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How to improve the HACCP Food Safety Systems in your Restaurants

January 29, 2020
CMX
by CMX
CMX
by CMX

How to improve the HACCP Food Safety Systems in your Restaurants

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) has been a term of substantial significance to the Food and Beverage industry for more than three decades now. But sweeping technological changes and social media prevalence requires changes in how HACCP processes are executed today. The underlying 7 principles of HACCP remain of critical importance, but with increased complexity, brands are compelled to change the way they are doing things. They must continue to deliver a consistent consumer experience, all while avoiding the potential public relations nightmare that can arise from a food safety incident.   

Increasingly, restaurant chains are using web-based and native apps to perform line checks, temperature monitoring, and HACCP compliance-related procedures to ensure food safety, quality, and consistency. So, if you’ve considered making the switch from “pen and paper” checklists, there’s never been a better time. Below, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of HACCP and why digitization of these operational procedures is the way to go

 

What is HACCP?

The HACCP approach was originally established through a collaboration between NASA, the Pillsbury company, and the U.S. Army Laboratories, in an effort to provide safe food for upcoming space expeditions. It was only in 1972, however, that a program was established to train others in “Food Safety through the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point System”. By 1993, CODEX issued the first set of official guidelines, and today, most countries adhere to the core HACCP principles as a means to improve traceability, avoid food safety hazards, and produce safe food. The goal of HACCP is simple: it’s a systematic approach to the identification, evaluation, and control of food safety hazards. The system provides a uniform guideline for food production facilities and restaurants to ensure safe food storage and handling practices. In order to accomplish this, they need to adhere to the 7 core principles of HACCP:

 

1. Conduct a hazard analysis – Develop a list of food safety hazards (chemical, biological, physical) that are a significant enough part of the process to potentially cause illness or injury to your consumer if not effectively controlled.

For restaurants, this means creating a list of food safety hazards related to your menu. Include all ingredients used, as well as their origin. This also includes how the food is stored, prepared, and cooked (if applicable), and which equipment is used. This is where the CMX1 Product Lifecycle Management solution becomes handy. It allows you to create, control, manage, and track Finished and Raw Material Product Specifications, Formulations, and Ingredients – all on a single platform.

In order for your HACCP plan to be effective, it’s important to identify all potential food safety hazards. Overlooking one potential hazard could render the entire HACCP plan ineffective, even if you adhere to it diligently.

How to Improve the HACCP Food Safety Systems in Your Restaurants

 

2. Determine the critical control points (CCPs) – These are points or steps throughout the food preparation process where contamination is likely to occur. While some processes form part of prerequisite programs (PRPs), critical control points are those where control can be applied in order to prevent, reduce, or eliminate a food safety hazard to an acceptable level.

Restaurants should pay attention to food safety hazards that could lead to contamination (whether chemical, biological, physical). For each item on your menu, go through the food preparation process, and identify points where food safety is likely to be compromised.

Here are examples of Critical Control Points to look at and questions you can ask to determine whether a food safety hazard could occur:

 

A. Receiving Food from A Distributor - Was the cold chain maintained during transportation (i.e., refrigerated foods are received at 41°F or below)? Are foods properly labeled (i.e., certification tags where appropriate, as well as date markings)?

Suppliers should be able to provide you with information regarding sourcing and traceability. They should also have effective food safety programs and GMPs in place. These, however, are not CCPs, but form part of the PRPs.

B. Food Preparation - This involves cooking foods to a certain temperature to ensure the safety thereof, and having separate areas for raw and cooked foods.

C. Food Holding Times - Cooked (or raw ready-to-eat) foods need to be kept at safe temperatures to prevent bacterial growth (i.e., keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold). Certain foods require specific time/temperature control after preparation (e.g., rice need to be cooled quickly to avoid the growth of Bacillus cereus).

3. Establish critical limits – The maximum or minimum value to which critical control points must be set in order to prevent, eliminate, or reduce a food safety hazard to an acceptable level.

This is especially important for restaurant staff in giving them specific instructions on how to keep food safe. For example, cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F to kill Salmonella.

4. Establish monitoring procedures – In order to ensure that the critical limits are adhered to, the CCPs need to be regularly monitored. These strategic and repetitive observations/measurements should be recorded and verified.

 

Utilizing restaurant technology automation for Operational Excellence

For example, restaurants should have established routines and processes for verifying temperatures for everything from cold-holding units to cooking temperatures for raw meat. This should also apply to items like the use of test strips to verify the mix of sanitization chemicals. Having a schedule and specifically assigned individuals removes ambiguity and increases accountability.

5. Establish corrective actions – Once a noncompliance or unacceptable hazard is identified, you must create and then record the corrective actions that are taken in response.

Training and instructing your restaurant employees on how to take corrective action when an issue is found is an essential aspect of maintaining your food safety system. It’s important to have corrective actions specified in advance so that employees know which actions to take and how to complete them. Instructions should be comprehensive and can include the following:

  • What action should be taken once a deviation occurs;
  • Who will be responsible for applying corrective actions;
  • How and where will the corrective actions be documented;

6. Establish verification procedures – These are activities that measure the efficacy of the HACCP plan.

For restaurants, it’s critical to establish checklists, verification, and operational routines for each daypart and shift throughout the week and to regularly verify whether your HACCP system is working. Verifying your HACCP system establishes a culture of “Operational and Quality Excellence” and reinforces expected behaviors. Also, having the management team perform routine self-assessments helps gauge overall compliance with regulatory bodies and brand standards.

Download our guide on Checklist Management

 

7. Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures – A summary that overviews everything from the initial hazard analysis, the HACCP plan, the assignments, roles, and duties, to the support documentation confirming the procedures were fulfilled.  

It’s crucial for restaurants to have detailed records on hand for inevitable audits by state inspectors and 3rd party auditors, and reviews by above restaurant field managers. Keeping temperature logs, equipment maintenance logs, operational records, and completed corrective actions show a culture of compliance. It demonstrates that critical limits are in place and procedures are being followed to prevent food safety hazards, and thus prevent foodborne illnesses.  

 

The Key Problems with Traditional HACCP

The primary objective of any HACCP system is to prevent all potential food safety hazards (chemical, biological, physical), ensuring that food is safe to eat. The National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods met in 1995 to review their original 1992 HACCP system, and while the updates significantly raised the safety and quality bar, they weren’t foolproof. This was largely due to the fact that they relied upon paper-based systems and execution carried out by humans.

 

Problem #1: Paper-Based Systems

Using this outdated approach, the vast majority of monitoring for safety and quality had to be conducted using paper-based forms and checklists. Staff had to comply with these checks, not just on a daily basis, but sometimes hourly. This process became more difficult to maintain as there were dozens, if not hundreds, of CCPs that had to be regularly checked.  

Once the initial paper-based inspections were completed, the data had to be recorded, particularly if you wanted to perform any type of trend analysis or audit. This required the manual logging of all data into a computer database or spreadsheet.

Per Food and Safety Magazine: “In the intervening years, the limitations of paper-based systems have become painfully clear:

  • Operations were tedious and labor-intensive; 
  • The high likelihood for transcription errors;
  • Tiring and time-consuming data logging;
  • Inefficient record retrieval;
  • Significant cost and data space requirements for data storage.”

In short, a paper-based model was costly, hindered productivity, and failed to provide real-time recording. To make matters worse, there was an even more glaring vulnerability with such a system—it had to be performed and maintained by humans.   

 

Problem #2: Human Error and Negligence

Even with a perfect food safety system, humans have a tendency to throw a wrench in the best-laid plans—whether by incompetence, laziness, forgetfulness, or honest error. For example, food safety can be compromised when an employee leaves beef patties out at room temperature rather than moving them to cold storage, or by a chef that fails to properly monitor the internal temperature of chicken and sends it out undercooked.

