HACCP Data Protocols

HACCP Data Protocols

The HACCP management system was developed by the FDA as a way for those in foodservice to assure food safety. It can also help reduce product loss, increase product quality and consistency, improve inventory control, protect you in litigation, and even increase profits.

HACCP, which stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, encourages foodservice operations to develop a food safety plan, but in most cases this is completely voluntary. A large part of the system involves collecting data, so if you're interested in crafting your own plan, you may need to implement some new data collection protocols. Fortunately, the system will likely include things you already use, such as delivery invoices. Most of this data collection is a voluntary means of assuring food safety, but in some cases these records may be mandatory, so be sure to check your local regulations.

That data collection is aimed at leading employees to focus on keeping food out of the temperature 'danger zone,' from 40-140 degrees F, where bacteria grows the most. When food is left within this temperature range, bacteria can double in number as often as every 20 minutes. Because of how quickly this can happen, HACCP encourages documentation for every potential temperature change in the food, whether that is through defrosting, cooking, cooling, or reheating.

Thermometers: Critical HACCP Tools

One of the most important things you will need for HACCP data collection is a set of properly calibrated thermometers. Thermometers that measure within 2 degrees of the actual temperature are considered to be accurate. Thermometers can be calibrated in ice or boiling water; those meant to be used at high temperatures should be calibrated in boiling water, and those that will be measuring cooler temperatures should be done in ice water. To calibrate your thermometer in ice water:

  • Add crushed ice to distilled water in a clean container until a watery slush is formed.
  • Place the thermometer into the slush, ensuring that the probe does not touch the container.
  • After a minute, if the thermometer does not read between 30 degrees F and 34 degrees F, adjust it to 32 degrees F.
  • If the thermometer is not adjustable, it should be professionally serviced or discarded.

To calibrate your thermometer in boiling water:

  • Boil distilled water in a clean container.
  • Once the water has reached a rolling boil, place the probe into the water. Do not allow the probe to touch the container.
  • After one minute, if the thermometer does not read between 210 degrees F and 214 degrees F, adjust it to 212 degrees F.
  • If your thermometer is not adjustable, it should be professionally serviced or discarded.

Please note that altitude affects the boiling point of water; check your altitude and the boiling point of water there, and adjust your calibrations accordingly. It is also very important to use distilled water, as minerals in tap water, even after filtering, can be enough to alter the water's boiling point by as much as 6 degrees when combined with altitude variations. Calibrations should be completed daily or weekly, depending on the volume of food served, and always after potential damage from mishandling. All calibrations should be recorded as part of your HACCP documentation.

Next Steps: Identify & Address Potential Dangers

Once you have a properly calibrated thermometer, you will need to identify the critical control points of all food that enters your establishment. These are points at which you can take action to eliminate or reduce a food hazard. For each point, define your critical limits, or parameters that must be met to ensure food safety. These limits will vary by food type. For example, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends that poultry reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F for 15 seconds before it can be served, while steak must only reach a top and bottom surface temperature of 145 degrees F.

After you have decided what your critical control points and critical limits are, in accordance with your local regulations, you can move on to establishing monitoring and record-keeping procedures. This may include records for receiving, cooling, thawing, and cooking times and temperatures. All employees who will be handling food should be trained in how to keep these records. Any corrective actions, such as turning away shipments, freezer maintenance, or discarding food should also be recorded.

In some high volume operations, it may be impractical to measure the temperature of each individual food item as it comes through the line. In these cases, the record keeping processes may be modified to lessen the frequency of monitoring. To ensure you maintain the correct standards, we recommend you ask for feedback from your local regulatory authority. Consulting a local health inspector or other food safety professional can help you ensure that your operation is meeting all local regulations, which can protect both your company and your customers.

Resources to set up your own HACCP system: