Food safety and hygiene: all about HACCP

Do you run a business in hospitality? Then you’ll inevitably be confronted with rules and regulations around food safety and hygiene. You have probably heard of the term 'HACCP' before. But what exactly is HACCP and what does it mean for you as a hospitality business owner?

What does HACCP stand for?

When processing foodstuffs, things can go wrong that endanger the safety of the food. In order to minimise this risk, food production and animal feed companies are obliged to detail all possible risks in a food safety plan. HACCP is a system for drawing up such a plan and stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points. It does not only apply to hospitality establishments, but to all companies and organisations that work with food.

There are two ways to fulfil this obligation: you can write up your own food safety plan, or you can make use of an already approved Hygiene Code specific to your industry. A Hygiene Code is basically a ready-made HACCP plan. If you choose to draw up your own food safety plan for your business, then you are required to adhere to the HACCP system.

The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (Nederlandse Voedsel- en Warenautoriteit, NVWA) monitors compliance with the regulations. It guards the safety of food and consumer products, animal and plant health, and animal welfare, and enforces wildlife laws.

I run a hospitality business, what are the regulations and will I be inspected?

Do you handle or process food and beverages? You are required to register with the NVWA and comply with the food safety regulations. As an entrepreneur, you are obliged to work according to the latest Hygiene Code or to draw up your own food safety plan. A Hygiene Code describes in simple terms how you can monitor food safety and hygiene. If you work according to the code, you meet the requirements.

NVWA inspectors will check up on you from time to time to determine whether you are working in a safe manner according to the latest Hygiene Code. The inspectors generally show up without prior notice. Reasons for their visit can vary, and are usually due to:

  • risk factors, such as reports or other indirect indications;
  • prior history with the NVWA (or lack thereof);
  • random selection.

You can order the approved code through the sector organisation for the hospitality industry, the Royal Dutch Hotel and Catering Association (Koninklijke Horeca Nederland, KHN).

Every company that produces, processes, or distributes food and/or animal feed needs to deal with HACCP. So even if you are a baker or poulterer, for example, this legislation applies. Have a look at the overview of Hygiene Codes per sector (in Dutch).

Is a Hygiene Code the same as a Social Hygiene Certificate?

The Hygiene Code is regularly confused with the Social Hygiene Certificate, also referred to as the Certificate for Social Hygiene. But the two are not the same. The Certificate for Social Hygiene concerns the responsible sale of alcohol, while the Hygiene Code deals with the safe preparation of food and beverages.

Hospitality establishments that want to sell alcohol need to meet several legal requirements. For instance, there always needs to be a person present who is in possession of a Statement of Knowledge and Insight into Social Hygiene (Verklaring Kennis en Inzicht Sociale Hygiëne). This can be the business owner, a manager, or an employee. Want to apply for this statement? Then you need to take a course and complete an exam. On internet, you’ll find various parties that offer this course.

The requirements for selling alcohol are laid down in the Licensing and Catering Act (Drank- en Horecawet). Contact your municipality to find out exactly what you need to comply with.

Good to know: HACCP legislation is independent of your registration with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce KVK.

Catering, B&B

Do you have a home-based catering business or do you receive guests at home, for example with a Bed & Breakfast? If so, you probably use your kitchen for both business and private purposes. In that case it’s advisable to make a clear distinction between food for catering and food for yourself in both the kitchen and storage area. You can do so by using different refrigerators or labelling the products. HACCP legislation thus also applies to you.

Markets, events, food trucks

Do you sell food or beverages at a market, event, or from a food truck? There are specific requirements (in Dutch) for the hygiene and layout of mobile food outlets.

Artisanal ice-cream making

Preparing ice-cream comes with a high risk of bacteria, which is why a separate Hygiene Code (in Dutch) has been drawn up for artisanal ice-cream making. You can order the code from the association for artisanal ice-cream making, Ambachtelijk IJscentrum, at a fee.

How do I draw up my own HACCP food safety plan?

Establishing a food safety plan through the HACCP food safety system means mapping out the entire production process, naming the possible hazards, and indicating how big the risk is (the so-called 'hazard analysis'). Then you determine the 'critical control points': the moments in the process that must be monitored to eliminate the risks or reduce them to an acceptable level.

Do you prefer to draw up your own HACCP food safety plan? Then make sure to take into account the seven basic principles (in Dutch) of the HACCP food safety system. The NVWA monitors the availability of and compliance with the HACCP plan.

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