Ever had that eerie feeling when you’re alone in the kitchen at the end of a shift? It’s dark, silent, except perhaps for the soft hum of the chiller. You get chills up the spine, sweaty palms and it feels like there’s a commis cloth where your tongue was. Cue dramatic organ music, lightning flashes and bloodcurdling screams.
No, it’s not something lurking in the utilities cupboard, but a sudden realisation that the food safety auditor’s coming next week. Alongside a sneaking suspicion that your Food Control Plan (FCP) is far from MPI compliant.
As a hospitality operator, being responsible for keeping your food is a vital component of running the business. And depending on your offering, this responsibility spans the entire food journey from purchasing and storage, to cooking, transporting, serving and cleaning up afterward. MPI does offer some flexibility in how you meet its food safety requirements, but the onus is also on you to demonstrate how your plan fits your business.
Think of your FCP as an ongoing contract with MPI, where you’re saying that you can provide ‘safe, suitable food for customers’ (MPI’s words), and the steps you’re taking to ensure this consistently happens. Your plan needs to be written down, although MPI is happy for it to take the form of manuals, recipes, posters or a combination of these.
That’s all well and good, but what those static formats can’t do is let you know when food safety tasks need to be actioned. And if government regulations or your food service model change, any printed material is quickly outdated and obsolete.
One of the most helpful features of a digital FCP is that it remembers and reminds you of all the little details that could otherwise slip through the cracks. You set it up from the start to fit your own kitchen and the frequency and type of jobs that need to be completed and recorded.
A comprehensive digital FCP will go beyond a checklist and alerts though. It should also let you record ad hoc details whenever staff are sick, things break down or customers complain. (Hopefully all of these events are extremely rare in your kitchen.) The 2014 Food Act requires you to keep these records anyway, but a digital FCP gives you a safe, efficient place to make and keep clear notes, so vital details can’t get missed.
We believe any way kitchens can streamline their operating processes to make them more easily MPI compliant, is better for owners, managers, staff and customers. In fact, by extension it can help to raise the standards and reputation of New Zealand’s entire food industry. And who doesn’t want that?