University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): The building blocks of HACCP-based food safety plans

Supervisor correcting food service employee who is preparing raw chicken and vegetables on the same cutting board

Standard operating procedures, or SOPs, are a major component of the food safety plan.

These are written documents that staff should refer to for how to complete a certain task in order ensure food safety. Each SOP describes in detail how staff will maintain the quality and safety of food. SOPs align directly with many of the food safety regulations that will be checked by the county health department. Even though the health inspector may not ask to see your food safety manual, having those SOPs in place and following them will help you pass your health inspection.

Here are some examples of SOPs most school nutrition programs need:

  • Assembling a Body Fluid Cleanup Kit
  • Personal Hygiene
  • Cleaning and Sanitizing Food Contact Surfaces
  • Storing and Using Poisonous or Toxic Chemicals
  • Washing Hands

There are quite a few more, but keep in mind that the food safety plan and SOPs must be tailored to your facility. You must also have a copy of the food safety manual housed at EACH site that serves food.

When you have new staff, it can be helpful to use your SOPs as a training reference. This way everyone understands the importance of following procedures and everyone is on the same page with what should be done for different kitchen tasks. It is imperative that each food service department does not allow “loose practices” to become daily habits. If you have a policy (SOP) in your food safety manual, every staff member must follow that policy.

If you don’t already have SOPs in place, the Institute of Child Nutrition has templates you can modify. You can also use these without modification, as long as you follow them exactly as written. Access them here!