Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
What are they and does my food establishment need them?
Food service standard operating procedures (SOPs) are written practices and procedures of how your establishment will produce safe food and are a key component of your overall food safety program. SOPs include specific details of how a policy will be implemented including: who will perform the task, what materials are needed, where the task will be done, when the task will be performed, and how the person will do the task. You may be thinking that your establishment is too small or that you’ve always gotten by without written procedures, so why would you need them now.
The benefit of SOPs to your establishment, whatever the size, is that processes are standardized with step-by-step, how-to instructions that help anyone within your operation do the task in a consistent way. The SOPs provide step-by-step written procedure to help employees perform their job and keep them accountable because of documented expectations. If your goal is to consistently provide safe, high quality foods and services to your customers, SOPs will help you achieve this goal.
You might be wondering where you would start to create SOPs for your operation. If it sounds like an overwhelming project it doesn’t have to be. There are resources available to get you going. The following are from Iowa State University Food Safety Project and will provide you with solid guidance in developing your SOPs. There may be areas that are specific to Iowa Food Code so remember to go by Minnesota Food Code (link provided at end of article). Here are resources for a variety of types of food service operations:
Developing SOPs for Your Operation
Here’s how you do it. Operation specific SOPs can be created by modifying one of the examples from the links provided or by simply writing down the steps taken when performing specific tasks in your operation. Think about the areas in your operation where SOPs are needed. Start with the areas which you currently spend the most time communicating about (i.e. handwashing).
When you reach the step of implementation, conduct an employee in-service to share the information and have it available for employee review. SOPs will be useful for training new hires, refreshers and updates for all employees, and a way to insure that all employees are doing their jobs in a consistent way. You will want to do an annual review of the SOPs and update them as needed (i.e. new equipment, Food Code changes).
Sample SOPs for Handwashing
Policy: All food preparation and service personnel will follow proper handwashing practices to ensure the safety of food served to customers.
Procedure: All employees in food service should wash hands using the following steps:
- Wash hands (including under the fingernails) and forearms vigorously and thoroughly with soap and warm water (a temperature of at least 100°F is required) for a period of 20 seconds.
- Wash hands using soap from a dispenser.
- Use a sanitary nail brush to remove dirt from under fingernails.
- Wash between fingers thoroughly.
- Use only hand sinks designated for that purpose. Do not wash hands in sinks in production area.
- Dry hands with single use towels or a mechanical hot dryer. Turn off faucets using a paper towel, in order to prevent recontamination of clean hands if foot pedals are not available.
The foodservice manager will:
- Monitor all employees to ensure that they are following proper procedures.
- Ensure adequate supplies are available for proper handwashing.
- Follow up and retrain as necessary.
Source: Your Motivation Toolkit, Overview of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). (2011). Iowa State University, Food Safety Project.
More Resources to Help You Develop SOPs
Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) based SOPs — The National Food Service Management Institute (NFSMI) — Developed in conjunction with USDA and FDA, these SOPs are HACCP-based, they provide more detail including steps for monitoring, corrective action, verification and record keeping.
Minnesota Food Code facts sheets — Minnesota Department of Health — Another great resource to use as you develop SOPs.
Reviewed by Suzanne Driessen, University of Minnesota Extension Educator, 2013