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    Tuesday, 1 November 2016

    HACCP - The Basic Principles

    HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. In practice, it is a systematic approach to ensure food safety during production. By rigorous design, a HACCP system can prevent contamination from biological, chemical, and physical hazards at specific points right across the production and supply chain. HACCP is an internationally recognised system, and in the UK its implementation is overseen and enforced by the Food Standards Agency to ensure a standardised approach to safe food production. In this article we’ll take a look at the basic principles of HACCP and how they are applied in practice during food manufacture and distribution. For a step-by step guide on creating your plan, see our article here.

    A solid HACCP system is founded on seven main principles of planning and execution:

    1) Hazard Analysis

    The formative stage of the HACCP approach, conducting a hazard analysis requires identifying all of the possible hazards that could lead to chemical, biological, or physical contamination, and then the methods that can prevent them. The analysis also requires an evaluation of the risk each hazard poses.

    A hazard is classified as anything that could cause illness or injury in the absence of its control. Chemical hazards are those that cause illness or injury through immediate or long-term exposure such as cleaning products. Biological hazards are harmful pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. Physical hazards are those that can cause harm when eaten, such as glass or metal. Though other contaminants are undesirable, HACCP usually focuses on those that cause direct harm through human consumption.

    A thorough hazard analysis requires adequate expertise to perform the evaluation. Sometimes this level of expertise is available in-organisation, and other times outside assistance must be drafted in.

    2) Identify Critical Control Points

    A critical control point is a step or procedure of the food production chain at which a control can be applied to prevent, eliminate, or reduce to an acceptable level the hazards identified in the previous step. This could be achieved through the use of a specific temperature, pH, timing, or procedure.

    3) Establish Critical Limits for Each Critical Control Point

    Critical limits refer to the maximum or minimum value at which these critical control points must be applied to achieve the desired hazard prevention. This value could refer to temperature, time, pH, salt level, chlorine level or any other processing characteristic that will control the hazard. This limit must engender results that match up with regulatory hazard guidelines, and if it is deviated from corrective action must be taken.

    4) Establish Critical Control Point Monitoring Requirements

    Monitoring activities must be established to ensure that all critical controls points are within critical limits values. In effect, this comes down to what you will measure, and how. Some processes can be monitored continuously, whilst other require measurement at specific intervals.

    Any straying outside critical values must be dealt with, and proper monitoring means that this can be done sooner rather than later, meaning less contamination. Records must also be kept of these measurements to ensure that safety levels are consistently met, and monitoring activities must be written in the HACCP plan.

    5) Establish Corrective Actions

    Corrective actions are those that must be taken if monitoring has detected a deviation outside critical limits. Each corrective action in the HACCP plan must be designed to make sure none of the contaminated product makes it out of the process to commerce.

    If a corrective action has to be taken, the process should be investigated to find the cause and ensure that it is eliminated.

    6) Establish Recordkeeping Procedures

    As defined by regulating bodies, recordkeeping must be performed at all stages of the process. This is not just limited to control point monitoring, but also includes recording the critical limits, values, verification procedures, and how any deviations were handled.

    In effect, this means monitoring, verifying and validating daily work and recording everything to comply with regulatory requirements.

    Records must also be kept in the developmental stage of the HACCP plan.

    7) Establish Procedures for Verifying the HACCP System is Working as Intended

    The verification stage makes sure that everything in the process works smoothly and effectively. The plan should be validated, the process and all critical control point function tested, as well as the final product. This should take in all records kept during the process.

    This should be ongoing, rather than a one-off, to make sure that no problems develop in the system over time. Key questions include: are measuring and monitoring equipment working properly? Are corrective actions properly prepared and appropriate? Are records being properly maintained?

    These verifications can be performed by onsite staff, but may also be done by inspectors from regulatory bodies.

    Overall, this covers the 7 main principles of putting into place an effective HACCP system. Following them all should ensure full food safety through an effective and regulation-compliant HACCP system that keeps all contaminants out and safeguards the hygiene of your food production.

    Sam Franklin

    With a master’s in Literature, Sam inhales books and anything readable, spending his working hours reformulating the info he gathers into digestible articles. When not reading or writing, he likes to put his camera to work around the world, snapping street photography from Stockholm to Tokyo. Too much of this time spent in Japan teaching English has nurtured a weakness for sashimi, Japanese whisky, and robot cafés.
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