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Why HACCP Line Checks are key in maintaining Active Managerial Control

March 4, 2020
CMX
by CMX
CMX
by CMX

Why HACCP Line Checks are key in maintaining Active Managerial Control

 

In the world of Retail Foodservice, there are a host of factors managers and owners must contend with—from staff turnover, to service quality, to profitability. One area that unfortunately can get overlooked in the business of everyday operations is food safety. Neglecting food safety can have disastrous consequences for your customers in the short-term and your brand’s reputation in the long-term.

 

Traditionally, one of the primary ways foodservice establishments (including restaurants, hotels, commissaries, grocery stores, convenience stores, hospitals, ghost kitchens, and the like) have sought to prevent, mitigate, or eliminate foodborne illness risk is to perform Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) based “Line Checks”. And now, thanks to digitization, applying the principles of HACCP as part of your Food Safety program has never been easier or more efficient. 

 

Below, we’ll discuss the importance of line checks and why you should consider optimizing them by making the switch to digital. 

 

Foodborne Illnesses from Restaurants

According to the CDC's Surveillance for Foodborne Disease Outbreaks United States, 2016: Annual Report:

In 2016, there were 839 foodborne disease outbreaks reported. These resulted in 14,259 illnesses, 875 hospitalizations, 17 deaths, and 18 food product recalls. Much of this had to do with the location of food preparation. 

The CDC writes:

Among the 751 outbreaks and 12,622 illnesses with a reported single location where food was prepared, 459 outbreaks (61%) and 5,353 associated illnesses (42%) were attributed to foods prepared in a restaurant. Among these outbreaks, sit down dining restaurants were the type of facility most commonly reported (363 outbreaks, 48%). 

By this point, there’s no mystery as to the primary food safety hazards that are most likely to occur at a retail foodservice establishment. Per the FDA, the top five risk factors that contribute to a foodborne disease outbreak include:

  1. Improper holding temperatures (hot/cold) of potentially hazardous food.
  2. Improper cooking temperatures of food.
  3. Poor personal hygiene.
  4. Food from unsafe sources.
  5. Contaminated Utensils and Equipment.

 

From handwashing, to wearing gloves, to preventing cross-contamination, there are dozens of active control measures, handling practices, and sanitation methods that can be taken to inhibit or minimize foodborne illness risks. 

From handwashing, to wearing gloves, to preventing cross-contamination, there are dozens of active control measures, handling practices, and sanitation methods that can be taken to inhibit or minimize these risk factors. 

 

That said, despite having knowledge of both the problem and the preventative actions, microbiological hazards have continued to plague the industry. 

But why, exactly?  

 

The Importance of HACCP to Active Managerial Control

In most cases, this repeated failure can be chalked up to two things:

  • A lack of solid Active Managerial Control (AMC) principles 
  • Failure to implement an effective Food Safety Management System (FSMS)

 

Food Safety Magazine Writes:

One of the most effective FSMSs designed for retail foodservice establishments to achieve Active Managerial Control (AMC) is called Process Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). As described by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), AMC can be achieved using an FSMS that employs specific actions or procedures to monitor and provide for immediate corrective actions of food safety hazards during retail operation. 

HACCP is composed of 7 Principles, which identify biological, chemical, and physical hazards and then address them on a daily basis in order to ensure that the various processes—from food storage to preparation—are done properly and safely. The principles are:

  1. Conduct a hazard analysis 
  2. Determine the critical control points (CCPs) 
  3. Establish critical limits 
  4. Establish monitoring procedures 
  5. Establish corrective actions 
  6. Establish verification procedures 
  7. Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures 

 

When the principles of HACCP are applied as intended, restaurants and other foodservice establishments produce food that is safer, more consistent, higher quality, and better tasting. And, one of the primary means by which this is done is by performing Line Checks for each meal period.   

 

What are Line Checks? 

A key in implementing an effective Food Safety Management System (FSMS) is having an operational execution plan with defined roles and responsibilities and scheduled temperature and critical control point checks throughout the day or day part. Doing so creates a “culture of compliance” and ensures the team maintains focus throughout the day. 

 

HACCP based line checks for restaurants create a culture of compliance.

 

Line Checks can be extensive forms and/or shorter checklists that help staff certify that the food products and equipment for the cooking line are adequately stocked, cleaned, and kept at the proper temperature. They are an ongoing process that help prepare every shift for the impending rush. Because when things get busy, problems tend to occur at a higher rate; workers pay less attention to the fine details, cut corners, or simply overlook potential problems. 

As mentioned, these checks have to be regularly conducted throughout the day. In most cases there are five primary Line Checks that need to occur. 

Five primary Line Checks for Retail Foodservice :

  • Pre-AM shift – Approximately 30 minutes before the opening shift, to make sure that the day begins smoothly, and the food is properly stocked and ready. 
  • Mid-morning check – After a few hours of operation, to confirm that both temperatures and quality haven’t been compromised. 
  • Pre-PM Shift – Approximately 30 minutes before the PM shift, to prepare the new shift members and ensure they have everything they need to maintain quality.
  • Mid-afternoon check – After a few hours into the afternoon shift, to once more confirm that temperature and quality haven’t been compromised. 
  • Close – Once the day is done—to clean surfaces, utensils, and cooking items, toss out products that won’t be good the next day, and properly package and date food that can be stored. 

