. This helps ensure that everything is working as it should, and provides a backup if there are queries later.
Food safety training is hugely important for a wide range of roles in a number of industries. From those working directly in the production of food, to those who sell it at retail, workers must understand how to safely work with food intended for human consumption.
Where contaminants are allowed to enter a person’s body, it can range from causing mild discomfort to causing a life-threatening illness. The only way to guard against this is by ensuring that these contaminants cannot easily be transferred between foodstuffs or people and foodstuff and are kept out of kitchen environments as much as possible. This is one of the core functions and most important elements of HACCP, and can only be learned through proper training.
There are varying levels of food safety training, with many different elements, often tailored towards the role and industry in question. However, some elements of training feature in most courses, and HACCP is one of the most important.
HACCP is an incredibly important process because foodborne illnesses and allergic reactions can cause severe health issues. They very often result from poor hygiene in food preparation areas and processes, and a lack of risk management and proper health and safety systems are one of the leading causes of this.
Implementing processes that have been informed by HACCP is one of the best ways to minimise hazards caused by poor hygiene and cross-contamination in a food preparation or manufacturing environment. Food safety training teaches employees the potential consequences of these hazards if they aren’t controlled, and HACCP is an important part of the solutions that training gives to help reduce or remove these hazards.
Allergic reactions, especially in cases of anaphylactic shock, can be life-threatening, and they can only be prevented if people know exactly what they’re eating. And this can only be known if food producers and preparers can ensure that foodstuffs don’t come into contact or mix when they shouldn’t. HACCP training teaches employees how they can prevent this, which is why it’s so important.
Food health and safety training tends to focus on the best ways to stay safe at work and keep the people you come into contact with safe as well. Risk assessments are one of the most successful ways to do this, and HACCP is a trusted method of developing a risk assessment to help properly control hazards present in the food industry. This is another reason why HACCP is an important part of food safety training; it provides a trusted and standardised framework for conducting a risk assessment.
Along with being an important part of keeping staff and customers safe, HACCP is also important in food safety training as it helps food businesses to comply with official health and safety guidance and regulations. EC852/2004 Article 5 makes it a legal requirement for food businesses to implement and maintain food safety and hazard control systems based on the principles of HACCP, and any business found to be ignoring this is in breach of the law and could face serious punishment and consequences.
Finally, having systems like HACCP covered in food safety training creates high standards for health and safety for food businesses. This ensures that all businesses are being held to the same standards and are following approved systems to manage risk. It also lets consumers feel safe when they purchase food products, as they know that the supplier will have used rigorous controls to ensure any health risk has been minimised or removed.
HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. It refers to a process used in food health and safety to analyse potential risks in the food preparation process and implement control measures that monitor and reduce or remove these.
The HACCP food safety system must be used by every food business, according to UK government guidance. This includes food catering, food retail and food manufacturing businesses.
A HACCP food safety plan is used to help identify potential hazards in the food preparation process, decide how to control these and then create a system where risks are regularly monitored and any hazards are identified early and effectively dealt with. It prevents biological, chemical or physical contamination from making food unsafe to eat, protecting both consumers and the businesses that feed them.
The importance of HACCP in food safety really comes down to how useful it is to have a standardised process to follow when identifying and controlling potential hazards. Instead of every business following different processes leading to varying qualities of food, HACCP ensures that critical control points are being implemented and monitored in all food businesses, keeping risk well under control.
HACCP is taught in several different food safety and hygiene courses, and indeed, all good food hygiene courses should include it to some level. As a result, there’s no better way of becoming fully clued up on how HACCP works, what it can do, and how to implement it than by taking the right course.
If you’re looking for HACCP training, we offer an ‘Understanding HACCP’ online course that offers a great introduction to the topic, as well as ‘Level 2 HACCP Training’ and ‘Level 3 HACCP Training’ online courses.