Any business that handles food in Canada must have a food safety plan in place. A food safety plan is a set of written procedures that employees must follow to prevent food safety hazards that could cause injuries or illnesses. All quality plans follow the seven principles of HACCP.
HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points, and it’s an international set of principles followed by companies across the food supply chain. The 7 principles are:
- Conducting a Hazard Analysis
- Identifying Critical Control Points
- Establishing Critical Limits
- Monitoring The Critical Control Points
- Establishing Corrective Actions
- Keeping Records
- Verifying The Food Safety Plan
Principle #1: Conducting a Hazard Analysis
The first step in any food safety plan is locating where significant hazards are likely to occur in the process. From receiving products to throwing out food waste, your analysis must identify every point where the contamination of a food product could happen.
Once you have identified all the potential hazards in your facility, categorize them into three classes: Biological, Physical or Chemical.
- Biological contaminants: Live pathogens like bacteria or viruses.
- Physical contaminants: Foreign objects like broken glass, hair, and pieces of metal from machinery.
- Chemical contaminants: Elements or compounds like detergents and sanitizers.
In the food safety plan, note the justification for including or excluding any potential hazards.
Principle #2: Identifying Critical Control Points (CCPs)
A critical control point (CCP) is a step in the food handling and processing systems where one can apply a control measure to prevent a food safety hazard or reduce it to acceptable levels. One CCP may cover several food safety hazards, and several CCPs could be necessary to control a single risk. It also prevents cross-contamination between different foods within a facility; if there’s no control for these in place, an improper ingredient could trigger hazardous allergic reactions in some customers.
Because there is no generic template for identifying CCPs in the food business, putting together the food safety plan can involve decision trees to help identify the controls necessary at each step in the process.
Examples of CCPs include:
- Sign-offs when receiving deliveries
- Cooking ingredients to a specific temperature
- Temperature checks of food before packaging
Principle #3: Establishing Critical Limits
A critical limit (CL) is the maximum or minimum value to which a facility must control specific biological, chemical or physical parameters at a critical control point. It could be a measure of time, temperature, water activity, acidity, and weight.
The CL must be an actual value (e.g. 170 degrees F as the minimum internal temperature for a poultry product), and facilities usually determine them using scientific literature and regulatory standards. Some may have to conduct internal tests before establishing a CL.
Principle #4: Monitoring The Critical Control Points
Monitoring is essential for ensuring that the food remains within the set critical limits at each critical control point. The best way to verify that the team is monitoring every CCP is by using checklists and documentation to record the results of each.
The food safety plan should outline the monitoring methods for measuring the critical limit at each critical control point. The procedures should describe how to take the measurement, when to take it, the team member responsible for monitoring, and how often they must perform the monitoring.
Principle #5: Establishing Corrective Actions
You’ll likely detect deviations from an acceptable critical limit – it’s why monitoring exists in the first place! These deviations could occur due to human error, miscalibrations in the sensors, or a discrepancy with the written protocols. If something happens, the food safety plan should list all the actions necessary to set the issue right and remove any products from the process. Corrective actions identify the steps needed to prevent potentially hazardous food from leaving the facility and what’s required to correct the process.
A food safety plan that follows the principles of HACCP will list all the actions workers must take right away (immediate corrective actions) and what they must do to keep the problem from recurring (preventative corrective actions). Whenever someone corrects an issue of either kind, they must record and communicate it to the appropriate people within the facility. It leads us to Principle #6: keeping records.
Principle #6: Keeping Records
Recording information is essential to any food safety plan. It provides benchmarks for future CCPs and changes to the food safety plan, not to mention proof that you’re following the protocols of said plan. All facilities must have an up-to-date hazard analysis on hand, as well as any details of corrective actions they took in your food business. Many of these are day-to-day records, including:
- Cleaning schedules
- Temperature recordings
- Staff training records
- Pest control records
- Delivery protocol checklists
It’s the manager’s job to provide employees with information about the food safety plan, including the location of the document in the facility, the responsibilities of each team member in following the plan, and where to report issues.
Principle #7: Verifying The Food Safety Plan
A food safety plan is a “living document”; over time, it will change as your review records, calibrate instruments, and perform product testing. As such, the final principle of any HACCP plan is verifying activities. Verification determines the validity of what you’ve codified in the plan, keeps the CCPs well covered, and ensures that you overlook no hazards.
Have an audit of your plan performed by a professional at least once a year to keep it up-to-date and relevant to your facility. Quantum Food Solutions can offer you third-party testing and consulting services that ensure your food safety plan is always compliant with HACCP standards!