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Written by Steve Hudgik
Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) is a preventative approach to food and pharmaceutical safety that identifies physical, chemical and biological hazards beginning with harvest; continuing during processing and production; and on through the distribution and consumption of the final product. Food safety programs based on HACCP have been successfully used throughout the food supply chain including in food processing plants, retail food stores and food service operations.
HACCP involves seven basic principles. They are:
1) Hazard analysis
2) CCP identification (Critical Control Points)
3) Establishing critical limits
4) Monitoring procedures
5) Corrective actions
6) Verification procedures
7) Record-keeping and documentation.
The seven HACCP principles are a part of the ISO 22000 standard and been universally accepted by government agencies, trade associations and the food industry around the world.. This means that HACCP is a globally a harmonized standard.
It is also common to integrate HACCP into ISO 9001 compliance making it a part of quality planning, as this goes hand-in-hand with assuring food hygiene and safety.
In addition, HACCP is required in some cases by federal regulations. For example, all meat and poultry establishments must comply with USDA's "Pathogen Reduction; HACCP System" regulation per 9 CFR Parts 304, 308, 310, 320, 327, 381, 416 and 417.
HACCP identified critical control points and monitors them for deviation from required set points. If a deviation is detected appropriate steps are taken to:
a) reestablish control in a timely manner
b) assure that potentially hazardous products do not reach the consumer
c) prevent a similar incident from happening
Describe The Product And Its Distribution
HACCP starts be creating a description of each food product. This involves writing a general description of the food, its ingredients, the processing methods, and describing its distribution.
Describe The Intended Use And The Consumers Of Each Food Product
Identify the intended consumers of the food product and how it will be used. Are the indented consumers restaurants, the general public or institutions? Is the food consumed by a specific group of people such as infants, people with allergies, the elderly, or vegetarian?
Develop A Flow Diagram That Describes The Production Process
Create a clear, simple outline of the steps involved in the food production process, from harvesting to consumption. All of the steps in the process, that are within the direct control of the organization implementing HACCP, should be shown. Some of the steps outside of the direct control of the organization may also be included to provide an understanding of what is happening in the food chain.
The HACCP team conducts a hazard analysis of the food production process within their organization. The result is a list of potential hazards which are of such significance that they are reasonably likely to cause injury or illness if not effectively controlled. A hazard is defined as a biological, chemical or physical agent that is reasonably likely to cause illness or injury in the absence of its control.
For each hazard a control measure is identified. The term "control measure" is used because not all hazards can be prevented, but virtually all can be controlled. More than one control measure may be required for a specific hazard. On the other hand, more than one hazard may be addressed by a specific control measure. For example, the pasteurization of milk is a control measure that addresses multiple hazards.
For each hazard identified in HACCP Principle 1, a Critical Control Point (CCP) is identified. Critical control points are located at any step where hazards can be either prevented, eliminated, or reduced to acceptable levels. At each CCP a control measure is used to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level. Any potential hazard that is reasonably likely to cause illness or injury in the absence of a control measure must be addressed by determining the CCP where a control measure can be applied.
CCPs may include: thermal processing, chilling, testing ingredients for chemical residues, product formulation control, and testing the product for metal contaminants.
Examples of a CCP and associated control measure would be:
A critical limit is the maximum and/or minimum value to which a biological, chemical or physical parameter must be controlled at a CCP. If the measured parameter remains within the specified safe limits, the control measure at this CCP will prevent, eliminate or reduce to an acceptable level the occurrence of a food safety hazard.
The critical limit is used to identify safe and unsafe operating conditions at the CCP. Critical limits should not be confused with operational limits, which are used for reasons other than food safety.
Critical limits may be factors such as: temperature, time, humidity, physical dimensions, moisture level, salt concentration, available chlorine, water activity (aw), pH, titratable acidity, viscosity, preservatives, or human sensory information such as aroma and visual appearance.
Critical limits must be scientifically based. At each CCP there is at least one criterion for food safety that is to be met. An example of a criterion is a specific lethality of a cooking process such as a 5D reduction in Salmonella. The critical limits and criteria for food safety may be derived from sources such as regulatory standards and guidelines, literature surveys, experimental results, and experts.
The status of CCPs must be monitored and recorded. If the monitoring shows a trend toward a loss of control at a CCP, steps can be taken to bring the control measure back to normal operation. If there is a loss of control, meaning the critical limit has been exceeded, appropriate corrective action can be taken. In addition, monitoring provides a record of the status of each CCP that provides essential information needed for food safety management.
HACCP is designed to identify health hazards and to establish control measures to prevent, eliminate, or reduce their occurrence. However, Murphy's Laws prevail and problems will happen. This means we must be ready to take corrective actions to prevent foods which may be hazardous from reaching consumers.
Corrective actions include the following elements:
A corrective action plan should be established in advance for each CCP and included as a part of the written HACCP plan. The HACCP plan should specify:
Verification starts when the HACCP plan is first created. The initial HACCP plan must be verified to determine that the plan is scientifically and technically sound, that all hazards have been identified, and that the HACCP plan will result in those hazards being effectively controlled.
Once the HACCP system is in operation there needs to be an ongoing verification that it is operating according to the plan.
In addition, a periodic comprehensive verification of the HACCP system should be conducted by an unbiased, independent outside authority.
The final principle of HACCP is creating and maintaining documentation. There should be documentation of the hazard analysis, a written HACCP plan, and records documenting the monitoring of critical control points, critical limits, verification activities, and the handling of processing deviations.
Information is critical to a successful HACCP system. Employees need information to minimize the number of CCP deviations and for ensuring rapid correction of deviations. Labels and signs provide needed information where it is needed, such as at CCPs.
CCPs should be identified using signs or large labels. Critical limits should be included on labels placed on measurement devices and control stations. Step-by-step instructions for actions to take should a deviation occur should be provided at the point where they are needed. Pipes, locations, equipment and processes should be clearly identified to eliminate confusion and warn about hazards.
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