Everyone is talking about hygiene – literally! Especially when it comes to food, high requirements have to be met. Nobody wants to have to worry about their own health when enjoying delicious delicacies outside the home, to take away or in large kitchens. Risk factors must be identified and eliminated in every step: from preparation to processing and packaging to storage, transport and sale. With such a great responsibility, you can feel overwhelmed. Where should you start? The answer to this question lies in the HACCP concept. In the following article you will find out what is hidden behind the five letters, what you as a grocer or producer must pay attention to and the consequences of violations.

What is an HACCP concept anyway?

“From farm to fork.” This is the WHO definition of quality assurance from 1992. One year later, the HACCP paper valid for the entire European Union was derived from this.

The abbreviation HACCP stands for HazardAnalysis and Critical Control Points. An HACCP concept therefore serves as a tool in quality management, created for the production and handling of food. It helps prevent hazards that can lead to consumer illness or injury.

Who needs an HACCP concept?

As a restaurateur, food establishment or retailer, you have to comply with many different laws. There are not only nationally applicable laws in the field of hygiene, but also overarching EU regulations. In this jungle of laws, it is not so easy to keep track of everything. Therefore, we briefly explain the hygiene package of the EU, under which the HACCP guidelines also fall.

With the introduction of the European Regulation (EC) 852/2004, all food business operators are obliged to introduce a self-checking concept in their business based on HACCP. This includes, for example:

  • Caterers and canteens
  • Hotels
  • Bakeries
  • Butchers
  • Restaurants and hotels
  • Gastronomy and
  • Food processing plants

They must have one or more permanent procedures based on and maintaining HACCP principles. Possible risks have to be analyzed independently and critical control points have to be defined. The hazards that must be minimized throughout the manufacturing and sales process can be biological (germs, viruses, fungi), physical (foreign objects) or chemical (e.g. cleaning agents).

All these steps require extensive knowledge. And this, according to the regulation, must be present in all persons who handle food. This means that every employee must be trained in food hygiene and motivated to implement this in his or her area of activity.

What measures are included in the HACCP guidelines?

The HACCP concept must meet different requirements – depending on the company in which it is implemented. However, there are measures that must be observed in any case and apply to all.

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  • Analysis of hazards in the production and processing sequence:
    Before the “how” comes the “what”. The dangers must be identified and analysed in order to be able to take countermeasures.
  • Identification of critical control points:
    Regular controls in the ongoing manufacturing process of food can identify, prevent or at least minimize risks. Here it is determined at which points these risks could occur and where testing can be carried out without any problems.
  • Determination of limit values:
    Upper and lower limits that must be observed at all costs are determined at this point.
  • Establish and implement effective audit and security measures:
    Having identified the control points and defined the boundaries, it is now necessary to describe how these can be monitored. Pre-defined corrective actions intervene in case of deviations.
  • Documentation:
    Bureaucracy is annoying, but important: because everything that is not documented is considered not to have been done. Every company always has the burden of proof. If a customer suffers food poisoning, you can only prove your innocence if you have recorded your compliance with the law. Otherwise, you will be held liable for the damage.
  • Regular monitoring of the measures introduced:
    Nobody’s perfect! Even a seemingly perfectly thought-out hygiene concept can have a few gaps here and there. Therefore, the HACCP concept should be reviewed regularly and the efficiency of its implementation should be questioned.

What support is available for the creation of an HACCP concept?

Implementing the HACCP concept every day, knowing all the specifications and identifying risks is not always easy. Sometimes you wish you had some support with that. A look at HACCP checklists can help here. Unfortunately, however, there is no universally applicable HACCP concept due to the very individual requirements of different industries. So no recipe and no ready-made templates – would have been too good to be true! To ensure that the implementation of the HACCP requirements in your company is thorough and legally compliant, it is advisable to obtain comprehensive hygiene advice from experts. There are templates freely available on the internet – but due to their generic tone, these should only be used as a rough guide.

What happens if the rules are not followed?

Since the HACCP guidelines are accompanied by strict specifications, violations can be quite expensive. If inspection bodies detect hygiene deficiencies that are not remedied within 24 hours, there is initially the threat of a – still – mild fine. If these deficiencies are of a more significant nature, a period of 4 weeks shall apply in order to remedy them. If these deadlines are ignored, criminal proceedings begin, which can end in heavy fines or even the closure of the business.

HACCP: How is it implemented in concrete terms?

Whether it’s a small bistro in the neighbouring village or a large eatery in the city centre: all catering businesses must observe the principles of the HACCP concept when handling food. But even producers, traders and suppliers cannot avoid the strict requirements.

In addition to packaging, two opposing factors play a special role here: heat and cold. You can ensure that you serve your customers fresh and delicious food without germ contamination by applying two principles:

  • Compliance with the cold chain for foodstuffs requiring refrigeration
  • Sufficient heating of food

Thus, the areas of incoming goods, storage, food preparation and serving are in the focus of a good HACCP concept. With measuring devices, data loggers and monitoring systems, important work steps are conveniently taken off your hands.

Together with Ehlert to impeccable food safety

From protective work clothing to reliable cleaning products and various measuring devices, we at Ehlert are completely focused on compliance with your HACCP concept. As different as the individual industries may be – the common goal is always the well-being of the consumer. Signal your high quality standards for food safety to your customers with an HACCP certification and minimize health risks efficiently. With detailed documentation and compliance with hygiene regulations, you create trust with your customers. And if you don’t know where your head is at with all the specifications, we are there for you! Our experts support you in optimising your production processes, reducing liability risks and thus saving costs.