October 1, 2015

Keeping Your Food Products Safe

food safetyLast week we talked about the fact that the newly publicized Food Safety And Modernization Act guidelines may require food entrepreneurs to better document their production processes in an effort to minimize food-borne illness.  While the FDA has not yet handed out clear definitions about what will and won’t be required for very small businesses, it is not a bad idea to get ahead of the curve and conduct a mini HACCP review for your business.

Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, also known by the abbreviation HACCP, is a process through which food businesses evaluate potential risks to their food products and then do what they can to minimize and control those hazards.  Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the chance that unsafe food is sold to customers.

While this is not intended to be an in-depth article about all aspects of HACCP planning, here are a few high-level things you can start working on now:

  1. Conduct A Hazard Analysis: Where in your production process might hazards exist that would put food at risk?  Thing through all the steps from when you receive the raw ingredients, to how they’re stored, to how they’re processed, to how the final product is packaged and stored until sold to consumers.
  2. Determine Critical Control Points: For any identified hazards detailed in the above step, can a process or critical control point be put into place that would minimize or eliminate that risk?
  3. Establish Critical Limits: Are there certain figures – both minimum and maximum – that you can assign to various steps in your production process that would help alert you and/or your staff to potential food contamination issues.  This might include things such as holding temperatures, ph balance, cook temps, etc.  These numbers should be based on food industry standards and, as applicable, in conduction with food scientists.
  4. Monitor the Critical Control Points: A plan has no value if you don’t actively monitor it to ensure the plan is being followed.  This might require some retraining of you and/or your staff so that you establish the habit of consistently testing and recording temperatures, etc at the critical control points.  For example, get in the habit of checking your refrigerator and freezer temperature at regular intervals throughout your work day, and record those numbers, so you can determine if any of your perishable ingredients have not been stored at the right temperature.
  5. Establish Corrective Action: If a critical limit is breached, what must be done to correctly address the problem both quickly and in a manner that safe-guards the health of your consumers.  This may include, using the above refrigerator example as a guide, destroying food that had been kept in the faulty refrigerator and contacting a repair person to service the equipment.

If you’d like to learn more about HACCP plans and how you can use the methodology in your business, click here.    Lastly, have you instituted a HACCP plan (either officially or unofficially) for your business?  If so, have you found the process useful?  Did you learn anything that may have surprised you?

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One comment on “Keeping Your Food Products Safe

  • Dawn Anderson on said:

    Jennifer, we love your posts. Read them every day and they are always informative and pertinent. You’re awesome! Keep up the good work and on behalf of all your readers, thank you!