HACCP is a food safety and a risk management tool that stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points and is focused on understanding the risks you may have in your food products. We as a community, understand that a strong food safety / HACCP plan is the foundation of how we create a safe food supply for our customers and the consumer. Using regulatory guidance to insure we are providing a safe product is the essence of a proper risk management plan. The HACCP concept was born of a need to have safe food in any environment. When trying times occur we look to best practices. In the 1960s, NASA, working with industry, developed a concept for consistent development of safe food. It was an important mission to come up with ways to send food up for extended periods of time. The thought was how to have a repeatable program that allowed food production without risking foodborne illness.
What are some entities that use HACCP?
A hazard is, after a company does research on their product, something that is reasonably likely to cause injury or illness to a consumer. By identifying and then managing health hazards in preparation and processing of food in a facility increases the safety of the product and is now a repeatable standard. Examples are:
The HACCP plan is based on seven principles. Each company has to interpret and apply these themselves. Companies indicate themselves where and in what stage of the production and distribution risks to the health of consumers might arise. Companies come up with a food safety / HACCP plan using research and facility history. The HACCP plan also describes what measures businesses should take to prevent risks to the health of consumers, and controls need to be carried out and how they are monitored. What follows is a step-by-step description of what businesses need to do to create a proper HACCP plan.
The application of this principle involves listing the steps in the process and identifying where significant hazards are likely to occur. The HACCP team will focus on hazards that can be prevented, eliminated or controlled by the HACCP plan. A justification for including or excluding the hazard is reported and possible control measures are identified.
A critical control point (CCP) is a point, step or procedure at which control can be applied and a food safety hazard can be prevented, eliminated or reduced to acceptable levels. The HACCP team will use a CCP decision tree to help identify the critical control points in the process. A critical control point may control more than one food safety hazard or in some cases more than one. A CCP is needed to control a single hazard. The number of CCP’s needed depends on the processing steps and the control needed to assure food safety.
A critical limit (CL) is the maximum and/or minimum value to which a biological, chemical, or physical parameter must be controlled at a CCP to prevent, eliminate, or reduce to an acceptable level the occurrence of a food safety hazard. The critical limit is usually a measure such as time, temperature, water activity (Aw), pH, weight, or some other measure that is based on scientific literature and/or regulatory standards.
The HACCP team will describe monitoring procedures for the measurement of the critical limit at each critical control point. Monitoring procedures should describe how the measurement will be taken, when the measurement is taken, who is responsible for the measurement and how frequently the measurement is taken during production.
Corrective actions are the procedures that are followed when a deviation in a critical limit occurs. The HACCP team will identify the steps that will be taken to prevent potentially hazardous food from entering the food chain and the steps that are needed to correct the process. This usually includes identification of the problems and the steps taken to assure that the problem will not occur again.
Those activities, other than monitoring, determine the validity of a company’s HACCP plan and that the system is operating according to the plan. The HACCP team may identify activities such as auditing of CCP’s, record review, prior shipment review, instrument calibration and product testing as part of the verification activities.
A key component of the HACCP plan is recording information that can be used to prove that the food was produced safely. The records also need to include information about the HACCP plan. Records should include information on the HACCP Team, product description, flow diagrams, the hazard analysis, the CCP’s identified, Critical Limits, Monitoring System, Corrective Actions, Recordkeeping Procedures, and Verification Procedures.
The application of HACCP does not stand alone in a food processing facility. The plan must be built on other food safety programs. Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) that are practiced by the processing facility will support a HACCP plan and will address food safety and food quality issues that are not critical for the reduction of food safety hazards. Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOP’s) are required in federally inspected meat and poultry operations and address procedures for clean facilities, equipment and personnel that are necessary for all products produced in a facility.
HACCP is a tool which allows companies to research the potential presence of hazards. Companies have to first assess potential risks, “Hazards.” The risk is a combination of the probability and severity of the effects on consumer health if it were to occur and is not managed. Critical Control Points are points in the process that have to be managed in order to prevent any hazards and they also eliminate or reduce them to acceptable levels.
In order to ensure a safe food production process, all food companies and companies that handle food should implement a food safety system based on HACCP or other approved food safety risk management programs. Being conscientious of who your food is supplied to is the key factor. Risk management plans are only as good as your trained staff and how you hold as management to your commitment and documentation Food Safety is how we protect our consumer and those household.
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