The hygiene business

Even when an outlet is complying with HACCP standards it must review its policies on a regular basis particularly if it takes on new food items that were not covered under the original rollout.
Even when an outlet is complying with HACCP standards it must review its policies on a regular basis particularly if it takes on new food items that were not covered under the original rollout.

In our cash rich, time poor society “dashboard dining” has become more popular. Breakfast, lunch and even dinner can now be catered for by a quick stop into a c-store, supermarket or forecourt. However the rules and regulations of foodservice are not quite so convenient.

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20 August 2008 | 0

Even when an outlet is complying with HACCP standards it must review its policies on a regular basis particularly if it takes on new food items that were not covered under the original rollout.

We have become a deli nation with an insatiable appetite for breakfast rolls, potato wedges, sandwiches, baps, French bread and so on. While we casually buy our daily meal from convenience outlets with little thought about the mechanics of how the fare is served, behind the scenes there are very stringent hygienic measures in place to make sure your food doesn’t … reappear at a later date.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) is a systematic approach to identifying and controlling hazards (i.e. microbiological, chemical or physical) that could pose a danger to the preparation of safe food.
HACCP involves identifying what can go wrong and planning to prevent it. In simple terms, to control the safety of ingredients and supplies coming into a food business and what is done with them thereafter.

Businesses are legally obliged to put in place, implement and maintain a permanent procedure or procedures based on the HACCP principles (Regulation ((EC) No 852/2004.

High standards, high profits

HACCP is a European standard and in Ireland there are several organisations to help businesses setting up a food-to-go service comply with the law in terms of its hygiene and food preparation.
Adrian Aungier, senior safety consultant at Olive Safety said the trends are that c-stores and forecourts are now severing more food and with the busy lifestyles of the chattering classes, these shops have invested in offering a service that’s good enough to meet the public’s demands.

"There’s a level of quality that the shop owners are looking to implement and the HACCP standard would be internationally recognised and legally required," said Aungier.

According to Aungier managers, owners and staff need to understand the principles of food safety such as the proper location for preparing meat, and where and when to wash your hands. "If you understand the principles, food safety it’s relatively easy. If you don’t it can be more difficult. Generally, forecourts and the like bring in consultants to help them set up these procedures."

Aungier believes if a premises has a high food safety standard it helps to increase its business. The opposite is true of somewhere that’s not up to speed on their hygiene and it can have serious implications. "The return on investment in proper food safety procedures is very important for shop owners and stores to realise…because it will prove profitable in the long run."

Bridging gaps in your system

Olive Safety itself provides consultancy and training and will carry out pre HACCP audits to see what standards are already in place and guide outlets to improve their standards.

According to Aungier Olive often finds gaps in standards during these audits and helps implement corrective measures. "They must have a working knowledge of food safety from the owner through to management and staff."

Even when an outlet is complying with HACCP standards it must review its policies on a regular basis particularly if it takes on new food items that were not covered under the original rollout.

"HACCP is holistically changing all the time, so if you start a deli and bring in new products such as cream buns with jam…well that probably wouldn’t have been on the original HACCP sheet. It’s always evolving especially when a shop starts selling different take away foods. And it should be reviewed at least once a year."

Evelyn Cafferty, training manager at About Hygiene Ltd said a good HACCP system will save business money if it’s done correctly. She also said that environmental health officers do not like to see mountains of food stored in a freezer awaiting use. "If you have a high-quality HACCP system in place it also helps in the planning of food purchasing so that the shop owner is not over buying and stocking, and food supplies are kept to a minimum on the premises and out of the store to your customers as quickly as possible. And the swifter that happens the safer it’s going to be."

Cafferty also believes HACCP is a money saving system. "Some business can make it complicated but a good streamlined structure will cut down on paperwork and save money. Think about it as a way of saving cash – there’s definitely costs savings to be made. It’s not just about recording the temperatures of the food…yes there is that, but it’s also about turning around food in an efficient and safe manner. It will be fresher as well.

"Consumption of food on-the-go has gone up and it’s a huge growth area, and anything that can improve hygiene and reduces costs is key."

Cutting out cross-contamination

Georgia Pacific is a supplier of sanitary products such as foam soap, paper towels and napkins to retailers with a food business. It also advises clients on what products they need to utilise to comply with HACCP standards.
According to business development manager TJ Fox, the company has a number of products which aims to cut down on cross contamination. For instance it has a touchless towel dispenser that distributes one sheet at a time which cuts down on waste and the risk of picking up other peoples’ bacteria on your hands.

The same idea of one sheet at time applies to its toilet roll and napkin products so the user is only touching what they’ve dispensed.

"We’re brought in by end users trying to improve hygiene which will help in food preparation. Anywhere that’s serving hot food, the main thing is hygiene, hygiene and cost," said Fox.

Seven principles of HACCP

The seven principles of HACCP have been universally accepted by government agencies, trade associations and the food industry around the world:

  1. Analyse hazards. Potential hazards associated with a food and measures to control those hazards are identified. The hazard could be biological, such as a microbe; chemical, such as a toxin; or physical, such as ground glass or metal fragments.
  2. Identify critical control points. These are points in a food’s production-from its raw state through processing and shipping, to consumption by the consumer-at which the potential hazard can be controlled or eliminated. Examples are cooking, cooling, packaging, and metal detection.
  3. Establish preventive measures with critical limits for each control point. For a cooked food, for example, this might include setting the minimum cooking temperature and time required to ensure the elimination of any harmful microbes.
  4. Establish procedures to monitor the critical control points. Such procedures might include determining how and by whom cooking time and temperature should be monitored.
  5. Establish corrective actions to be taken when monitoring shows that a critical limit has not been met–for example, reprocessing or disposing of food if the minimum cooking temperature is not met.
  6. Establish procedures to verify that the system is working properly-for example, testing time-and-temperature recording devices to verify that a cooking unit is working properly.
  7. Establish effective recordkeeping to document the HACCP system. This would include records of hazards and their control methods, the monitoring of safety requirements and action taken to correct potential problems. Each of these principles must be backed by sound scientific knowledge: for example, published microbiological studies on time and temperature factors for controlling foodborne pathogens. 



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