We have all heard of HACCP, but how many of us “fully understand” the Food Safety Management System? HACCP, by definition, is a group of practices and procedures intended to prevent a foodborne illness by actively controlling risks and hazards throughout the flow of food. But what does that mean?

The seven steps of HACCP break down how to address potential risks and hazards, for each food item, as it goes through the nine steps or flow of food, while in the hands of your staff. Schools are required to have a HACCP plan, but over the last nine years of teaching ServSafe, we find most employees have no idea of its purpose. HACCP plans are unique to each food service establishment and requires constant updating as you introduce new items. To understand HACCP better, you need to know the nine steps in the flow of food: purchasing, receiving, storing, preparing, cooking, holding, cooling, reheating and serving. Now, you identify each food item and how it may become unsafe during one or all of these steps, if it were not handled properly.

Example – Raw, frozen chicken. Let’s examine the nine steps:

  • Purchasing: should be from an approved, reputable supplier, you have a bid system that requires all vendors to handle food properly and keep at proper temperature at all times.
  • Receiving: if the chicken arrives and appears to have been thawed, potential hazard and you would reject it. What if it’s checked in and sits on the floor outside of the freezer, you could have a risk.
  • Storing: if the chicken is not stored at 41 degrees F or below.
  • Preparing: possible cross contamination, into the temperature danger zone.
  • Cooking: if not cooked to its minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F, biological hazard.
  • Holding: if not held at the required 135 degrees F or higher, can dip into the danger zone quickly.
  • Cooling: if it goes through the danger zone too slowly.
  • Reheating: again, if not reheated properly, it remains in the danger zone too long.
  • Serving: hot food hot, 135 degrees F or higher.

As you can see, a raw product can produce potential hazards in all nine steps, versus, a case of canned green beans. Breaking it down like the chicken example, you can see that the risks and hazards with canned green beans may be during cooking, holding, reheating and serving. This is because the green beans will go through the danger zone during all four steps.

This is how HACCP works for each food item