As Quality Assurance Magazine writes: “When the staff fails to follow the HACCP plan, it also can result in CCP deviation. There are a number of human failures that can contribute to CCP failure. Employees could forget to monitor and not check the CCP, or they could perform the check, but not on time. Or, they performed the check on time but did it incorrectly. Other human failures include using incorrect test piece sizes for metal detection and completing the documentation before the monitoring activity is completed (falsification of documentation).”

Recalls_burger_woman-1

 

The HACCP system is only as strong as its weakest link. Just one breakdown caused by human error can create a ripple effect throughout the entire HACCP process. And, time and again, brands that employed a non-digital HACCP process inevitably ran into several human-related problems, including: 

  • Employees didn’t have the necessary expertise or knowledge in key HACCP areas, particularly risk evaluation and hazard analysis;
  • Employees lacked the motivation to repeatedly carry out and maintain best practices;
  • There was an organizational culture from top to bottom that disregards the importance of HACCP;
  • Company-wide failure to instill the right attitude and skills for continued system maintenance and upkeep;
  • Overly complex HACCP systems with too many CCPs;
  • Bad documentation, largely due to overly complex HACCP systems;
  • Ineffective validation and verification procedures;
  • Improper or ineffective monitoring and corrective actions, resulting from poor company culture, training, or verification.

Most of these issues can be chalked up to some combination of human error, poor company culture, and improper guidance and management. But what’s the solution to these problems?

In its 1997 HACCP brief, the FDA suggested the following:

For a successful HACCP program to be properly implemented, management must be committed to a HACCP approach. A commitment by management will indicate an awareness of the benefits and costs of HACCP and include education and training of employees. Benefits, in addition to enhanced assurance of food safety, are better use of resources and timely response to problems.

While they were absolutely correct about the prescription, they failed in recommending a mechanism to enforce it. Little did they know that the answer to that issue would come in the form of the digitalization of HACCP.  

 

A Better Approach to HACCP

The Key Benefits of Restaurant Technology for Automation and Operational Excellence

 

Realizing the limitations and problems posed by a traditional approach to HACCP, a growing number of restaurant chains are ditching the outdated pen and paper checklists for HACCP in favor of IoT devices, automated Bluetooth sensors, and formidable work management and operational execution software.

In a word, they’ve gone DIGITAL. 

Naturally, you may wonder whether it’s a worthwhile investment. Forbes writes:

CEOs are in the business of managing the business to make a profit—and are not necessarily versed in the lingua franca of science—based solutions that microbiologists, chemists or food engineers propose. But investments in food safety systems, technologies, testing and tools are just that—economic investments of either money, staff or time that must be justified at the bottom line or to the company’s shareholders. 

Download our guide on Checklist Management

 

There are several tangible benefits that justify the investment for digital transformation of your HACCP System: 

 

1. Increases productivity – Frequent checks mean employees spend a lot of time conducting assessments and inputting data. Additionally, managers have to spend time reviewing both the paperwork and the logs.

By automating the process, you free up time for employees that could be better spent serving customers or running the restaurant. In addition, managers are now able to review logs and pull pertinent information far more efficiently.  

HACCP Plan for Restaurants

 

2. Ensures compliance – Lack of accountability remains to be one of the largest drawbacks of pen and paper checklists. With this method, there is no way to verify whether or not the checks were actually completed, if it was done in a proper manner and at the scheduled time, and by whom it was done.

Digitizing HACCP processes and Line Checks prevents “pencil whipping” since checks are time stamped. It also records who carried out the task, and when it was completed. This confirms that employees are complying with all of the food safety procedures and checks you put in place, and thus ensures that you are maintaining your food safety and quality standards.  

3. Increased visibility and control – With paper-based records, managers must be present to review and process the information. For brands that have hundreds, if not thousands of locations, such a model is far too challenging.

