Starting out with HACCP: Food safety for business
Starting out with HACCP: Food safety for your business. When it comes to getting started in business, the food and beverage sector remains a popular choice.
It’s a broad industry with loads of sub-sectors and almost endless scope for growth; what might begin locally with a small dream of a coffee truck could one day become your big dream of a global chain of high-end cafés.
Let’s face it, people will always need to eat and drink! It’s our most basic human requirement, which may be part of the reason why it remains such a robust start-up choice – there are so many different options within the food and drink sector, and if you get it right, your business will stand the test of time.
In Ireland alone, the food and beverage sector is one of the largest industries, with an annual turnover of over €25 billion, sustaining 230,000 jobs read more.
Food and beverage as a business
At a production level, food and drinks fulfill a basic need. Food developers give us new products and flavours to try, caterers take the strain for our large social gatherings. Deli’s and takeaways offer us quick nutrition when we’re on the move. Cafés and restaurants also provide convenience but in addition, they have a hugely important social and cultural role; when we meet our friends or celebrate an occasion, it’s often done over food and drinks.
Most people who start a business within the food industry will already have experience in the sector, and know exactly what they want to provide. The vision is the easy part, but not everyone has experience when it comes to running a business.
This article from Bank of Ireland business has some useful information for food start-ups, as well as a handy template to help you create your business plan: click here
When it comes to running your own food business, one of the first things you should consider is food law. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland is the governing body, and they have plenty of useful information on their website to help you get started: start here
What is HACCP?
Everyone who has ever worked within the food industry will have heard of HACCP, but what does it mean for your own business?
Put simply, HACCP, or Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point, refers to the procedures that your business needs to have in place to ensure that the food you produce and supply is safe.
An effective food safety management system allows you to identify, monitor, and control any potential hazards when it comes to safety for the food you produce. It helps you to:
- Identify what could go wrong
- Plan to prevent incidents
- Ensure the plan is being followed
- Know what to do if something fails
This can include processes such as delivery information, cooking temperatures, fridge temperatures, deli temperatures, and cleaning schedules, right through to labelling and traceability.
HACCP compliance is a legal requirement, but done correctly it can also have real benefits for your business.
Having a comprehensive HACCP management and recording procedure in place lets your customers know that you maintain food safety standards, and this promotes trust and confidence in your business. A good HACCP plan will help protect your business from negative reviews, complaints, fines, or even closure.
There are 7 principles of HACCP:
1. Identify the hazards
Look at every step of your operational procedures (e.g. food preparation, chilling, delivery) and identify what could go wrong.
For example, cross-contamination of food (biological hazard), contamination of uncovered food with a cleaning chemical (chemical hazard), or a piece of glass falling into an uncovered food (physical hazard).
2. Determine the critical control points (CCPs)
Identify the ways in which you control these hazards.
For example, cooking raw meat to a temperature that will kill hazardous bacteria
3. Establish critical limit(s)
Set limits that identify when a CCP is out of control
For example, when cooking beef burgers, the centre of the burger must reach a minimum temperature of 75°C to destroy pathogens.
4. Establish a system to monitor control of the CCP
Once you’ve identified the CCPs and critical limit, implement a system to monitor and record what is happening at each point.
Monitoring may involve measuring parameters such as temperature and time. Keep your monitoring and recording clear and simple.
For example, regularly probe food to ensure it is being cooked and/or stored at the correct temperature.
How you monitor and how often will depend on the nature of your business.
5. Establish the corrective action to be taken when monitoring indicates that a particular CCP is not under control
Identify your corrective procedure, in case your monitoring should indicate that a CCP is not under control.
For example, the temperature of the food in a fridge is too high because the fridge is broken.
Discard the food, repair the fridge, and ensure the temperature setting is correct once repaired.
6. Establish procedures for verification to confirm your HACCP system is working effectively
Regularly review and verify that your process is effective in controlling hazards. Check and adjust settings as required.
Correct the system whenever you make changes to your operation e.g. when replacing a fridge, make sure that the new fridge temperature is set correctly.
7. Establish documentation concerning all procedures and records appropriate to these principles and their application
For the successful implementation of HACCP based procedures, appropriate documentation and records must be kept and be readily available.
The complexity and type of records required will again depend on the nature of the business, but they should always be able to demonstrate compliance with the latest legislation.
Making HACCP work for you
This can all seem very daunting, especially if you are just starting out, and there is no doubt that depending on the nature of your business, HACCP management can be quite time consuming.
Every region will have a local environmental health officer who will make regular inspections of the food businesses in your area, to check health and safety procedures are being followed, and to make recommendations based on their findings.
Having clear and regular HACCP management documentation available is exceptionally useful for environmental health visits, as it will clearly outline the process you have in place and show that you understand what’s expected from your business, and that you are carrying this out in your daily activities.
To keep a clear and accurate HACCP management system in place, many businesses are now turning to digital food safety software as an alternative to paper checklists and boxes of folders.
Digital HACCP management
Digital HACCP systems have already been around for a few years, but have recently become quite popular as they become more affordable for smaller businesses, due to improvements in technology and its overall popularity, making it cheaper to produce and implement.
Usually cloud-based, digital systems allow you to set up all of your procedures and tasks on an app or program, where they can be checked and completed periodically, and the details securely recorded within the software – all but eliminating the need for paperwork.
It also speeds up the process enormously, as many of the set tasks require just one touch. Your device may be able to utilise a temperature probe, to check and record temperatures in one action.
Digital HACCP management systems can keep your business FSAI complaint with a fraction of the time and effort required of a paper system, giving you time to take care of other important aspects of running your business, great products and customer care, leading to profit and growth.
Find out more
To find out more about Retail Solutions’ digital HACCP management system, iQoo, you can contact Dylan at Retail Solutions on +353 87 6831605 or check out our website, https://www.retailsolutions.ie/product/iqoo-haccp/
About the authors:
Dylan Doherty is a Business Development Manager for iQoo digital HACCP. You can follow him on LinkedIn!
Susan McGuire has been with Retail Solutions for 6 years, and during that time has had roles within the areas of Maintenance, Finance, & Marketing. You can follow her on LinkedIn!