The importance of an effective food safety system cannot be overstated. According to a study conducted by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), food recalls cost companies an average of $10 million per incident. That is why Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) principles are so important. They create the foundation for all higher-level food safety programs and are universally accepted standards. For those new to food safety, begin with an understanding of how HACCP began and why you should be using it in your facility.
The History of HACCP
Shortly after NASA was established in 1958, the prospect of manned spaceflight raised an important concern: how could they be sure the food astronauts would be eating was safe? If food poisoning is bad on terra firma, the possibility of such an infection in a Gemini capsule could prove fatal. The process had to change. When food safety practices first began, food safety in industrial production relied heavily on product testing. Samples would be extracted from the processed foods and tested for contamination. While useful in many ways, it was not possible to have a high level of certainty that the entirety of a batch of food was safe to eat just by testing a portion of it. In fact, such a huge portion of each batch needed to be tested that very little final product would be left over for consumption.
As a result, NASA partnered with the US Army Laboratories and Pillsbury to develop a more reliable approach to food safety. This new approach focused on preventing the introduction of hazards in the process of manufacturing food, rather than looking for the effects of those hazards in the finished product.
The system they developed represented a major improvement in safe food production, and by the 1990s, would come to be the internationally recognized HACCP approach to food safety. HACCP is included in the Codex Alimentarius that is recognized by both the World Health Organization and World Trade Organization for the merit of its guidance on food safety.
How To Make HACCP Work For You:
As mentioned already, HACCP promotes safe food by attempting to avoid hazards in production. This is accomplished, primarily, through seven principles:
- Conduct a hazard analysis – Begin by reviewing every step in the entire manufacturing process (from raw material production, procurement, and handling, to manufacturing, distribution, and consumption of the finished product) and consider the potential risks for biological, chemical, and physical contamination.Once those risks are identified, a HACCP management plan calls for controlling the hazards by identifying and implementing preventive measures.
Not sure how to conduct a hazard analysis? Joining Safe Food Alliance for an in-person training coursetaught by highly knowledgeable trainers who audits systems like yours.
- Identify critical control points (CCPs) – In many manufacturing environments, there will be one or more points in the process where a failure of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) has both a significant chance of occurring and causing harm to a consumer.At such a point, a CCP is established as a process to control the hazard and prevent, eliminate, or reduce the hazard to an acceptable level.
- Establish critical limits for each critical control point – One of the defining factors of a CCP is that the process has measurable results. Every CCP will have a critical limit: the maximum or minimum value that reliably prevents, eliminates, or reduces a hazard to an acceptable level. In some processes, the critical limit might be a measure of water activity (aw) that prevents microbial growth, or a measure of time and temperature that represents a 5-log reduction in pathogens, such as a juice achieving 160°F for 6 seconds.Don’t forget that critical limits must be science- and evidence-based.
- Establish critical control point monitoring requirements – After identifying your CCPs and establishing critical limits, you will need to develop and implement a method for monitoring your CCPs. You will need to determine an effective way and frequency to measure your CCP to ensure that it remains within critical limits.Monitoring CCPs will help you to observe when your process is trending out of control so that you may make corrections to keep it in control. Monitoring will also ensure you know if your process has gone out of control by deviating from the critical limit, alerting you that the product is at risk and needs corrective actions.Your monitoring records will also be of critical importance to your verification of the HACCP system.
- Establish corrective actions Although the HACCP management system is meant to prevent hazards, there are occasions in which the actual process deviates from the plan. With this possibility in mind, a facility must develop corrective actions that will help keep potentially hazardous food away from consumers.
A corrective action will entail:
a. determining and correcting the root cause of the deviation
b. determining the disposition of the affected product
c. keeping a record of the corrective action(s) taken
A thorough HACCP plan will include instructions on what to do in the case of a deviation, the person(s) responsible for implementing corrective actions, and requiring that the deviation and corrective action be recorded.
- Establish verification procedures – HACCP management plans depend heavily on good science to produce safe food. This has an impact on the development and maintenance of a HACCP plan in two key ways:
- The development of the HACCP plan must be based on good scientific evidence in identifying and controlling for risks. For instance, a CCP that is meant to reduce a hazard to an acceptable level should be based on scientific studies (such as those that indicate the cook time and temperature for a 5-log reduction of pathogens in a type of product in general) and verification that the controls in place in your particular facility and process are effective.
- Your HACCP plan should be routinely verified to ensure that it is effectively preventing and controlling hazards and that it is being followed and applied consistently. This is generally accomplished both through periodic internal audits and external third-party audits.
Need to create an internal audit program? Our self-paced online Internal Auditor course offers easy to understand audit training to help you verify the effectiveness of your food safety system.
- Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures – If the rest of your HACCP plan involves you saying what you will do and doing what you say, the seventh principle requires you to keep records documenting that you do what you say.Clear, consistent records make it possible to demonstrate that the food you manufacture was produced safely. These will not only be production records but will also include items relating to all of the previously mentioned principles. A good record-keeping system will make it possible for an outside auditor like the ones at Safe Food Certifications to easily understand your HACCP plan, the evidence supporting your CCP identification and critical limits, and to see what your plan has looked like in action.
As previously stated, HACCP is the foundation for food safety. It is important to not only take the time to learn it but also see its value. With an effective food safety system, your facility will become more efficient, lower the likelihood of recalls, save you money long-term. With the ever-increasing regulations and expectations from consumers, HACCP is the best choice for anyone in the food industry.
Want to learn more? Preregister for our 8-hour online HACCP course where you will everything from the principles of HACCP to how to write your own HACCP plan. Register Now