Food safety is a serious concern for any food business. In the 1960s, the Pilsbury Corporation and NASA jointly developed a model to assess and manage food safety hazards. This model became known as the “hazard analysis critical control point system” and was first specified in the Basic Texts on Food Hygiene, Third Edition, developed by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex). Codex was created in 1963 by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop international food standards, guidelines and related texts such as codes of practice under the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Program. The Codex Alimentarius, or the food code, has become the global reference on food standards.
HACCP was standardised by the Codex Alimentarius Commission held in Geneva, Switzerland on 7 July 1993, with the adoption of Guidelines for the application of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system (ALINORM 93/13a, Appendix II).
There are seven principles of HACCP that need to be used and implemented in any food related business throughout the world. These principles include the following:
Principle 1 Conduct a Hazard Analysis
This process includes recognising any hazards to food safety in a particular manufacturing program. A plan should be put into place to prevent any danger from those hazards, which could include biological or chemical contamination.
The hazard analysis attempts to identify all potential hazards of a product, their sources and the probability of their occurrence. This is one of the most important steps when developing the program, as hazards not identified and therefore not controlled may lead to an unsafe product.
There are 3 main hazards associated with food that can and do result in injury and harm to human health:
• Physical Hazards (foreign objects)
• Microbiological Hazards (bad or spoilage organisms)
• Chemical Hazards (including allergens)
After listing all the hazards reasonably expected to occur at each food handling step, the HACCP team should assess the significance or risk of potential hazards.
Why do we need to determine significance of hazards? Determination of significance is simply a tool that we can use to rank hazards in so that the most critical hazards can be dealt with preferentially. No organisation has enough resources to be able to deal with every possible hazard, only the significant ones.
Control measures, also known as preventive measures, will depend on the type of hazard and their significance. Every significant hazard must have at least one control measure that eliminates or reduces that hazard down to an acceptable level.
Principle 2 Establish Critical Control Points
Principle 1 identified all significant hazards and how to control them. The determination of critical control points is the 2nd principle of HACCP. The Codex guidelines define a critical control point (CCP) as “a step at which control can be applied and is essential to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level”.
The process step at which the significant hazard is removed or reduced to an acceptable level is called the Critical Control Point (or often just CCP).
Principle 3 Establish Critical Limits
For each CCP and control measure the point at which the product may become unsafe must be determined. This point is known as a critical limit; Any breaks in limits will need to be addressed and handled.
Principle 4 Establish Monitoring Procedures
Procedures for monitoring critical limits are put into place to ensure all critical control points are observed for any changes that could lead to risk.
Principle 5 Develop Corrective Action
HACCP is a preventive system to correct problems before they affect the health of the consumer. Deviations from critical limits will occur; therefore, you need to have a plan to make sure those deviations do not lead to unsafe products. Planned corrective actions are the way to avoid any injury or illness to consumers from the hazard.
Principle 6 Establish verification procedures
Verification is a program separate from monitoring to ensure that the HACCP system is achieving the food safety performance expected. Verification activities are used to demonstrate the HACCP plan is being complied with and is effective. These activities may include:
• Internal audit and external audit
• Microbiological and chemical testing
• Review of records
Principle 7 Establish Records and Documents
Documents and records enable you to demonstrate that the preliminary steps and principles of HACCP have been correctly applied.These documents should include:
• The HACCP Plan, Objectives, Scope, Regulatory & Customer Requirements
• HACCP Development Team Meeting Minutes
• Finished Product Descriptions
• Process Flow Diagrams
• Hazard Analysis
• CCP Determination and Validation
• Critical Limit Determination
• CCP Monitoring Procedures, and
• Corrective Action Procedures
Records enable you to demonstrate that the HACCP Plan has been effectively managed and implemented. These include:
• CCP Monitoring Records
• Corrective Action Records
• HACCP Training records and competency assessments for operators, supervisors and managers
• Verification Records
• Team Meeting Minutes
There are many ways to start your journey to HACCP success. Some you can do yourself and others may require the services of industry professionals. Importantly do not waste your money buying off the shelf templates; they are not worth the paper they are printed on! Templates are not tailored to your business and do not consider specific hazards relevant to your business and industry. It is well worth the relatively small cost of engaging a food safety and HACCP professional.