Purpose of This Document
Today, many retail food and hospitality companies prepare and sell food to customers worldwide. In each location, they are challenged with different government food safety regulations, because retail food safety rules often preceded the development of HACCP, when facility and personnel cleanliness were believed to be the critical controls. Even in the United States, because of the way the retail food laws are written, each state and territory jurisdiction is allowed to implement what it believes to be food safety controls. These jurisdictions are not required to show that a control they propose such as "cook chicken to 165ºF (73.9ºC)" is actually the minimum control necessary for adequate safety, nor are they required to demonstrate in a kitchen how the cook is to perform the control.
This results in great non-uniformity of effectiveness, and the retail food industry is blamed for causing illness when, in fact, the industry has not been given specific, effective, HACCP-based, kitchen-validated, control procedures. It is time to have one set of universally applicable hazard control rules that are kitchen validated and have been shown to be effective in retail operations in terms of assuring food safety. The best people to write these rules are those in the retail food industry, who have the knowledge to consider all factors in writing a safety control.
Hazard control procedures can be used to accomplish food safety in all retail kitchens and production units. These procedures include washing fecal pathogens off of fingertips; cleaning meat, poultry and fish pathogens from cutting boards; washing pathogens from fruits and vegetables; and pasteurizing and fermenting food to kill pathogens. These procedures apply to all retail kitchens for the simple reason that the microbiological, chemical, and physical hazards are universal. Human tolerances for the pathogenic substances are reasonably predictable, based on the levels people normally consume. The most complicating factor is the recipe.
Historically, recipes have been examined from a flavor viewpoint, when, in fact, ingredients such as vinegar, lemon juice, wine, alcohol, salt, and sugar, and procedures such as washing, cooking, and baking (to achieve dryness and crust) are critical to the safety of the food. Typically, people think that these ingredients and procedures are used only for flavor. If ingredients such as meat, poultry, fish, grains, water, etc. had not always been contaminated with pathogenic substances, recipes would be entirely different from what they are. The ingredients and procedures that control microorganisms would not be needed.
Talk has begun concerning HACCP for the farm. However, it will take years to establish controls for the rats, mice, insects, birds, cats, wild animals, and water that are the sources of pathogens. Relatively simple steps can be taken to minimize cross-contamination during slaughter, but control of slaughter does not guarantee hazard control if the animal is contaminated. Hence, the food handler / food preparer becomes the critical control point to control food handling processes in the kitchen..
A major problem in retail food HACCP is, though, the hundreds of thousands of recipe processes. They must be grouped by hazard and control, and the controls simplified so that cooks can be taught to use the fewest number of controls to prepare "safe" food demanded by customers.
Consumers will not dine out at a restaurant if they are told, "Our food is very safe. Only one in 20,000 meals makes a customer ill." Consumers demand that retail food establishments strive for zero defects. The government can talk about risk reduction, but the retail food industry and cook must work for zero defects. The consumer should be able to say to the manager, "I know the food is contaminated. What are your controls of those hazards?"
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