Companies that are growing and expanding into new markets will face this question at some point in time. Most start-up food businesses do not even consider the implementation of HACCP in the initial stages of their operations. Start-up business owners are at that time generally focused on marketing their business in order to reach potential customers, increasing their revenue and trying to manage their cash flow so that they can continue to be sustainable. Eventually though, as market share increases, particularly as the business offerings and products reach international markets, the food company will have to deal with the legal requirements of their new markets, which often includes HACCP implementation.
But what exactly is HACCP? Well, HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point and is an internationally-recognized food safety management system for assuring food safety in the production of food items, whether the food is packaged as is done by food manufacturers or ready-to-eat as is normally the case for food service establishments, such as restaurants. HACCP requires that a food company examines its production process for potentially harmful/hazardous steps and implement preventative or control measures to reduce or eliminate the risk of harm to the consumer.
At this time, the implementation of HACCP by food companies is not a legal requirement in Trinidad and Tobago. As a result, many local food processing and food service facilities may feel that there is no justifiable need to implement such a system since they are not legally bound to do so. However, all companies operating in Trinidad and Tobago have a social responsibility to ensure that their products and activities do not harm the consumer. Based on this premise, it can be suggested that the implementation of HACCP or any similar food safety management system by local food establishments is simply such companies fulfilling their social obligations even if a legal one has not been imposed by the State.
Nevertheless, when discussing HACCP, the cost of implementation, as it relates to time, staff and financial resources, cannot be ignored and is likely to be one of the main reasons food establishments are reluctant to pursue HACCP unless required by local or international laws. However, food business owners should be reminded that implementing HACCP in your food facility can bring many benefits that can readily translate into increased revenue. These benefits include:
- Better control of products and raw materials which translates to less wastage and money saved. Imagine how much money is wasted when food products are poorly manufactured or prepared and have to be disposed of as a result of poor quality and safety. Additionally, raw materials that are not food safe oftentimes cannot be transformed into foods that are safe and of a high standard.
- Consider for example, a restaurant cooking a chicken that was received from the supplier at room temperature rather than cold or frozen. Meats stored at room temperature will begin to spoil from high bacterial growth and from the development of off-flavors and off-textures. Consequently, even when cooked, the chicken can still contain harmful bacteria, and the taste and texture may not be to the liking of the customers. The result is that the restaurant, out of consideration for its customers will have to dispose of the chicken as waste. A HACCP program would require that the restaurant only uses chicken that was received cold or frozen and thus wastage is avoided and food safety assured.
- HACCP in a food business fosters customer confidence which means that customers will buy more of your food since they trust your food’s safety and quality. It is not difficult to realize that this also means an increase in sales for the company. The company can increase the population’s awareness of the assured safety of its products by including the highlighting of its HACCP system in its marketing plan and branding its products and facility with its HACCP certification.
- HACCP implementation allows food businesses, such as food manufacturers and processors, to export to international markets that require food safety management systems implementation.
In recent years, the local food and beverage sector has had to deal with the challenges of changing food safety requirements to international market standards, such as the USA and Canada. Unfortunately, too many of our local food manufacturers were unprepared for the requirement of working food safety management systems and are facing the loss of profitable markets or finding themselves in a mad scramble to implement HACCP or similar food safety management systems. In both scenarios, companies no longer have the option to spread the cost of HACCP implementation over the medium to long-term, but instead find themselves having to spend significant sums in the short-term or lose valuable revenue.
Additionally, food manufacturers who supply international food service franchises, such as KFC, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King and so on, are required by these franchises to have HACCP systems implemented in their food facilities. Without an established and effective HACCP system, companies that wish to supply food items to Trinidad and Tobago’s burgeoning numbers of international fast food and restaurant franchises will find themselves classified as unsuitable and thus the potential for increased revenue will not be theirs.
It is hoped that based on the information provided about HACCP and its benefits, local food businesses will realize that whether or not they implement HACCP in their companies, there is still a cost. The question therefore is ‘which price is your company willing to pay?’
CARIRI’s Biotechnology Unit recently hosted a one day workshop on an “Introduction to HACCP” on Friday 24th March 2017 at our Centre for Enterprise Development, Innovation Avenue, Freeport which was well attended by over 50 participants. The workshop was designed to provide an understanding of the seven principles of HACCP in detail.