Introduction to HACCP

HACCP plays a large role in all of the food safety management systems: SQF, BRC and FSSC 22000. This means that if your company already has HACCP in place you are one step closer to certification to one of these systems. But what if your organization is not using HACCP and not familiar with it?

A good knowledge of HACCP will be required for implementing your Food Safety Management System. HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point. It is a system where the food manufacturer or handler identifies the potential hazards that can be introduced while the food is in the production process or in the care of the organization, and determines how those hazards can be eliminated. For example, if there is a point in production where a bacterial contamination can be introduced? That point becomes a critical control point. You will identify what controls can be implemented at that point to eliminate the hazard. Is it a temperature that must be reached at that stage of production? You will identify the required temperature, state how you will monitor it and what you will do if that temperature is not reached.

To start understanding HACCP, understand the principles that it is based on. You will not need to build a HACCP system before implementing a food safety management system, the requirements will be included in the system.

HACCP is based on seven principles:
1. Conduct a Hazard Analysis:
This is where you evaluate your processes and identify where hazards can be introduced. Hazards can be physical (i.e. metal contamination), chemical (i.e. can a cleaning product contaminate the product, are there toxins that could contaminate the product?) or biological (at what points could bacteria or virus contaminate your product?). You will need to make sure that you have the expertise to make an accurate evaluation of the hazards. This means that if you do not have sufficient expertise in your organization you will need to identify external resources that you can use to perform the hazard analysis.

2. Identify the Critical Control Points
At what steps in your process can controls be applied to prevent or eliminate the hazards that have been identified? These are your critical control points.   For each critical control point you will identify the preventive
measure. How will you prevent the hazard?: Use of specific Temperature,
ph, time, procedures?

3. Establish Critical Limits
Your next step is to establish criteria for each critical control point. What criteria must be met to control the hazard at that point? Is it a minimum temperature? Are there regulatory limits that you must meet for this control point?

4. Establish Monitoring Procedures
What will you measure and how will you measure it? You need to monitor the process at the critical control point and keep records to show that the critical limits have been met. Can you do continuous monitoring of the control point? If not, how often will the measurements need to be performed to show that the process is under control?

5. Establish Corrective Actions
You will establish what actions need to be taken if a critical limit is not met. This will be identified ahead of time for each CCP. The action must make sure that no unsafe product is released. There must also be an evaluation of the process to determine the cause of the problem and an elimination of the cause.

6. Establish Record Keeping Procedures
You will determine what records are needed to show that the critical limits have been met, and the system is in control. Address regulatory requirements and include records from the development of the system and the operation of the system.

7. Establish Verification Procedures
The HACCP plan must be validated. Once the plan is in place, make sure it is effective in preventing the hazards identified. Test the end product, verify that the controls are working as planned. Perform ongoing verification of the system. Are measuring and monitoring equipment in control? What are corrective actions showing? Are records being maintained as required?

HACCP is built into the Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS). You will find that you are building a HACCP system as part of your FSMS.

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