How keeping your records up to date can help keep customers safe

‘It is better to be safe than sorry’ (American Proverb)

One of the food safety tools that will help keep your customers safe is your food safety management system. It is the back bone of food safety in your business and if you don’t have one you could have legal action taken against you.

It is your personal business manual which documents how, when, where and why you do things. This is particularly important when things go wrong so you can make them right and make sure that every customer has safe food and you never have to be sorry.

Keep things simple!

Food safety management systems do not need to be complicated and should reflect what you do. For example if you are making cakes or serving coffee and snacks it will look very different than if you are a restaurant, carvery or hot food takeaway.

This is because the risks are not the same and if you get it wrong the outcome may be different. for example if you serve a piece of cake that is not cooked properly it may be a bit soggy in the middle but it is unlikely the customer will become ill. However, if you serve a piece of undercooked chicken the  customer may get food poisoning and if they are vulnerable the outcome could be very different indeed.

In my blog I explain what a food safety management system is, why it is important to have one, where it originated, what a HACCP flow chart is. I also touch on why you should review it.

When should a FSMS be updated?

There is no specific review date but as a rule of thumb a it is a good idea to do this every 6 months. I always recommend that this date is put in the diary so it is not forgotten. This is a general review as opposed to when you have changed something specifically, like your menu.

What changes might happen to require an update?

If you do make a change that creates a new risk then your system should be updated to reflect this, for example starting or changing to a take-away or collection service.

Adding new dishes to your menu which may be more complex or different to what you have made before would require an update.

Or changing your documentation or automating your monitoring system. For example by using an automated system to check your fridge temperatures or using an online instead of a manual monitoring system.

Also changes like taking on a new supplier, changing cleaning products and even changes to your HACCP team would require you to update your system.

How to update a FSMS?

Pre requisites: the basics for any food business are unlikely to change much but you may need to update supplier information, food hygiene rules for staff etc from time to time.

HACCP flow diagram: if the menu or how food is made changes then you will need to check your HACCP flow diagram and that the steps are still relevant. For example do you need to include a hot holding or transport step?

Then look at each HACCP step:

  • Hazard – include hazards at new HACCP steps
  • Controls – then check whether the controls need updating, do you now need to probe hot food or include a new method of cooking or include blast chilling?
  • Critical Limit- are there any new limits? These are linked to legislation or best practice. If you start blast chilling food you must chill food following the time/temperature combinations in the relevant regulations
  • Monitoring – if you change your monitoring system e.g. introduce an automated monitoring system. Each step would need to be updated, for example fridges and freezers are checked by the automated system.
  • Corrective Action – update this in line with any changes you make
  • Documentation – you may need to add or change monitoring systems to reflect the new changes.

What happens if I don’t keep my FSMS  – up to date?

If you don’t regularly review and document changes your system will be out of date and risks which could affect the safety of your food will not be documented.

In food safety legislation it says that  whatever system you have should be commensurate with your food activities. Explained in a different way: you must write down what you do every day that you make and serve food to customers. If you don’t you could have legal enforcement notice served on you or worse.

Don’t wait for an EHO to come into your business to tell you what is going wrong.

A FSMS shows that you are managing food safety in your business. If you don’t have the documents or they aren’t current it can highlight issues and problems when you have an inspection or audit. But if you keep your system updated and monitor what you are doing every day you won’t have to wait for the EHO or auditor to come in to tell you what is or has been going wrong . You will already know and will have done something to make it right and have the evidence to back this up.

How this could affect your Food Hygiene Rating Score?

Also not having a complete and up to date FSMS could cost you dearly when you have your Food Hygiene Inspection rating visit. This is because ‘Confidence in Management’, which is a judgment the EHO makes on the visit, contributes to approximately a third of the rating. It takes into account your FSMS and without this you could be looking at getting a low rating.

Many customers now search on the Food Standard Agency website for food hygiene ratings before they visit a restaurant etc. If they see this will probably decide not to come and eat with you. The FHRS rating lets people know that you have high food safety standards and gives them the assurance that you know what you are doing.

If you don’t have the time or need some expert advice in updating or reviewing your Food Safety Management System, please contact me for advice on how I can help you do this CONTACT ME




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