HACCP is an absolutely effective means of assuring food safety. Preventing problems from occurring is the paramount goal underlying any HACCP system. For the successful implementation of an HACCP program, management should be committed and involved in the entire process. HACCP can be considered a management system that addresses food safety through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards right from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product. It's designed to be used in all segments of the food industry, and all the safety systems based on HACCP principles have been successfully applied. Globally, food industries, as well as government agencies have accepted the seven principles of HACCP, which are:
- Analyze hazards
- Determine the critical control points (CCPs)
- Establish preventive measures with critical limits for each control point
- Establish procedures to monitor the critical control points
- Establish corrective actions to be taken when monitoring shows that a critical limit has not been met
- Establish procedures to verify that the system is working properly Establish effective record keeping to document the HACCP system
- HACCP offers a number of advantages
- Focuses on identifying and preventing hazards from contaminating food
- Enhanced assurance of food safety
- Better management of resources
- Timely response to problems
- Is based on sound science
- Permits more efficient and effective government oversight
- Helps food companies compete more effectively in the world market
- Reduces barriers to international trade
The production of safe food products requires that the HACCP system be built upon a solid foundation of prerequisite programs. Each segment of the food industry should provide the conditions necessary to produce safe food. Prerequisite programs such as current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) are an essential foundation for the development and implementation of successful HACCP plans. Prerequisite programs provide the basic environmental and operating conditions that are necessary for the production of safe, wholesome food. Common prerequisite programs include:
The establishment should be located, constructed and maintained according to sanitary design principles.
There need to be written specifications for all ingredients, products, and packaging materials.
- Production Equipment
All equipment should be constructed and installed according to sanitary design principles. Preventive maintenance and calibration schedules should also be established and documented.
- Cleaning and Sanitation
All procedures for cleaning and sanitation of the equipment and the facility should be written and followed.
- Personal Hygiene
All employees or even other persons entering the manufacturing plant should follow the requirements for personal hygiene.
Every person engaged in the program should be trained in personal hygiene, cleaning & sanitation procedures, and personal safety.
- Education and Training
The success of HACCP systems, to a great extend depends on educating and training management and employees. They must initially understand the whole process and in course of time, learn the skills necessary for effective deployment of the methodology.
Developing a HACCP Plan
The format of an HACCP plan differs. In many cases the plans will be product and process specific. But, the unique conditions within each facility should be considered during the development of all components of an HACCP plan. Usually, five preliminary tasks need to be accomplished before the application of the HACCP principles to a specific product and process. They are:
- Assemble the HACCP Team
- Describe the Food and its Distribution
- Detail the Intended Use and Consumers of the Food
- Develop a Flow Diagram to describe the Process
- Verify the Flow Diagram
The HACCP principles
Conduct a hazard analysis
A hazard is defined as a biological, chemical or physical agent that is reasonably likely to cause illness or injury if it is not under control. It is of priority to consider in the hazard analysis, the ingredients and raw materials, each step in the process, product storage and distribution, and the final preparation and use by the consumer. Also, when conducting a hazard analysis, safety concerns must be differentiated from quality concerns. A thorough hazard analysis is the key to preparing an effective HACCP plan. The purpose of the hazard analysis is to develop a list of hazards, which are reasonably likely to cause injury or illness if not effectively controlled.
Determine critical control points (CCPs)
A critical control point can be defined as a step at which control measures can be applied. It is essential to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or at least reduce it to an acceptable level. The potential hazards, which are reasonably likely to cause illness or injury in the absence of their control, should be addressed in determining CCPs. Complete and accurate identification of CCPs is fundamental to controlling food safety hazards. The information developed during the hazard analysis is essential for the HACCP team in identifying the CCP steps in the process.
Constitute critical limits
A critical limit is a 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. Critical limits should not be confused with operational limits, which are established for reasons other than food safety. Each CCP will have one or more control measure to assure that the identified hazards are prevented, eliminated or reduced to acceptable levels. Each control measure has one or more associated critical limits. Critical limits may be based upon factors such as: temperature, time, physical dimensions, humidity, moisture level, and water activity.
Establish monitoring procedures
Monitoring is a planned sequence of observations or measurements to assess whether a CCP is under control. It yields an accurate record for future verification. Monitoring serves three main purposes. First of all, monitoring is essential to food safety management because it tracks the whole operation. If it indicates that there is a trend towards loss of control, then appropriate action is to be taken to bring the process back under control before a deviation from a critical limit. Secondly, monitoring is used to determine when there is loss of control and a deviation occurs at a CCP. When a deviation occurs, an appropriate corrective action must be taken. Finally, monitoring also provides written documentation for use in verification. Due to the potentially serious consequences of a critical limit deviation, monitoring procedures need to be effective. There are many ways to monitor critical limits on a continuous or batch basis and record the data on charts. Continuous monitoring is always preferred when feasible. Monitoring equipment must be carefully calibrated for accuracy. Assignment of the responsibility for monitoring is an important consideration for each CCP. Specific assignments will depend on the number of CCPs and control measures and the complexity of monitoring. Personnel who monitor CCPs are often quality control experts or those associated with production.
Establish corrective actions
The HACCP system for food safety management is designed to identify health hazards and to establish strategies to prevent, eliminate, or reduce their occurrence. An important purpose of corrective actions is to prevent harmful food products from reaching the consumers. Where there is a deviation from established critical limits, corrective actions are necessary. Therefore, corrective actions should include the following elements: (a) determine and correct the cause of non-compliance; (b) determine the disposition of non-compliant product and (c) record the corrective actions adopted. Specific corrective actions should be developed in advance for each CCP and included in the HACCP plan.
Establish verification procedures
Verification can be activities other than monitoring, which determine the validity of the HACCP plan and that the system is operating according to plan. One aspect of verification is evaluating whether the facility's HACCP system is functioning according to the HACCP plan. An effective HACCP system requires little end product testing, since sufficient validated safeguards are built in early in the process. Therefore, rather than relying on end product testing, firms should perform frequent reviews of their HACCP plan. Another essential aspect of verification is the initial validation of the HACCP plan to determine that the plan is scientifically and technically reliable, that all hazards have been identified, and that if the HACCP plan is properly implemented these hazards will be adequately controlled. The information needed to validate the HACCP plan includes expert advice and scientific studies, along with in-plant observations, measurements, and evaluations.
Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures
The records maintained for the HACCP System usually includes the following:
- A summary of the hazard analysis, including the reason for determining hazards and control measures
- The HACCP Plan
- Listing of the HACCP team and assigned responsibilities
- Description of the food, its distribution, intended use, and consumer
- Verified flow diagram
- HACCP Plan Summary Table that includes information for:
- Steps in the process that are CCPs
- The hazard(s) of concern
- Critical limits
- Corrective actions
- Verification procedures and schedule
- Record-keeping procedures
Implementation and Maintenance of the HACCP Plan
The effective implementation of an HACCP plan is largely dependent on the commitment by top management. There should be a plan that describes the individuals responsible for developing, implementing and maintaining the HACCP system. Initially, the HACCP coordinator and team are selected and trained as necessary. The team is then responsible for developing the primary plan and coordinating its implementation. Product teams can be appointed to develop HACCP plans for specific products. Upon completion of the HACCP plan, the operator procedures, forms and procedures for monitoring and corrective actions are developed. There can be a timeframe for the activities involved in the initial implementation of the HACCP plan. Maintaining an effective HACCP system depends largely on regular verification activities. The HACCP plan necessitates frequent updating and revision. An important criterion in maintaining the HACCP system is to ensure that all persons involved are properly trained so as to understand their role and effectively fulfill their responsibilities.