Food retailers

Auto-control system

Auto-controls are mandatory if you are an employee or employer in the food industry. On the one hand, implemented and documented controls provide proof that you handle food carefully. On the other, they are a useful tool for you to optimise in-house procedures and cost of materials.

More information on carrying out auto-controls is provided here.

To ensure that you receive raw materials in perfect and hygienic condition, you should carry out and document an incoming goods control. An inspection can be documented using an incoming goods log or an incoming goods stamp on the invoice or delivery note.

You should check the delivered or purchased goods for the following points:

  • The goods look and smell typical for the type of product.
  • They are free of contamination, for example signs of infestation and decay.
  • Packaging and/or containers are clean and undamaged.
  • A best-before date OR shelf life is indicated and not exceeded, where applicable
  • Frozen / chilled goods are the permissible temperature
  • The vehicle looks clean and hygienic.

NB: If you find that any of the above points are not met on delivery of the goods, you should take corrective actions and document them accordingly.  For example you can reject deliveries of food that does not meet the requirements!

Frozen / chilled food must be stored at the corresponding temperatures. Temperatures should be checked and documented on a daily basis. Temperatures should always be measured in the top shelves of the refrigeration facilities.

The following controls should be carried out each day:

  • On arrival of incoming goods
  • In all refrigeration facilities, including service counters
  • When carrying out heating processes
  • When outgoing goods leave the business

Refrigeration recommendations rather than requirements are given for the storage of certain types of fruit and vegetable. Fruit and vegetables continue to "breathe" after they have been picked. In the end, these metabolic processes lead to decay. Their shelf life can be increased by storing them in refrigeration facilities.

It is necessary to control and document the heating temperatures and duration of heating with sensitive product groups, such as meat, eggs or fish.

With respect to the preparation of sensitive products, there are no legal requirements governing temperature and times for heating such products. As germs are present on raw foodstuffs, and these may be pathogenic, it is recommended that you always thoroughly heat through such food. Germs are killed at specific temperatures that are maintained for a set length of time. For shorter times and/or at lower temperatures, you run the risk of not killing all the germs.

It is recommended that meat, poultry, game and products made from these meats are heated for:

  • 3 minutes at 80°C Core temperature or
  • 10 minutes at 70°C Core temperature

With raw egg and raw egg products, it is recommended that they are cooked for 5 minutes.

A corresponding checklist template can be downloaded here.

Do not use deep-frying fat for too long, as it can deteriorate. There is also an increased risk of the fat catching alight if it is used for too long. Observe the following principles and inspect your deep-fat fryer daily (when you use it) to check the following points:

  • The temperature of the fat should not exceed 175°C. Excessive temperatures lead to a higher concentration of acrylamide. The possible carcinogenic effect of acrylamide cannot be excluded.
  • Do not use deep-frying fat for longer than 20 hours of operation.
  • Do not mix old and new deep-frying fat. Always completely replace the deep-frying fat.
  • If you detect a change in smell or taste in the fat, immediately dispose of the fat.
  • Always dispose of food residues in the deep-fat fryer at once.
  • A checklist template can be downloaded here

 

Pests, such as mice, rats and insects, can pass germs or dirt onto food, equipment and surfaces.

Schaedling Maus

It is therefore important to take the following preventive measures:

  • Openings that can be opened onto the outside must be effectively protected, e.g. with insect-proof screens, and basement or light well covers. Doors must be kept closed. In this way, pests are prevented from entering the premises.
  • Rubber seals around loading bays should be kept intact, as pests can also enter via this route.
  • Checks for pest infestation should be carried out when goods are delivered, with goods being rejected if any signs of infestation are detected. See Incoming goods log
  • Waste should be stored in closed and well ventilated rooms, or in a secure outside area (see Waste / waste disposal logistics).
  • The workplace rooms and storage rooms must be checked for signs of pest infestation on a regular basis (monthly checks are recommended, or as required). The checks may also be carried out by an external pest control specialist. Infested foods must be disposed of. The checking process must be documented.
  • For monitoring purposes, only use non-toxic bait, monitoring devices or traps. It is recommended that you place the bait stations in places where you suspect rodent activity or where pests could easily enter the building. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for use.
  • If signs of pest infestation are detected, you should arrange for pest control measures to be carried out by a duly trained person, e.g. a professional pest controller.
  • Checklist templates for pest monitoring activities can be downloaded here

The cleanliness of the rooms, equipment and devices can significantly affect the food safety and quality of your products. It is therefore important that you correctly clean and disinfect them on a regular basis. Prepare a cleaning and disinfecting plan covering all the rooms and objects in your business. The frequency with which they are to be cleaned and disinfected depends on the requirements specific to your individual business. Recommended frequencies for cleaning and disinfecting individual rooms and objects are suggested in the section on Cleaning and disinfecting.

A subsequent control must then be carried out to check on the results of the cleaning, so that any shortcomings can be addressed.

The cleaning and disinfecting activities, as well as the subsequent control of these activities, should then be documented in a cleaning and disinfecting log.

The statutory basis for carrying out auto-controls is Regulation (EC) 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs. The aim is to achieve a high level of consumer protection by ensuring a high level of food safety.

A further applicable base regulation is Regulation 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council.

Furthermore, Regulation (EC) 853/2004 lays down specific hygiene rules for the hygiene of foodstuffs of animal origin.
Risks that may endanger human health are to be excluded and/or controlled or reduced to an acceptable level. The solution for ensuring this is to set up and implement an HACCP concept. HACCP stands for "Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point" (or "Gefahrenanalyse und Kritischer Kontrollpunkt" in German).

In 1963, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) established the Codex Alimentarius (Latin for 'food code'), which for the first time adopted an HACCP concept for the food sector as an instrument for identifying, assessing and managing hazards that endanger human health.
Regulation (EC) 852/2004 develops this idea within the scope of food safety, requiring food businesses and food business operators to "(...) put in place, implement and maintain a permanent procedure or procedures based on the HACCP principles." (Chap. 2, Art. 5(1))

HACCP principles form the basis for establishing an HACCP concept. There are a total of seven principles:

  1. Identify hazards;
  2. Identify the critical control points;
  3. Establish critical limits at critical control points;
  4. Establish and implement monitoring procedures at critical control points;
  5. Establish corrective actions when critical limits are exceeded;
  6. Establish procedures, and regularly carry them out, to check the measures outlined in points 1-5, in other words, check whether the HACCP concept is working effectively;
  7. Establish a system of documentation covering all procedures and records to demonstrate the effective application of the principles.
Regulation (EC) 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs, Chapter II, Art. 5(2)
(2) The HACCP principles referred to in paragraph 1 consist of the following:
a) identifying any hazards that must be prevented, eliminated or reduced to acceptable levels;
b) identifying the critical control points at the step or steps at which control is essential to prevent or eliminate a hazard or to reduce it to acceptable levels;
c) establishing critical limits at critical control points which separate acceptability from unacceptability for the prevention, elimination or reduction of identified hazards;
d) establishing and implementing effective monitoring procedures at critical control points;
e) establishing corrective actions when monitoring indicates that a critical control point is not under control;
f) establishing procedures, which shall be carried out regularly, to verify that the measures
outlined in subparagraphs (a) to (e) are working effectively; and
g) establishing documents and records commensurate with the nature and size of the food business to demonstrate the effective application of the measures outlined in subparagraphs (a) to (f).
When any modification is made in the product, process, or any step, food business operators shall review the procedure and make the necessary changes to it.

The Directorate General for Health and Consumer Protection of the European Commission has produced a guidance document on the implementation of procedures under this Regulation. This guidance document is intended to make it easier for smaller businesses in particular to implement HACCP principles.

 

To carry out an analysis in accordance with an HACCP concept, it is important to identify all possible types of hazard. Hazards are understood to be risks that could have a negative impact on food and endanger human health.

Hazards may be biological, chemical or physical in origin.

Here are a few examples:

Class of hazardExample
Biological Bacteria, viruses, parasites, moulds, fish toxins
Chemical Detergents, disinfectants, remains of unsuitable packaging materials
Physical Jewellery, glass fragments, bone fragments, ultraviolet radiation, wood

These classes of hazard pose a potential risk for food safety and therefore for human health. As a result, it is important that you work to prevent all possible hazards or reduce them to an acceptable level.

When assessing hazards, a distinction is made between the following categories:

  • CCP: A CCP is present if a step or process can be controlled and a corrective action can be taken to prevent the existing hazard, avoid it or reduce it to an acceptable level. It must therefore be possible to demonstrate that the hazard has been eliminated or reduced. An example of a CCP hazard is a heating process. If the set temperatures and times are not achieved in the heating process, you have the option of re-heating.
  • CP: As opposed to a CCP, a CP is a control point that can also be controlled by means of measurements. As a result, the hazard is classified as lower in risk and does not represent an immediate risk to health. A process step can only be classified as CP, if control measures are possible, in other words a critical limit has been set, which can be acted on. For example, if frozen / chilled products exceed the temperature prescribed by law (=clear critical limit) on delivery, you must reject the delivery.
  • No CP/CCP: Process steps entailing hazards classified as being very low risk and no immediate danger to health or food safety are not classified as CP or CCP. In addition, work steps for which no critical limit - and as a result no control measure - can be assigned if a value falls short or is exceeded likewise cannot be classified as CP or CCP.

Nevertheless, some work steps still have to be controlled and documented. These include the documentation of cleaning and disinfecting activities. It is not possible to detect with the naked eye whether residues of detergents or disinfectants have been left behind. So the risk of "residues from detergents / disinfectants" cannot be controlled for you. But you are still obliged to control and document whether cleaning and disinfecting activities have taken place as planned.

 

Hazards can occur at different places, depending on the class of hazard, in other words whether it is biological, chemical or physical in nature. You will find below examples of where and how hazards could occur in everyday business, and how you can prevent the hazards or reduce them to an acceptable level.

  • A chemical hazard may occur after machines and surfaces are cleaned and disinfected. For example, residues of the detergent or disinfectant may present a risk of contamination. You can avoid transfer to food, by rinsing the machine or surface after it has been cleaned, using clear and hot water.
  • A biological hazard, for example spoilage due to microorganisms, may occur at different places: You may receive a delivery of goods that have already been spoiled, or you may encourage spoilage by incorrectly storing the goods or by storing them for too long. It is therefore important to control and document the temperatures on delivery of incoming goods. It is equally important to regularly check the correct functioning of your refrigeration facilities, and to carry out temperature controls every day and document them
  • A physical hazard may be, for example, contamination due to foreign objects in the food, such as jewellery, fragments of glass and other objects. Make sure that no jewellery is worn when handling food. This includes wristwatches and earrings. It is therefore recommended that only lights with integrated shatter protection are used in rooms in which food is processed or stored.

To be able to identify hazards in specific production steps, start by drawing up a flow chart for all in-house processes.

Example of a flow chart (cheese counter) »

Now think about hazards and the points at which they may occur.

Example of a flow chart including hazards (cheese counter) »

If there is no control point for the identified hazard, or if it is a CP/CCP hazard, you can initially classify it under the definition "no control point". To help with further decisions as to whether the remaining points are CP or CCP hazards, you can use a decision tree.

Now incorporate the identified hazards classified as CP or CCP hazards in your flow chart. Include control measures for the respective CP/CCP hazards and the respective corrective action. The monitoring and measuring for all CPs and CCPs must be carried out and documented every day or on implementation, depending on the process step.

Example of a flow chart including hazards, CP/CCP hazards, control measures and corrective actions (cheese counter) »

CCP hazards must be documented, as must CP hazards. In addition, you are required to set corrective actions in documented form for a CCP hazard. Your critical limits must also be checked on a regular basis. This involves a lot of documenting work. Use a decision tree to ascertain whether the identified potential hazard for the process step is a CCP or CP hazard.

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