The Ultimate Checklist for Following the Restaurant Health Code

By: Elizar Caraecle

7 Minute Read

Jan 04, 2017

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restaurant health code

Your restaurant is not only responsible for serving delectable food offerings - it is responsible for making sure that the food and drinks that come out of the kitchen are foodborne illness free.

This is difficult to accomplish if you don't follow the restaurant health code.

Before customers can enjoy their meal, these food items have gone through food producers, manufacturers, and food handlers who have the responsibility to maintain quality and food safety. The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) system uses the method of guiding critical points in food handling to avoid food safety harms.

In this article, we will:

  • Review the history of HACCP.
  • Discuss its role in the restaurant health code.
  • Go over a checklist of seven action items for your restaurant.

HACCP: Purpose & A Brief History

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “HACCP is a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product.”

FDA-approved-logo_blue11.pngIn the late 1950’s, HACCP was conceived by food scientists from The Pillsbury Company and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). To ensure food safety for astronauts and space missions, the team established a system designed to integrate quality into products.

In 1971, Pillsbury presented HACCP at the National Conference on Food Protection. By 1989, The National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) published the first HACCP document which codified the practice of HACCP to present, including the seven principles of HACCP.

HACCP and the Restaurant Health Code

With the frequency of foodborne illnesses in the United States, customers are more aware of the ramifications of unsafe food safety practices.

Your restaurants must be able to reassure your guests that your food is safe. You can do this by using government-acknowledged sanitation and handling practices in order to give them the certainty that they are dining in an restaurant with a high regard for food safety.

A perfect example of how HACCP has affected food-service establishments is with Jack in the Box.

In 1993, undercooked hamburgers with E. coli O157:H7 from the restaurant sickened 623 people from the western United States with four children eventually dying and many more left with long-term medical complications. The company introduced HACCP into its operations, from suppliers, restaurant staff, logistics and infrastructure.

Since 1993, the company has had no E. coli outbreaks.

The Restaurant Health Code Checklist: 7 Key Principles

There are certain steps all restaurants should take to ensure they are following HACCP principles and do not violate the restaurant health code. Here are seven of those principles that you can easily adopt.

1) Conduct a Restaurant Hazard Analysis

Define the list of food safety hazards from food production, assess their possibility of happening in your restaurant, and then identify preventive measures for their control.

The FDA says the following on the subject:

“A thorough hazard analysis is the key to preparing an effective HACCP plan. If the hazard analysis is not done correctly and the hazards warranting control within the HACCP system are not identified, the plan will not be effective regardless of how well it is followed.”

2) Identify Critical Control Points

A critical control point, or CCP, is a step during raw materials to food processing, at which control can be applied to eliminate biological, physical, or chemical hazards or minimize them to an acceptable occurrence.

Ensuring food quality during all critical control points can keep your restaurant from violating the restaurant health code in a major way.

Any of the information established during the hazard analysis is critical in identifying which steps in the process are CCPs.

3) Establish Critical Limits

Outline the levels of limits for potential hazards.

A critical limit is used to distinguish between safe and unsafe operating conditions at a critical control point. Examples of these critical limits are temperature, humidity, moisture level, etc. Take note that critical limits are always based on scientific research.

4) Establish Monitoring Procedures CTA

Monitor critical control points by planning testing and remarks to ensure that each process has been controlled. It is a requirement from the FSIS that each monitoring procedure with its designated frequency must be listed in the HACCP plan accordingly.

Monitoring procedures are important for clearly laying out the process of steps that allow your restaurant to abide by the restaurant health code.

These procedures should be laid out clearly so that all staff members involved with the production and handling of food do so safely and consistently.

5) Establish Corrective Actions

If ever there is an incident wherein the critical limits are surpassed, a strong process for remedy and corrective action should be in place for your restaurant.

According to the FDA:

Corrective actions should include the following elements:

(a) determine and correct the cause of non-compliance
(b) determine the disposition of non-compliant product
(c) record the corrective actions that have been taken

This allows for a historical documentation of the process your restaurant takes. In the event of an investigation for violating the restaurant health code, or if a similar incident occurs again, you'll be able to see the steps taken to know how to respond and how not to respond.

6) Establish Verification Procedures

Make certain that the HACCP plan is operational efficiently and effectively. Some of the verification procedures may include reviewing:

  • HACCP plans
  • CCP accounts
  • Corrective actions

A constant comprehensive confirmation of the HACCP system should be conducted by an impartial, autonomous authority. These teams can be internal or outside to the food operation. Either way - make sure you have a designated professional confirm that your systems are in place so as not to violate the restaurant health code.

7) Establish Record Keeping Procedures

A HACCP program’s depth will be measured by your record keeping and documentation. This should include all the steps mentioned above.

Record keeping also helps to you understand your local health department’s restaurant health code and procedures. That way, you may align your HACCP plan with their regulations. Here are a few scenarios where HACCP may play an important role in your restaurant:

  1. Delivery – Receiving of items must be in good condition. Frozen food or items must be received in frozen condition with no signs of thawing. Produce should read in your food thermometer at 40 degrees Farenheit. Check any dates for expiration and know that you have the right to refuse items if they do not meet your standards.

  2. Storage – Rotate your items in accordance to their expiration of best before dates. Always remember to use the FIFO (First In, First Out) method and make sure that items are in their proper storage facility. For example, canned goods must not be placed on floors as they may get contaminated, and frozen items must be stored with a temperature of 0 degrees.

  3. Food Preparation – Your food thermometer will be your best friend. Always check that items have reached the right temperature in cooking. Use utensils and kitchen tools that are clean and have been sanitized.

  4. Service – One of the reasons that foodborne illnesses exists is that food handlers may transmit bacteria to food that they touch. Make sure that all food handlers and servers are acquainted with the information to handle food. Food handler training is required by law in some states and is essential so that foodborne illnesses are kept at bay.

Adhering to the Restaurant Health Code

The HACCP exists to make sure your restaurant stays safe, your guests stay healthy, and your operation stays in business. Follow the seven steps from this checklist, consult some health experts, and do everything in your power to ensure your establisment follows the restaurant health code in its entirety.

Would you add any steps to this restaurant health code checklist? Share your experiences and insights in the comments sections below!

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