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Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) is a process control system designed to identify and prevent microbial and other hazards in food production. The HACCP system is used at all stages of the food chain, from food production to packaging and distribution.
HACCP includes steps designed to identify food safety risks, prevent food safety hazards before they occur, and address legal compliance. The most important aspect of HACCP is that it is a preventive system rather than an inspection system of controlling food safety hazards. Prevention of hazards cannot be accomplished by end product inspection. Controlling the production process with HACCP offers the best approach.
Breaking It Down
Kestrel follows twelve steps to help ensure the successful implementation and integration of HACCP throughout a company:
- Assemble a HACCP team with the appropriate product-specific knowledge and expertise to develop an effective Food Safety Plan. The team should comprise individuals familiar with all aspects of the production process, plus specialists with expertise in specific areas, such as engineering or microbiology. It may be necessary to use external sources of expertise in some cases.
- Describe the product in full detail, including composition, physical/chemical structure, microcidal/static treatments, packaging, storage conditions, and distribution methods.
- Identify the intended/expected use of the product by the end user. It is also important to identify the consumer target groups. Vulnerable groups, such as children or the elderly, may need to be considered specifically.
- Construct a flow diagram that provides an accurate representation of each step in the manufacturing process—from raw materials to end product—and may include details of the factory and equipment layout, ingredient specifications, features of equipment design, time/temperature data, cleaning and hygiene procedures, and storage conditions.
- Perform an on-site confirmation of the flow diagram to confirm that it is aligned with actual operations. The operation should be observed at each stage and any discrepancies between the diagram and normal practice should be recorded and amended. It is essential that the flow diagram is accurate since the hazard analysis and identification of Critical Control Points (CCPs) rely on the data it contains.
- Conduct a hazard analysis for each process step to identify any biological, chemical, or physical hazards. This assessment also includes rating the hazard using a risk matrix, determining if the hazard is likely to occur, and identifying the preventive controls for the process step.
- Determine Critical Control Points (CCPs)—those areas where previously identified hazards may be eliminated. The final HACCP Plan will focus on the control and monitoring of the process at these points.
- Establish critical limits and develop processes that limit risk at CCPs. More than one critical limit may be defined for a single step. Criteria used to set critical limits must be measurable and include rating and ranking of hazards for each step of the flowchart.
- Monitor CCPs and develop processes for ensuring that critical limits are followed. Monitoring procedures must be able to detect loss of control at the CCP and should provide this information in time to make appropriate adjustments so that control of the process is regained before critical limits are exceeded. Where possible, process adjustments should be made when monitoring results indicate a trend towards a loss of control at a CCP.
- Establish preplanned corrective actions to be taken for each CCP in the HACCP plan that can then be applied when the CCP is not under control. If monitoring indicates a deviation from the critical limits for a CCP, action (e.g., proper isolation and disposition of affected product) must be taken that will bring it back under control.
- Establish procedures for verification to determine whether the HACCP system is working correctly. Verification procedures should include detailed reviews of all aspects of the HACCP system and its records. The documentation should confirm that CCPs are under control and should also indicate the nature and extent of any deviations from the critical limits and the corrective actions taken in each case.
- Establish proper documentation and recordkeeping for all HACCP processes to ensure that the business can verify that controls are in place and are being properly maintained.
Developing and implementing a HACCP program requires a significant investment of time and effort. Though HACCP continues to evolve, it is up to the company to design and customize HACCP programs to make them effective and workable. These twelve steps break HACCP into manageable chunks and will help ensure that the company is consistently and reliably producing safe food that will not cause harm to the consumer.