Importance of food safety education: Part 2

How a HACCP plan can help prevent foodborne illness.

Why is it important for more than one employee to be familiar with any food service establishment’s HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) plan? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 6 people get sick and 128,000 are hospitalized due to foodborne illness each year. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in 2011 with the goal of preventing instances of food contamination leading to illness instead of responding to them as they happen. HACCP plans identify key points in the production or service of food that could lead to foodborne illness and account for these food safety risks. Training multiple staff members on the HACCP plan allows for a quicker response to potential food safety hazards and reduces the risk of foodborne illness.

Food service establishments that offer a wide variety of foods, like a comprehensive deli in a grocery store, can be at an especially high risk for foodborne illness. Offering a variety of foods can make a deli popular, but it also makes food safety challenging considering that some of the foods may have different handling instructions, may have to be cooked to different safe internal temperatures, or have different allergens. Grocery stores, like most food service establishments, are required to have at least one certified Food Protection Manager, although many will certify a larger number of staff to reduce food safety risks in their establishment. One person cannot be everywhere or work every shift so continued food safety training for staff and communicating a HACCP plan will help to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

What is a HACCP plan?

HACCP plans identify significant biological (e.g., bacteria or viruses), chemical (e.g., cleaners or sanitizers), or physical (e.g., fingernails or jewelry) hazards at specific points within a products flow. Once hazards have been identified, they can be prevented, reduced to safe levels or eliminated.

Seven HACCP Principles:

  1. Conduct a hazard analysis
  2. Determine critical control points (CCPs)
  3. Establish critical limits
  4. Establish monitoring procedures
  5. Identify corrective actions
  6. Verify that the system works
  7. Establish procedures for record keeping and documentation

Principles 1 and 2 are where you identify and evaluate your hazards. In the case of the grocery store deli, maybe the deli is serving cold salads and rotisserie chicken. The salad needs to held at a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit while the chicken would be served hot and held at a temperature of 135 degrees F or warmer to minimize bacterial growth. The hazards in this example would be serving both hot and cold foods and maintaining the appropriate temperature for each.

Principles 3, 4, and 5 help to establish ways for controlling these hazards. In the grocery store example above where cold salads and rotisserie chicken are served, the manager might decide that staff will monitor and record the temperatures of each food every four hours to make sure the cold items stay cold and the hot items stay hot. If it has been four hours since the temperature of the chicken was checked and it was found to be under 135 degrees F, it must be discarded.

Principles 6 and 7 help to maintain the HACCP plan and verify its effectiveness. Continuing with the grocery store example, the deli manager can review the documentation provided by the staff to ensure that the cold salads and the rotisserie chicken are both held at the appropriate temperatures. Some foodborne illnesses have a longer onset time than others, so HACCP records should be kept on file according to the HACCP plan guidelines. HACCP plans are working when there are no instances of foodborne illness. If someone becomes ill at a food service establishment, the HACCP plan may need to be revised.

For additional information on food safety, visit Michigan State University Extension. Don’t forget to check out Part 1 for more on the importance of food safety education.

If you are interested in ServSafe or HACCP certification, contact your local MSU Extension. To read more about preventing foodborne illness, check out the 7th Edition ServSafe Manager book. 

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