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HACCP Start Up Steps, Part II

HACCP Start-Up Steps, Part II

The most important step in starting a HACCP program is to assemble a solid, qualified team.

The first and most important step in implementing a HACCP program is to establish a qualified HACCP team. This organizational step will have a major impact on the effectiveness of your program.

When organizations first began to implement HACCP programs in their operations, it was a common practice to assign the project to one person. This individual would then strike out on his or her own–an effort that frequently ended in failure and frustration. The underlying reason for such failures most often was the lack of a team approach with appropriate levels of support and empowerment given to the team leader and team members.

In practical terms, HACCP implementation inevitably requires change at every level of a foodservice operation. Because these changes will usually affect every part of an operation, everyone should feel they have a part in putting the program into place and ensuring that it operates successfully.

The team leader or HACCP coordinator is key to successful program execution. The coordinator is responsible for the plan’s development, with each team member performing his or her assigned function.

The most successful teams draw from all layers of an organization. The team’s size and breadth will vary significantly, depending on the kind of organization in question, since it should represent all of the key functions of a given operation. (Sometimes, a large operation may have a core team that recruits others in the organization for contributions as required.)

At the minimum, a well-rounded team will include a chef, a buyer, a receiving/storeroom person, a first cook and a sanitation worker. For a single-site operation, the HACCP coordinator may be a shift leader or supervisor who is well respected and can foster the cooperation of all team members.

Every team is unique

The team should be customized to reflect the kind of organization it will represent. If it is a commercial restaurant, the team should probably include a bartender and server. If it is a hospital, the team may well be expanded due to the more complicated requirements from JCAHO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) to include representatives from the professional staff, infection control, administration, risk management, clinical dietetics and pharmacy.

Every kind of organization defines its team to reflect its own structure and staffing peculiarities. But regardless of the type of operation, it is important to reserve a team position for a respected employee from each key function. He or she will be critical when it comes to selling the process (and the change it will entail) to co-workers.

Once assembled, the HACCP team should operate as a working, enthusiastic whole that understands the process it is about to undertake. To get it to that point, a coach initially may be needed as a facilitator. The coach communicates the big picture and keeps the team on track, helping it to set a meeting schedule with an agenda for each meeting.

The experienced coach will help the HACCP coordinator and the team avoid failure and prevent discouragement which might slow down or even halt the process. The coach can help the HACCP coordinator make assignments for each team member. In addition, the coach can help the HACCP coordinator hold each team member accountable. The selected coach might not be a HACCP expert, but should have expertise in building teams and achieving organizational results.

Once the team is formed, it will require HACCP education and the tools to do the job. Team education becomes critical for success. The first goal is to give each team member an understanding of the HACCP process and an interest in making their workplace safe and sanitary for their customers. The completion of ServSafe (a food safety education program sponsored by the National Restaurant Association) or a comparable course should be a basic requirement for each team member.

Currently there are numerous food safety programs and certifications available to those working in retail and foodservice manufacturing. Research them carefully to find the one that best suits the needs of your operation.

Many resources are available to assist in the training program. A search of the Internet will yield sites that offer posters, videos and interactive CDs, in addition to books and pamphlets to assist the team. Many food manufacturers, distributors, associations and other organizations sponsor HACCP programs for foodservice operators (see box, below).

In educating the team, remember to follow the KIS (Keep It Simple) principle. The intent is not to make the team members microbiologists or food sanitarians. Rather, it is to put a process oversight system in place that is well grounded in the actual practice of of foodservice production and delivery in your organization. If a team member does not believe in the process and the outcomes that are desired, replace that individual as soon as possible. Otherwise, he or she will be a hindrance to a succesful outcome.

Remember to make sure the team has fun. Encourage members to laugh at their mistakes and misconceptions. Finally, empower the team so it can take action to correct problems in the work setting.

Training tools

The team will need tools to implement the HACCP process. these can range from basic office supplies to a wide of temperature measurement and monitoring supplies. Although the list of products available in this last area is extensive, accurate thermometers are always at the top of the list. Other useful items range from timers with alarms, to temperature calibration blocks and temperature strips for dish machines.

After the team is assembled and trained, its first objective will be to define the types of food your operation produces; how ingredients are received by your operation; how they move into production; and how the food you produce is distributed to your customers or is moved into holding facilities. As you would guess, this information will become the basis for a flow chart to be used in identifying the control points (CP) and critical control points (CCP) in your operation.

The team will begin by categorizing the food used or produced into the basic groups unique to its operation (see sidebar on page 60).

The next step is to track the food’s distribution.The basic distribution would be from receiving to storage to preparation to holding to service. Other operations may have distribution steps that include cook-chill, or hot-holding or rethermalization operations; hospitals will include service to patient rooms; hotels will include roomservice deliveries; and so on. Centralized production facilities or commissaries will have to consider transportation and distribution to other sites such as satellite serveries, or branch operations.

Next month we’ll focus on describing your food’s intended use and and defining the consumer. Also, we’ll offer tips on using ice machines, bins and ice handling equipment.

Charnette Norton is vice president of Romano Gatland of Texas, foodservice consultants & planners worldwide, located in Missouri City, TX. She and Ruby Puckett coauthored the book "HACCP, The Future Challenge--Practical Application for the Foodservice Administrator."

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