Food Safety, Sanitation, and Personal Hygiene

3 An Approach to Food Safety

Food safety does not happen by accident. To prepare safe food, you must follow certain steps and procedures throughout the entire food preparation process. You have to think, and you have to pay attention to how you prepare food to make sure it is safe. You do this by developing a food safety plan. A good food safety plan will make sure that anything that might make someone sick is under control.

A basic food safety plan uses the HACCP method. HACCP stands for hazard analysis critical control points. HACCP was originally developed by NASA to make sure the food on their space flights was safe to eat. HACCP is not a complicated process; it just means that you have to first identify the various steps you must take when you prepare your menu items, then look for possible sources of contamination, and then find ways to control these sources.

The HACCP approach

HACCP is an approach to food safety that is systematic and preventive. It is recommended by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the United Nations international standards organization for food safety. HACCP is used by most countries around the world and has been in use since the 1960s.

HACCP goes beyond inspecting finished food products. It helps to find, correct, and prevent hazards throughout the production process. These include physical, chemical, and biological hazards.

There are seven universally accepted HACCP principles. Every country that uses HACCP follows these principles.

Principle 1: Hazard analysis

A plan is laid out to identify all possible food safety hazards that could cause a product to be unsafe for consumption, and the measures that can be taken to control those hazards. For example, at the cooking step of the production process, one of the identified hazards is the survival of pathogens due to inadequate cooking time or temperature.

Principle 2: Identifying critical control points

Critical control points are the points in the production process where an action can be taken to prevent, eliminate, or reduce a food safety hazard to an acceptable level. For example, the cooking step is considered a critical control point because control measures are necessary to deal with the hazard of pathogens surviving the cooking process.

Principle 3: Establishing critical limits for each critical control point

A critical limit is the limit at which a hazard is acceptable without compromising food safety. For example, critical limits at the cooking stage include specific time and temperature for cooking the product.

Principle 4: Establishing monitoring procedures for critical control points

Highly detailed monitoring activities are essential to make sure the process continues to operate safely and within the critical limits at each critical control point. For example, monitoring procedures at a cooking critical control point could include taking the internal temperature of the product with a specialized thermometer.

Principle 5: Establishing corrective actions

Actions must be taken to bring the production process back on track if monitoring indicates that deviation from critical limits has occurred. In food production, correcting problems before end-stage production is far more effective than waiting until a product is finished to test it. For example: If the required internal temperature has not been reached, a corrective action would require that the product be cooked further. If the cooking temperature cannot be reached, another corrective action would call for the product to be held and destroyed.

Principle 6: Establishing verification procedures

Verification means applying methods, procedures, tests, sampling and other evaluations (in addition to monitoring) to determine whether a control measure at a critical control point is or has been operating as intended. Verification activities also ensure that the monitoring and the corrective actions are done according to a company’s written HACCP program. For example, testing and calibrating thermometers is a verification procedure that is important to ensure accurate readings. The easiest way to test a thermometer’s accuracy is by submerging the probe into a pot of boiling water. If it does not read 100˚C (212˚F) then the thermometer must be adjusted to read the correct temperature.

Principle 7: Record keeping

The company must keep records to demonstrate the effective application of the critical control points and assist with official verification (which is done in Canada by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency). Records must be established to document the monitoring and verification results as well as all information and actions taken in response to any deviations found through monitoring and verification. For example, the employee responsible for monitoring a cooking critical control point completes a cooking log sheet. This sheet includes the date, the start and finish time, the temperature, and the employee’s signature. If a deviation has occurred in the production process, the responsible employee records the details in a deviation log book.

For more information on current food safety regulations in Canada, see Safe Food for Canadians Regulations.

Here is the original HACCP document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (now archived).

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An Approach to Food Safety by The BC Cook Articulation Committee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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