What is the HACCP Concept - and How Do You Implement It?
In gastronomy and food processing one thing is always of the utmost importance: hygiene. Food contamination and bacterial proliferation are disastrous and can cause image damage and fines. In severe cases, prison sentences have even been imposed and businesses have been closed.
Of course, every restaurant owner and canteen operator wants to prevent this. The HACCP concept can be useful in doing so - however, it is not only helpful, but actually mandatory. HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, and that’s exactly what it is all about.
Unlike traditional approaches, the HACCP concept does not seek to completely avoid hazards but to identify them and find solutions. Or simply said, the dangers can not be completely eliminated, so we have to act in a way that allows us to contain them.
The seven HACCP principles
The complete concept of HACCP is based on seven principles. These are:
- All processing methods and product components must be known
- All hazards and risks must be identified so that it is clear what you need solutions for
- Critical control points (i.e. high-risk process sections) must be identified and determined (there are various forms that can help with this)
- These control points should be treated appropriately to minimize the risk (for example, they should be cleaned and disinfected regularly)
- A procedure for monitoring must be introduced (this can be done with the help of control sheets, instructions, etc.)
- In the case of errors, it must be clear how to act and who is responsible for doing so
- The effectiveness of the system must be checked
Simplified, the process should be based on the following question: What do we do? - What can go wrong? - When is it going wrong? - What can we do to prevent it? - How do we ensure the implementation of hygiene measures? - How do we fix errors? - How do we check the effectiveness of our HACCP system?
Separation of areas
Basically, a distinction is made in food processing between "impure" and "pure" areas. The impure ones include the delivery and preparation of goods, rinsing and cleaning areas, work surfaces for defrosting and disjointing food and waste disposal.
Pure areas, on the other hand, are all those where cooking, portioning / dispensing and storing food as well as providing clean dishes takes place.
Each area must have its own sink. Premises where no food processing or related activities take place need to be strictly separated - such as offices, restrooms, technical rooms and changing rooms.
Separation of food
Not only areas, but also certain foods have to be separated. For example, poultry, meat and eggs must be kept and processed separately from other goods, since they are particularly quickly attacked by germs that must not be transferred to other foods. Therefore, specific chopping boards are to be used for their processing.
Selection of equipment and work equipment
The risk of contamination of the goods and even of the whole operation can be reduced right from the beginning by choosing adequate work equipment. Nonwoven cloth, for example, are less susceptible to germs than those of other materials. A rag of this material can be safely used throughout the day and disposed of at the end of the shift.
Electronic devices, if chosen appropriately, can also provide a great support: most cookers, ovens, etc. for catering establishments are equipped with very precise temperature and time displays. By choosing them you can avoid the risk of wrong cooking time or too low temperature.
HACCP duty for businesses
Of course, the compliance of all these guidelines is an extra effort for the business (and also for its staff). You have no choice, though, because every gastronomic company is obliged to implement the HACCP concept (Regulation (EC) 852/2004). The health department reserves the right to check this regularly. However, if you stick to the rules, you have nothing to worry about. Checklists and regular training sessions can also help with the successful implementation.
Good luck with going gastro!
The Smunch Team