The Importance of Food Safety
All businesses in the food industry have a public responsibility for the products they sell. Knowing that a product does not pose a risk to their health, is an obligation that consumers appreciate. Businesses must provide such reassurance to remain competitive and continuously bring customers through the door.
Food safety standards act as an intermediary between businesses and consumers. Food safety standards ensure that restaurants are managing their public health risk sufficiently and are not a danger to the public.
A well-managed restaurant also protects the establishment from potential legal action if a member of the public tries to sue. There are procedures across all areas of the supply chain, consisting of-
- Primary producers
Ensuring that the food you serve does not pose a risk to either the consumer or the business is paramount to maintaining a reputable standing in the food industry.
Proper Food Safety Procedures in Restaurants
Creating a safe food environment requires a lot of thought and planning. The first of these steps is to follow a HACCP safety plan or hazard analysis critical control points. HACCP is an internationally recognized logical tool for adapting traditional inspection methods to a modern, science-based food safety system. The basic premise involves understanding the steps you must take to prepare your food, how it could be contaminated, and how these contaminants can be controlled.
HACCP is made up of seven principles that are designed to identify, fix, and correct any risks that are posed during the production of food including biological, physical, and chemical issues-
1. Hazard Analysis
An assessment of all processes in the supply chain that lead up to when the food is consumed which pose a risk to safety. This is also focused on evaluating the actions that can be taken to counter these risks.
2. Identifying Critical Control Points
Determine where along the production process can an action stop, remove, or reduce, a risk to food safety. An example of this is the storage control point, what steps have been taken during the storage of food that could improve safety. For example, label the produce correctly so employees can understand if it has gone bad.
3. Determining Critical Limits For Every Critical Control Point
Establishing when a hazard becomes safe. Creating critical limits sets boundaries for what is an allowable level of risk. For example, setting a limit for how long a cooked item can be stored. Using the labelling control point example of the previous section, an employee can determine whether the food has been stored too long and poses a risk by checking if it is within the critical limit.
4. Create Monitoring Processes for Critical Control Points
Define in-depth processes to monitor critical control points. Each area where there is the chance of risk must be checked. For example if you have cold storage, the temperature must be checked to ensure food is kept cold enough to prevent it from going bad. This temperature must be checked regularly.
5. Establish Contingency Plans to Correct Errors
If there is an error in the process and the risk to health has become too high, corrective measures must be taken to rectify the issue. This can range from returning food to the heat so it reaches the required temperature, to throwing items out, or fixing broken thermostats.
6. Determining a Verification Process
Essentially, a business must be confident that safety processes continue to be effective after they are initially implemented. A business must know that the previous steps in the HACCP plan function correctly. This is accomplished by continually verifying, sampling and evaluating the control points that are in place. For example, the thermometers in the cold storage must read correctly and be fixed or replaced if they do not.
7. Keeping Records
A business has to keep a demonstrable record that proves the effectiveness of the critical control points that are in place. These records have to outline all information and actions involved with occurrences outside of the HACCP process, as well as the monitoring and verification results.
Consequences of Failure for Food Safety Compliance
The repercussions of not complying with food safety standards can be immense. The publics health and the financial wellness of the business are at risk.
A clear example is the Mexican fast-food chain Chipotle. The business had huge growth over a 10 year period which in 2015 resulted in inadequate compliance with food safety. The result was an E.coli outbreak and a temporary shut down of forty-three restaurants. This was only the start of the issues. In that period the company predicted a drop in quarterly revenue of 11%, two months after the price of the companys stock fell 25%.
Food Safety and a Restaurant's Reputation
Beyond the immediate impact of inadequate food safety, like public health, and loss of revenue while investigating the issue. There are wider, more long term implications for businesses.
In the case of Chipotle, from a business perspective, one of the biggest issues was that its brand was built on a message about quality local produce, that was healthy to eat and sustainable. It was a long road back for the company after these incidents because their reputation had been seriously impacted.
How could they be considered a healthy and quality brand which delivers, food with integrity if they were causing customers to become seriously ill? Consider that from 2004 to 2014 Chipotle grew from 489 restaurants and $628 million in revenue to 1,800 restaurants and $4.1 billion in revenue, but after this outbreak, they had their first quarterly decline as a public company. This says a lot about the damage a situation like this can have on brands.
Restaurants need to understand the implications of having inadequate food safety procedures. Public and business health are at risk, with serious repercussions. Food safety is a constant process of refinement, learning, and improvement. Having an in-depth understanding of your restaurants processes is vital to creating a comprehensive safety plan. But there is also an opportunity in delivering outstanding levels of hygiene. It is a sign that you take your business and reputation seriously and customers will take note.