Throughout my time working in the food industry, the HACCP (hazard analysis critical control points) process was essential to the food safety plan. HACCP (pronounced ha-sup) is a system that identifies issues in food manufacturing that producers must control so that people don’t get sick from eating the food. (If you use a thermometer to verify a food’s temperature before serving, then you have used HACCP.) The HACCP process reduces risk and improves quality.
In fact, even if you’re not in the food industry, using the HACCP methodology in your business can help you reduce risks and improve the quality of your products and services.
The Seven Steps of the HACCP Process
You likely have many systems in your business, from client intake to providing a product or service to client follow-up. Within each process, follow the seven steps in the HACCP process to identify risk points, establish quality parameters, and verify outcomes.
- Conduct a Hazard Analysis
- Identify Critical Control Points
- Establish Critical Limits
- Monitor Critical Control Points
- Establish Corrective Actions
- Establish Record Keeping Procedures
- Establish Verification Procedures
1. Conduct a Hazard Analysis
The first step is to identify hazards. In the food industry, this would be any point at which the food could become contaminated. In most service businesses, this is not an issue. However, there could be other types of hazards. For example, is there any point in your client intake process where your client’s information is vulnerable? When you provide services, are there times when you or your team members face a hazard or dangerous situation?
It can be overwhelming to think about every system in your business simultaneously. Instead, start with the procedures you use most often because they are the ones that are most critical to your business.
2. Identify Critical Control Points
Next, identify where to implement control to reduce or eliminate the hazard. For foods, a critical control point would be ensuring you cook the food properly. However, critical control points will be different for other businesses. These control points might include regular software updates to protect your computer system or inspecting supplies as soon as they arrive to ensure you received everything you ordered.
3. Establish Critical Limits
Establishing the critical limits means determining the minimum and maximum allowances for each control point in your system. For example, ensuring you cooked the food properly would mean that the final temperature of the centre of a whole chicken is at least 82°C. But the temperature shouldn’t exceed 90°C because the meat will be too dry. An example in your business might be when you receive supplies and check each order within 24 hours of delivery.
4. Monitor Critical Control Points
Of course, when you serve food in your home, you usually don’t write down the final temperature of the cooked chicken. But when you have a complex process, repeated time and time again, there is no way you can remember these details accurately. You must monitor (and record) your critical control points – ideally by using forms, checklists, or signatures. When you monitor, you can make corrections promptly.
5. Establish Corrective Actions
The next step is establishing corrective actions whenever a control point is outside the set parameters. In the cooked chicken example, if the internal temperature is only 75°C, you would return the chicken to the oven and recheck it 10 minutes later.
In the case of your deliveries, cross-checking the items with the order request within 24 hours of arrival will alert you to any missing material. Maybe you forgot to order an item, didn’t order enough, or the supplier was out of stock. Whatever the reason, you can record your actions, make corrections, and re-order before production begins.
6. Establish Record Keeping Procedures
“if you don’t write it down –” “Then it never happened.”Tom Clancy, Debt of Honor
Knowing what records to keep and how to keep them is essential. Most importantly, keep all forms, checklists, and signatures that document monitoring and verification of your critical control points. And keep a record of all the corrective actions you took.
How long you keep your records depends on your industry requirements. But even if you’re not required to keep them, you should keep them long enough to identify trends that can help you further mitigate risk and improve your business procedures. For example, if your records show your deliveries are often missing items, you may decide to place your orders earlier or find a different supplier.
7. Establish Verification Procedures
The final step is auditing. Many businesses don’t follow through with this essential procedure. You must test how you monitor your critical control points and verify your records. In the food industry, there are strict inspections by external auditors (often health inspectors) at regular intervals. But you can conduct internal audits with your team members. Alternatively, ask a trusted colleague or virtual assistant to audit your HACCP process and offer to return the favour. Generally, you conduct audits annually unless you have significant changes to your business systems.
Implementing the HACCP Process
Remember, implement HACCP for critical procedures in your business – the ones where you need to mitigate risk and improve or ensure quality. It may take some time and staff training, but in the end, you’ll have a higher quality product or service, less staff turnover and fewer customer complaints. If you don’t know where to start, feel free to reach out and let’s talk about it.