With digital recording, managers and brands can access the records centrally through the cloud for any restaurant at any time. This grants them complete visibility and gives them the ability to make changes to their programs and ensure corrective actions are taken without having to physically visit a site.  

4. Better data – Even if HACCP procedures were performed as intended, paper-based systems only provided a few data points throughout the day. This gives managers a snapshot of what is going on but fails to paint an entire picture since there are gaps between one data point and the next.

When you go digital with IOT Sensors, you have a continuous record, which amounts to thousands of data points that the system can use each day to perform the most accurate analysis.  

5. Alert you to potential issues – Digital HACCP can act as an “early warning system.”

When automated monitoring sensors notice a potential problem, they can warn employees before they evolve into more serious food safety hazards. For example, digital temperature monitors provide real-time readings that continuously update and alert the staff should the temperatures go out of range.

6. Improved record access and security – Paper-based records quickly get out of hand; they require tons of space, an effective filing system, and secure storage. Failure to do so can result in lost, damaged, or stolen files.

By hosting all of your data in the cloud, you completely eliminate this potential pain point and make it easy to pull up records on demand.  

 

Improving the HACCP Process in Your Restaurants with CMX

Achieving Active Managerial Control, executing on your HACCP Plan, and ensuring food safety and quality is no easy task. Its significance cannot be understated though.

Failure to comply with HACCP processes could harm your customers and result in serious consequences for your brand. Consumer trust can erode due to a single food safety incident. Performing your Line Checks, temperature logs, and HACCP processes manually only increases the likelihood of such a failure eventually occurring.

Fortunately, there’s a better way. By adopting a digital HACCP system like the CMX1 platform, you can better manage your food safety and quality. Such a system increases productivity, visibility, and helps foster Quality and Operational Excellence. All of which drive customer satisfaction and revenue.

 

Resources

If you’re looking for a way to improve your Restaurant's HACCP system, you've come to the right place. Reach out to us today and one of our experts can show you how to get the ball rolling and help you go digital. 

Did you know that CMX1 isn't just for HACCP? Interested in learning more about why you should be ditching your paper checklists and automating all your restaurant operations? Visit our blog on the very topic here.

We’ve also written about the "Essential Technology Drivers needed for Restaurant Operational Excellence". Visit our blog on the topic here or better yet download our eBook on the topic here

 

Footnote: 

The Food and Drug Administration created guidelines for the Hazard Analysis Critical Point Program (HACCP) and requires it as a part of all Food Manager certification programs. The FDA's goal is the limiting of the spread of foodborne illnesses through proper management procedures. HACCP is also a requirement of all American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Food Safety Manager's programs. One such program is available through training seminars such as ServSafe.

Sources: 

Food and Safety Magazine. Moving from Paper to Electronic HACCP Records. https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/februarymarch-2009/moving-from-paper-to-electronic-haccp-records/

Quality Assurance Magazine. HACCP Deviations. 

https://www.qualityassurancemag.com/article/aib0814-haccp-deviations-ccp-failure/

FDA. HACCP Principle and Application Guidelines. https://www.fda.gov/food/hazard-analysis-critical-control-point-haccp/haccp-principles-application-guidelines

Forbes. The CEO’s Shopping List for Safer Food and Bigger Profits. https://www.forbes.com/sites/billmarler/2015/06/08/the-ceos-shopping-list-for-safer-food-and-bigger-profits/#4a0ee4174fe8

ADL Associates. 8 Critical Control Point Examples for HACCP. https://www.adlassociates.co.uk/8-critical-control-point-examples-for-haccp/

IFT/FDA. Evaluation and Definition of Potentially Hazardous Foods. https://www.fda.gov/files/food/published/Evaluation-and-Definition-of-Potentially-Hazardous-Foods.pdf

IBM. What is the Internet of Things (IoT)? https://www.ibm.com/blogs/internet-of-things/what-is-the-iot/

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