Food safety is always evolving. With that, so do your food safety programs. Here at Safe Food Alliance, we regularly receive questions about HACCP or Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points. As the foundation for global food safety, it seems fitting that people would have questions about this incredibly important topic. In our constant effort to provide you with food safety information, we’ve compiled questions from you, our audience, and answered some of your most pressing issues.
Question: How do I assess the level of HACCP knowledge my team and employees have?
When trying to assess your team’s HACCP competency, you must first determine if they have had the appropriate training. Your food safety team leader should take a certified HACCP course, while the rest of your HACCP team should have training on the HACCP process.
After your team has received the appropriate training, the next step is to verify that they retained the information they learned. Direct observation and interviews are an excellent way to do this. You may also use competency tests and short pop quizzes. Try a few methods out and see which works best for your company.
And don’t forget you want to document everything. We suggest creating a table to track your employee training, as well as the results of whichever above methods you use to verify their knowledge.
Question: How do I adequately train for verification and validation? These always confuse me.
The easy answer – attend a training course. An advanced HACCP two-day course covers validation and verification for people developing, implementing, and maintaining HACCP plans. If you cannot attend an in-person public course, there are a few other options available to help you train for verification and validation.
For starters, there are many great free resources online on the topic like this article The 6th HACCP Principle: Verification. You could also host an onsite training course for your staff at your facility or take a self-paced online course on Internal Auditing, which focuses primarily on verification and validation of your systems.
It is also essential to understand that part of verification is third party testing. When trying to verify and track whether a HACCP program is working, microbiological testing is crucial and needs to be a part of almost any food processing operation. Plants can identify whether a processing step intended to eliminate pathogens is being adequately controlled with micro testing, verifying that prevention is working. Testing at this stage is much more useful than end-product micro testing at the retailer. Safe Food Alliance has several laboratories that conduct microbiological and chemical analyses.
Question: Employees always struggle with flow plans and how to start them. It seems to be a huge hurdle. How do we ease that transition?
We assume that by “flow plans,” you mean flow diagrams since we are talking HACCP. A flow diagram is an accurate representation of every step of your production process, starting from receiving to shipping. The picture must include all inputs and outputs as well as phases of the process that take place somewhere else, e.g., pasteurization. Walking the floor with your Flow Diagram in hand is used to verify for accuracy, per step 5 of the HACCP process. This exercise will also help your team become more familiar with each step in your process. And don’t forget, keep evidence of this exercise.
If you need extra information on flow diagrams, our article Contents of a Good HACCP Plan is here to help.
Question: Are there different limits for chemical contaminants, allergens, and mycotoxins in different countries? What are the best practices? Pros and Cons?
When it comes to chemical contaminants, allergens, and mycotoxins, there indeed are different limits based on the country you are shipping to. Lucky for all of us, there are many fantastic databases out there for food limits.
Bryant Christie – Bryant Christie offers a suite of databases for pesticide MRLs, contaminant limits, and food additives in hundreds of different countries. If you are considering exporting, this service is a great tool.
FAARP – FARRP or the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program works to provide information on international food allergen regulations. They have maps and charts that you can download, to help you understand what the requirements are by country of specific food allergens.
FAO – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is a global organization that has provided guidance to minimize mycotoxin risks and other potential hazards. The article we link to describes how to use HACCP concepts to handle mycotoxins.
As you can see from this article, training is an essential piece to the puzzle when it comes to a successful food safety plan. If you, like many others, need extra help with training your team or building your plan, Safe Food Alliance is here to help. There’s no better time than now to start your journey to an exceptional food safety program.