While each Line Check is tailored to the specific environment, typically, there are several categories that must be tested in regard to food items, cooking equipment, and serving supplies. For example, there are five main things that must be checked for food items:

  • Temperature – Is the food cooked and stored at its ideal temperature? 
  • Freshness – When did the food get prepared? Was it properly packaged and dated? 
  • Appearance – Does the food look aesthetically pleasing and how it’s meant to? 
  • Taste/Texture – Do the ingredients and the final product taste right?
  • Quantity – Are there the proper ingredient portions to last a shift?  

 

In addition to the examples mentioned above, there are dozens upon dozens of other critical control points that may need to be checked by asking questions such as:

  • Does the kitchen’s scale work accurately? 
  • Is the refrigerator at the proper temp?
  • Is the freezer at the proper temp?
  • Are standby foods stored at the right temp?
  • Is the grill at the proper temperature?
  • Is all the cooking equipment clean and in working order? 

 

The Problems with paper-based Line Checks

Regardless if your Line Checks are short and simple or longer and more in-depth—when they are paper-based—employees and managers may be faced with the decision between performing the checks properly or cutting corners to speed up the process (to advance to their other duties). 

 

Even on a “good day” when a manager isn’t frantically trying to attend to the latest issue, forcing employees to use a paper-based system can results in the following:

  • Manager’s spending their valuable time checking and reviewing logs that could possibly be better used elsewhere
  • Cursory checks get completed but done improperly
  • Employees pencil whipping the process - saying they performed the checks but not actually doing them
  • Only some of the items getting checked
  • The Line Checks are simply not done

 

Because outmoded paper-based systems are inefficient and lack accountability, quite often, your customer’s safety may depend entirely on the due diligence and capacity of the manager that day. And that’s a hefty weight to be placing entirely on their shoulders, particularly when they have dozens of other concerns they have to be focused on at any given time. 

 

Why performing your HACCP Line Checks electronically is the solution

As with most things, digital transformation and the use of Internet of Things (IOT) technology, and web-based and native mobile apps have also improved how Line Checks can be performed. Performing your HACCP Line Checks electronically not only rids you of the issues involved with paperwork, storage, and manually filling lists out, but provides the needed accountability, monitoring and visibility in maintaining Active Managerial Control. 

 

Applying the 7 Principles of HACCP using software and technology

Using the right technology platform, such as CMX1, can help your employees apply the 7 Principles of HACCP at each step of the process — from food storage to preparation— properly and to ensure safe food practices. Consider the following example: 

Principle 1 – Establish Potential Hazard – Salmonella from undercooked chicken.

 

Principle 2 – Establish Critical Control – Chicken must be cooked at a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.

 

Principle 3 – Establishing critical limits to prevent Salmonella – The software can include policies, instructions, pictures, and integrated media and video—all designed to help employees understand, when cooking chicken, the importance of:

  • Proper use of the cooking equipment and acceptable temperature ranges
  • Proper cook times and procedures
  • How to check the internal temperature during cooking

 

Principle 4 – Establishing procedures to monitor chicken temperature – Utilizing IOT sensors and/or Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) temperature probes with an electronic Line Check app for checking procedures can ensure:

  • Checks are being performed as scheduled with date and time stamps (or continually with sensors)
  • The number of checks required are being completed.
  • Cooking equipment is in an acceptable range
  • Proper cook times are being followed
  • Minimum internal temperature is being reached

 

Principle 5 – Establishing corrective actions when temperature issues arise – When an issue is found, or when temperatures approach the boundaries of the critical limits, the software automatically alerts staff to the issue and can require documentation that states what Corrective Action has been applied to the issue (and by who and when).

 

Principle 7 – Establishing record keeping – Using technology to monitor temperature and software to perform Line Checks automatically records all the important details for record keeping, including:

  • The date and time of the check
  • The number of checks performed
  • The data recorded with the check
  • How the data was recorded (manually entered by a person, captured via probe, captured via sensor, etc.)

Capturing information electronically also makes it much easier to review and analyze the various data points, ensure accountability, and highlight issues that need to be corrected - all in real time.

Going Digital with CMX

When you consider the multitude of hazards and critical control points in your foodservice business and then the number of food items, locations, and frequency of staff turnover you may have - you can clearly see why going digital for your HACCP Line Checks is a worthwhile investment. It provides the accountability, visibility, accuracy, trackability, and oversight needed to maintain Active Managerial Control, not to mention protect your customer’s safety and your brand reputation!

And that’s just one of the dozens of In Restaurant (or In Location) processes that CMX’s food safety management system can optimize. 

Should you wish to read more about going digital for HACCP or other In-Restaurant routines, we encourage you to read about it here.

You can also check out our Food Safety Management Software called ActivityStudio™ here.

At CMX, we’ve worked with dozens of global chains to digitally manage quality, risk, and compliance. We can help you too.

Reach out today and one of our experts will be happy to run you through the CMX1 platform and all it has to offer!

 

Sources

CDC. Surveillance for Foodborne Disease Outbreaks United States, 2016: Annual Report. https://www.cdc.gov/fdoss/pdf/2016_FoodBorneOutbreaks_508.pdf

FDA. FDA Report on the Occurrence of Foodborne Illness Risk Factors in Fast Food and Full-Service Restaurants. https://www.fda.gov/media/117509/download

Food Safety Magazine. Implementing Active Managerial Control Principles in a Retail Food Business. https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/februarymarch-2016/implementing-active-managerial-control-principles-in-a-retail-food-business/

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