Bureaucratic principles need not rule the day here
I don’t believe a day goes by that I don’t hear or see the words bureaucratic red tape come up in conversation, snipes, blogs, tweets, posts, or in between my own ears. That being said, I will argue here that bureaucratic or no, HACCP Monitoring Procedures are not only necessary, they are paramount to the safety and wellbeing of the consumer and therefore the ultimate well being of the business using them.
Every day we encounter both local and national chain restaurants making local or national headlines about problems related to foreign objects, harmful chemicals or microorganisms in the food they serve causing problems. The contamination of some Chinese made infant formula with melamine became a worldwide scandal in 2008. The 2011 Listeria monocytogenes outbreak traced to a Colorado grower resulted in 33 deaths and 147 infections according to the CDC’s 2012 report (Link to Source).
The role of HACCP Principle 4, Establish Monitoring Procedures is to reduce, prevent or eliminate such occurrences. Like OSHA safety guidelines, HACCP procedures are only as good as those entrusted to practice them. The concern often expressed by the HACCP or other family of teams is, “We spend so much time writing (OSHA, HACCP, ISO, etc.) procedures and then no one follows them after three (days, weeks, months) or they only follow them when the next inspection comes up. So why bother?” Of course we all know the answer: because unless we are sociopaths we must protect those working in our business and our customers from being injured, sickened, or even killed by what we do. We work for a paycheck but most of us have the interest of caring for and about our colleagues, co workers, and customers health and safety.
Establishing HACCP Monitoring Procedures can be a challenge. The good news is that by doing the work of the first three principles the team have the information they need to do a good job. And the other good news is that many have gone before us and can give us guidance or assistance if needed. For such guidance one resource is to ask industry colleagues for help or guidance. Allowance will be needed for differences in the businesses, but these are usually easy to see and understand. Another resource is the US FDA HACCP website (Link to Source). Here businesses can not only look at guidance about establishing monitoring procedures but also determine if specific U.S. FDA HACCP requirements or recommendations apply to them. Products such as Dairy, Juice, and Seafood have separate links for such support. A Retail and Food Service section is also available.
Web searches can also turn up industry or university guidance for monitoring procedures. One easy to read and understand resource is from the University of Nebraska Lincoln (Link to Source). Some key points from this link are:
Another potential resource is through professional social media sites such as LinkedIn which has a Group called Food Safety and Quality Assurance. This group has thousands of members worldwide and hosts a plethora of advice and resources for HACCP compliance. Members are open to requests for support and often can point to personal experience or professional assistance (Link to Source).
And web searches can often bring up free, professionally grounded resources for any HACCP need. A search for HACCP Principle 4 Establish Monitoring Procedures brought me to this site, a page that provides examples of a monitoring form as well as a discussion of the hows and whys of developing and implementing such a plan. The site also contains valuable information and sample forms for Hazard Analysis and CCPs that can be found by searching the site’s archives.
As in all business operations a balance will need to be established between the need to insure food safety and to operate the business profitably. These two things are not incompatible as was discussed above: unsafe products will result in lost business, customers, etc. Finally, trust the process, colleagues, and co workers. The business may have been running safely and profitably for decades, so something is working. Learn from that and adapt to it, bringing quantification and validation that things really are going well.
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